Tree Talk

Did you know that trees talk to each other? Just look at these two firs on the far right. They definitely have their heads together, whispering secrets to each other.

“Are you there, Conan? The fog is so thick, I can hardly see my limbs in front of my face.”

“Of course I’m here, Firginia. It’s not like I’ll be going anywhere anytime soon. My feet are firmly planted on the ground.You might say I’ve put down roots here.”

“Well, it’s not like you’d get a better view  if you went anywhere else.”

“Oh, heavens, no. I knew a fellow tree, not sure fir how long, fir years anyway, he was leaning towards another  location. But it ended up all his plans went up in smoke. Some guy with a chainsaw promised him a nice cozy woodshed to live in, but the odds were stacked against him. He met some of our old friends there in the woodshed, but it wasn’t enough to save him. I’m sure from up here, I saw the other  blockheads in the shed. That girl Ashley, made a real ash of herself. Should have stayed on her mountain.  And there was some burly fellow just lying there. He thought he’d be turned into a tabletop but it ended up the tables were turned on him. He got fired, just like the rest of them.”

“That’s sounds like what happened to our friend Cy. He said, ‘Naw, they won’t burn me. They don’t like cypress. Too pitchy.’ But they piled him into the woodshed too, along with his cousin, Cedric. If only he hadn’t drawn attention to him, he might have survived. But Cy kept saying, ‘Ce-dar he is, over dar….Ce-dar, right dar,’ and he kept waving his flat, feathery fingers to point out the cedar. And just when Cedric was kindling a relationship. Now he’s just kindling.”

“I wood think about a move but I’m quite happy here, with all my cones,” Conan said. “I have a fantastic view from up here. Eagle’s eye view, Baldy told me so yesterday when he landed on one of my arms. Little pest was bouncing up and down,  though, trying to break my arm.”

“I know!” said Firginia. “He’s done that to me too. I think it’s the nesting instinct. They try to break off arms fir building their nests. I don’t mind if they break off the deadwood, but not my good arms, fir heaven’s sake.”

“I pre-fir the owls. Fowler just drifts in silently and I don’t even know he’s sitting on my arms until he calls his wife.”

“Yeah, I know. She’s always sitting on my arms, watching fir him to notice her, but he really doesn’t give a hoot.”

“Oh but he does.  Every 15 seconds, he’s hooting and ‘owling fir her. Drives me crazy some nights.”

“Well, why don’t you leave then, if you don’t like it?”

“I told you, I’ve put down roots here. Fir heaven’s sake, weren’t you listening?”

“Yes, yes. All right if you’re not going anywhere, the least you can do is hold my limbs when I reach out for you. There’s another storm coming and we have to hold on to each other, or we’ll end up in the woodshed together.”

“That woodn’t be too bad,” said Conan, twitching his fir cones. “I hear some interesting things go on behind the woodshed. Yew don’t know what yew’re missing. A hot time!”

“I said, IN the woodshed, not BEHIND it. And then you’d soon be in the wheelbarrow and heading for a hot time in the woodstove,” said Firginia.

“Well, c’est la vie. At least I’d be doing a good thing warming up the house for Anneli. I hear she’s always cold.”

“Now don’t pick on Anneli. She’s been very busy with publishing her new book, Marlie. I hear it’s a good one. Our cousins on the Queen Charlotte Islands are in it.”

“What I really like about Anneli’s books, she doesn’t insist on cutting down trees for her books. You can get the Kindle version,” Conan added.

“Oh HOT stuff! Kindle, get it? Kindle a fire under her words? I hear they’re that good!”

“But what if I don’t need to Kindle anything?”

“Then you go to smashwords.com.”

“Smashwoods?”

“Not smashWOODS! SmashWORDS. It’s smashwords.com Honestly, sometimes I think you have a wooden head.”

“Well … I do.” (Sigh!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Surprise Visitor

Waiting, sitting in the truck, annoyed with myself for forgetting to bring a book or my Kindle, I studied my surroundings, far and near. I thought about how the prairies fool so many people (me too, at first) into thinking it’s a boring landscape. To pass the time, I tried to name some of the animals I`d seen in those fields that seem empty at first glance.

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Hiding in the thick clumps of bushes and trees, mule deer, coyotes, porcupine, pheasants, and owls hoped not to be discovered. In the grassy hills, I`ve seen ground squirrels, badgers, sharptail grouse, and meadowlarks. Not all in the same day or at the same time, of course!

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This field could easily hide pheasants, rabbits, and sharptail grouse. I’ve heard Canada geese fly over it and heard coyotes yipping and howling at night as they patrol along the distant trees that line the Missouri River.

In the midst of my daydreaming, a robin flew over to ask me why I looked bored when I had so much beauty all around me. It sat in the branches of a Russian olive tree just outside the truck window and said, “Did you know that pheasants like to eat these olives? Sometimes they’re one of the few food sources available in the winter when the snow covers everything else.”

030Seeing that robin so close was a little thrill for me. He obviously hadn’t expected a person to be right there when he found a perch beside the truck window. I fumbled stealthily for my camera and hoped for the best. I was so glad this bird came to cheer me up. Wouldn’t he be surprised to know he will now live on my blog?

More Yugoslavia

In the villages of Yugoslavia almost all the houses had red roofs and many of the structures were of brick. The rolling foothills reminded me of Alberta, Canada.

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Although the photo doesn’t show it, many houses had huge skeins of red peppers hanging from the windows or roofs to dry. The countryside had the natural beauty of agricultural land.

When we came to the city, it was a different story. Everything seemed gray and dull, especially the expression on people’s faces. In no other country have I ever seen so many unsmiling people. The dour expressions on the faces of pedestrians in the city told of depression, sadness, pain, worry, or resignation. It’s normal to see one or two sad people in crowd, but here, gloom blanketed the whole city. A happy person would have stood out as an oddity. The city of Nis remains embedded in my memory as being the saddest, grayest city I have ever seen, inhabited by desperately unhappy people.

We drove on through more rural areas and found smiling people riding in an ox-cart. They waved and seemed happy enough. But during our drive through Yugoslavia, the smiles only came from country folks.

On one short section the highway was widened and newly paved. All the workers wore blue pants and shirts or coveralls. Most of them worked with hand tools; not machinery as we’ve come to expect in North America. Since traffic sometimes had to stop for construction,  it was a convenient  place for a police road check.

A barrel-chested military type with a huge head stopped us and asked to see our passports. He studied them and then looked at the licence plate. With a sneer of disgust, he flicked a finger at my husband and snarled, “GETT OWTT!” At the back of the van he asked him more questions about his Canadian passport. I realized then that we must have seemed suspicious and I worried about what was going on behind the van. It was just the time when police across Europe were looking for the Baader-Meinhof Gang, a German terrorist group who two months earlier had killed Juergen Ponto,the manager of a Dresden bank, and made their getaway in a van. Only a week earlier another violent kidnapping took place and the manhunt was on for factions of the terrorist group. My Canadian passport said I was born in Germany and we were driving a van with Dutch plates. It was an odd combination. I sweated a bit before the big guy decided that we were no threat, and wished us a good day.

Back on the narrow highway, it was miles before we found a rare pullout to stop for a lunch break. Vineyards covered many acres of land next to the road in this region. I heard a man yelling and realized it was directed at my husband who had gotten out to stretch his legs. He had helped himself to some of the millions of grapes that hung over the fence next to the road. The man wore the standard blue pants and shirt. He waved his rifle, yelled something we couldn’t understand and pointed at the grapes in my husband’s hand.

“Okay, okay.” My husband reached for his wallet. “How about I pay for the grapes?”

The man waved him away and threatened him with the rifle again. When he pulled out a 50 dinar note ($3),  the rifle was lowered. Putting on a sheepish face, the man took the money and then said something in a friendlier tone.

Shaking his hand, my husband asked the man if we could take his picture.

Definitely not! He shook his head and waved his arms madly as if trying to erase us from the face of the earth.

“Okay fine. No pictures.”

The man in blue walked across the street and I snapped his picture. I had repacked our lunch fixings in a hurry to be eaten later. Instead we would have to snack on freshly picked grapes. We started the van and eased it back onto the road. As we drove away slowly, we saw the man in blue duck behind a bunch of grapevines and crouch down to hide. In the rear view mirror I saw another vehicle, looking for a rare pullout spot, roll into his trap.

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Later that evening, we crossed the Austrian border and in the rest area a short distance beyond the border checkpoint, we crawled into the back of the van to try to sleep.

About half an hour later, a vehicle pulled in next to ours and we heard the rowdy voices of several young men speaking German. They bumped against the van and I heard one commenting on the Dutch licence plates (we had bought the van in Amsterdam). They shouted obscenities and made comments about soccer players. One jumped on the rear bumper and bounced the van up and down while the others pushed it, rocking it back and forth. Someone yelled, “Bloede Hollaender” (Stupid Dutchmen). Inside, in the dark we clung to each other and held our breath. My husband whispered, “I think they’re still fighting last year’s soccer cup.” What a relief it was to hear them get back into their car and drive away.

We knew then it wasn’t safe to stay there for the night so we kept going another 10 miles to the Austrian town of Leibnitz. I was driving and hit an owl that flew across my path. I felt sick at having killed such a beautiful animal. We were both tired and irritable and I was near tears of frustration. We found the campsite at Leibnitz and thought how nice it would be to have the place to ourselves because most of the tourists would have gone home. But the last laugh was on us. The sign by the entrance read, “Closed for the Season.”

It wasn’t locked so we slept there anyway.