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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Under the Weather in the Valley…

The Valley in March

Clouds suffocate the Valley this morning, but the rain that’s ruled the month so far holds off for now. As long as the clouds only frown, Gladys and I can get on with our routine. To get a jump on the morning—one hop ahead of the rain—we are out on the Lower Loop at half past eight a.m.

I’m in low spirits this morning for some reason. And having to duck those smothering clouds isn’t likely to perk me up either. Today is March fifteenth, the Ides of March; maybe that’s partly why I’m glum. But since I’m of Irish-Hungarian stock, and not Roman, that should be of little matter. Most likely it’s that hour of sleep I lost Saturday night when we “sprang ahead.” Even Gladys has problems tracking straight this morning—and there’s no wind either. The old girl’s wobble might be explained by the fact the Earth’s axis shifted slightly more than six inches—the result of the devastating 9.0 magnitude earthquake in Japan last Friday. Or, as my mind wanders, fickle Gladys seizes the opportunity to stray a bit herself.

The Lower Loop is quiet this morning. An adult bald eagle is perched on a power pole next to the dairy barns. We creep into camera range and stop. I fully expect the magnificent bird to lift from his perch and sail off into the Valley after the fashion of my little sparrow hawks, but the eagle remains, cocks his head in our direction and stays put as if to say: “I hope you’re shooting my best side.” I snap a couple of photos and we ride on. Old baldy on top

Sometimes one’s spirits sag for no apparent reason. You try to sift through your mood, cull out the problem, but nothing seems to register. I guess self psycho-analysis is rather the same thing as one’s acting as his own counsel in court: “He who assumes his own defense in a court of law has a fool for a lawyer.” For some strange reason I think of the new well pump we had installed last Monday. Why would having a newly hydrated house, a blessing of no small order, put me off my emotional stride? I think of the old pump, how it stood by us in sickness and in health for thirty-five years. Its replacement, like our cat, will most likely outlive me. I do a little math, some simple addition, and sure enough in all likelihood the new pump will be sucking water quite a few years after I stop sucking air.

I remember watching an interview with the actor Dustin Hoffman a few years back. In the course of the interview the subject of age came up. Hoffman was seventy at the time. It was his habit, the actor said, whenever another birthday rolled around, to keep that milestone in perspective; he would double his age to mark the march of time: at age twenty-five the doubling of his age was fifty. He knew he’d still be around then. At 40…80 years old. A definite possibility…. 45, in questionable territory now. But at 70…well…these are not Biblical times…. To contemplate one’s mortality has to be a sobering moment.

I’m still in my dark reverie as I pass Decks’ dairy. I unwittingly let my guard down as I pedal by Houndville. But there’s hardly a yip these days. It has been nearly a month since I’ve seen any canine activity about the place. Doggone! Looks like it.

On down the road Jim Werkhoven and that big bucket loader whine past. Jim lifts a hand in greeting. The other presses his smart phone against his ear. Tryin’ to outsmart that phone again, eh, Jim? He’s on his way to check the digester for stomach ailments. Trailing Jim is Hank Van Ness, cruising along in that big red tractor. Wonder what’s in that big dumpster bin Hank hauls? Maalox, probably.

I think of the conversation Jim and I had the other day. “You know,” Jim said, “They say sixty is the new fifty. Well, maybe that’s so. But I’ll tell you, eighty is eighty and that’s the truth of the matter, pure and simple.” Jim’s sentiment doesn’t do much to dispel my morning’s funk.

The weather is closing in.The clouds thicken and glower. Gladys and I pick up our pace. The heavens are about to leak, and that’s certain to dampen more than just my spirits.

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