116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Small flocks of dark-eyed juncos play hopscotch with me on a daily basis. Juncos are beautiful, small birds, gray top, almost-white bellies and they hang out on my lane. A neighbor kindly plowed it recently, exposing gravel and grass, and the juncos evidently find food in that mix, thus hanging out there.
The little beauties do not understand the movements of automobiles: as I drive up the lane the little flock will rise up in unison in front of my car and land about twenty feet ahead, not realizing that I’m still approaching them. By the time I make it to the gravel road near my house we’ve done this half a dozen times. It’s adorable, and I keep waiting for one of the wiser ones to suggest landing BEHIND the car next time.
More bird talk. Up until the most recent snow there has been a catbird spending her time in an old nest in one of my bushes and every time I emerged from the house she’d take off. Now that her nest is covered in snow I’ve not seen her. I hope she headed south, where she belongs, where the weather is more forgiving.
And even more bird talk. A bird from far Northern Canada has been showing up in Iowa this winter, to my eye one of the most beautiful birds on the planet, the snowy owl. For those of you who may be Harry Potter fans, Harry’s owl Hedwig is a snowy owl. Unlike some of our native owls the snowy owl will often be seen on open ground, not in trees. Thus here, in high winter, I watch the open field in front of my house. I’m sure I’ll not see a snowy owl but there is hope, always hope.
The deer are standing on their rear legs, chewing on branches of cedar trees. It’s much too early for that. This week I’ll pick up some alfalfa cubes for them, as they cannot get through the icy snow to the grass. Some say is this the wrong thing to do, because a gathered few deer could spread what they call ‘chronic wasting disease’ to each other. I promise to stop if the disease is found out here.
At Christmas some dear friends gave me some DVDs of what used to be called the Variety Show at my high school. This was a show in which choirs and jazz bands could sing and play contemporary music. Few of us wanted to be music majors in college and this helped us enjoy music for music’s sake, helped us realize that music can be extremely fulfilling, and downright fun.
I was only a little interested in seeing and hearing the DVD of the Variety Show from 1969. I was conflicted about it, but I played it anyway. And there we were, my sweet-breathed girlfriend and me on stage, dancing to the music of a band called Spirit. You may not know the band but you likely know the song, “I’ve Got a Line on You.” My girlfriend choreographed the dance and, darn, we were good. I had a bad case of sideburns but she was beautiful, and she had terrific dance moves. I just tried to follow along.
In 1969, like many of you, she and I were both passengers on a train with a relatively unknown destination, but in the end her journey was the same as mine. We were unfocused, not fully formed, and desperate for love, but we were happy in the knowledge that, at least for a little while, regardless of the tune, we could dance. So we did.
Kurt Ullrich lives in rural Jackson County. His book “The Iowa State Fair” is available from the University of Iowa Press.