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Sunday, April 4, 2010

Blown to a Standstill…

Spring snows

Just enough breeze to tremble a few twigs this Easter  morning, nothing to prevent Gladys and me from making a Valley run for the first time in days. Or so I thought. As we make the turn by the old MaGee homestead, I notice the effects of our recent spring storm lingering on the mountains to the northeast. Mt. Pilchuck looks like it has been heavily sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar, and the peaks to the east glisten with new snow. I hope some of the stuff disappears by next weekend when we have scheduled our first trip of the year east of the mountains.

As I head south toward the prospect of Mt. Ranier, the wind comes up out of nowhere. Gladys and I assume a defensive posture, but down by Gramma Frohning’s the breeze stiffens, skimming across the Sky Valley Driving Range, and nearly slams us to a stop.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, I’ve heard, and as I pump the pedals hard, the wind counters my efforts. This stiff breeze takes me completely by surprise. As I’ve mentioned in earlier posts, I make a point to keep Gladys garaged when the Valley winds howl. For the first time ever I seriously think of dismounting and leading Gladys into the lee of this gale. Shifting into third gear would be to admit defeat. I know if I can tough it out for another five hundred yards, I will begin the homeward leg and have the wind at my back. Until then I peddle away, legs complaining all the while.

I make the left hand turn, running the stop sign, as I routinely do, hope for some thigh relief. Perched on the power line overhead I notice a female American kestrel—sparrow hawks, we used to call them. Lately I have seen her and her mate along this same stretch of road. This morning she is on the hunt alone and faces into the wind toward the Cambodians’ flower fields. I expect her to fly as she usually does when I pedal beneath her, but she stays put. I’m sure that sometime soon it will be vernal interruptus for some unsuspecting mouse or small bird at play among the daffodils and tulips.

The American kestrel, Falco sparverius, is North America’s smallest hawk, but that aside, it is every bit the hunter its larger cousins are. The little hunter swoops upon its prey from above; sometimes it hovers helicopter-like above a victim, then drops like a stone for the capture. It is not unusual to see one perched on a power line, the slender tail of some unfortunate field mouse dangling from its talons. One winter day I noticed small clouds of feathers drifting from the top of our walnut tree: the cause, a kestrel getting down to business ( “down” from  businsess?), plucking the fluff away from its meal—a songbird’s song forever stilled.

Gladys and I had it much easier on the return trip, but still I had quite a tingle in my legs for some minutes afterwards. Just glad I didn’t have to push the Ol’ Gal home.

On this Easter morning Trecia received the traditional Christian message from her cousin Sue in Wisconsin: “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed!” which immediately put me in mind of a bit of Lutheran humor Garrison Keillor shares in a Lake Woebegon anecdote. The author tells of one Easter Sunday when the young “with it” priest Father Todd was called to substitute for Our Lady’s old priest, Father Emil,  who was suffering from a bad case of hay fever. Father Todd presided over the Easter sunrise vigil for Catholic youth wearing a T-shirt “With a picture of Our Lord on water skis that said, ‘He’s Up!’”  

After Gladys and I did battle with the Valley winds and returned home, I spotted a perky little cottontail (an Easter bunny) nosing about our wood pile. A bit later I walked out to hunt for the eggs but found not a single one. The wind must have whisked them away. Happy Easter.

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