Pick a Little, Talk a Little this Fantastic Friday

Pick a Little, Talk a Little this Fantastic Friday

A gathering of goldfinches and their similarity to the Pick a Little, Talk a Little crew from the Music Man is this Fantastic Friday's look at the past.Today’s Fantastic Friday post first appeared on Down the Gravel Road in September of 2008. Considering the popularity of a recent listing of ten reasons to watch The Music Man, this article about some very noisy birds in our neighborhood seemed to be a logical choice.

Pick a Little, Talk a Little

Yesterday morning, I was walking along our gravel road at top speed, oblivious to the scenery around me, when the noise from the ditch awakened me from whatever inner thoughts consumed me. The chirping along the fence was deafening.

For a few seconds, I couldn’t see a thing. Then, I noticed the grass waving and saw a bit off fluff pulled from a seed pod. Finally the noisemakers, a small flock of female goldfinches, came into view. Their dusky gold coats so perfectly matched the browning fall grasses, they were barely visible. One by one, their movement and their chirping, gave their positions away. By the time my camera was out of, some of them had flown away, but a few remained.

While I snapped their pictures, I thought of the song from The Music Man, the one when all the town gossips are busy spreading rumors. The music makes them sound like a flock of old bitty hens. That’s exactly what the goldfinches sounded like, scolding and flapping their wings at each other. I half expected Robert Preston and Shirley Jones to march by, followed by the 76 trombones and the rest of the band.

Instead, I saw a sure sign of fall, the goldfinches flocking together as they do at this time of year, stocking up on provisions before they journey south for the winter. What I wouldn’t give to be going with them, I think as I face the prospect of winter.

But if I do that, I won’t be here to welcome them next spring on the day they return. No matter how hard the coming winter will be, the joy I feel when the birds come home melts my aversion to snow. Their return beats Robert Preston, Shirley Jones, the 76 trombones, and the town gossips, hands down. I can hardly wait.

Hungry for Iowa

Hungry for Iowa

Spring Along Our Gravel Road

Spring is lovely along our Iowa gravel road.The rain washes away the dust kicked up by cars passing by, so the foliage is a deep and vibrant, soothing green. Every day is a feast for the senses.

The lingering scent of rain from a night time thunderstorm.
Toads betrayed by small movement in the grass.
Does hiding the shadow.
Cardinals singing in the treetops.
The stream rushing and gurgling under the bridge.
Goldfinches fighting for their turf in low bushes.

Each spring morning, I rush outside to greet new blossoms.
First the magnolias, the rhododendron, the red buds, and the daffodils.
Then the bleeding heart, the tulips and the lilacs.
Now the iris, the clematis, and the columbine.
Soon the peonies and the daisies.

I can’t bear the thought of missing the arrival of these friends. So most years, I stay home in May, determined to fully savor its beauty. But not this year. Not this week. Tomorrow, we pack the car and leave the beauty behind for a few days. I hate to miss the arrival of the peonies and daisies. But I know how much my daughter misses our gravel road after a year in Ohio while her husband finished grad school.

She misses the ancient silver maples in our yard,
The sight of leaves and grass,
The smell of trees and space and flowers,
The fairy ring where she played as a child,
The regularity of a gravel road each mile,
The greenness found only in Iowa,
Beloved by Iowa girls like my daughter and me.

She’s hungry for her home state, as I was during the seven years Hiram and I lived in South Dakota. So hungry, I could hardly bear it. So eager for a taste of home, I lived for my mother’s visits and feasted on the time she spent with us.

My mother left her roses,
And her yard work,
And her rhubarb,
And her invalid husband
To feed her daughter a taste of home.

So the peonies and daisies will have to bloom without us. Hiram and I are off to see our daughter and new son. Packing our car with Iowa air and comfort. Eager to share our feast with our hungry, Iowa-starved children. Bringing them the taste of our gravel road as my mother once brought a taste of home to me.

Ruby-Throated Grosbeak

Ruby-Throated Grosbeak

Mornings on my gravel road have been glorious this week. The sky’s a bright blue, the temperatures are cool and the humidity is low. The birds are so entertaining, its hard to finish my walk. I stop to watch them and lose track of time.

A few weeks ago the orioles were everywhere  – flying across the road, singing in the trees, perched on fence lines. But they must be busy hatching eggs and giving their younguns flying lessons because I haven’t seen them all week.

The indigo buntings are exceedingly shy this year. The first sighting came after Memorial Day and I’ve seen them only once since then. The goldfinches haven’t shown themselves much either, which concerns me. Usually the indigo buntings chase them out of their territory, and that’s when I get a good glimpse at both of them. Cardinals and robins are everywhere, along with more bossy bluebirds than I like to have around.

A few weeks ago a beautiful song, high in a tree top, led me to a new find, the ruby-throated grosbeak. I didn’t identify the critter. My friend Cindy did that, using my sketchy description. Since then, I’ve heard the song often, but with the trees in full leaf, locating the songster is a challenge.

But yesterday, one burst into song up by my neighbor’s house. I located the bird, a little scruffy around the edges, in the branch of a dead tree and snapped a few shots using a telephoto lens. Too bad  I didn’t have my tripod to get rid of the camera shake.

So here’s a bit of my gravel road: a bird, a blue sky and bit of camera shake. Enjoy!