Wednesday, May 5, 2010

WHISTLE WHILE I WORK!

My best Baltimore oriole underbelly photo…
One morning a week or so ago, Myladylove gave me a bleary stare over her tea mug and said I was "annoyingly cheerful."
"Moi?" I replied in a particularly dreadful French accent.
"How can you regularly get up in such a state of mind?" she asked, trying with only moderate success to arrange her facial expression into some semblance of a fearsome glare. Not that it would have kept me from laughing at her.
I'd just carried the tray with our breakfast into the front room, placing laden plates, glasses of juice, and refill pots of tea and coffee, on the table. Myladylove was still sipping at her first infusion of caffeine-rich Earl Grey. I stepped around her and opened the blinds so we could look out at the river and yard while we ate. At the sudden light—obliquely angled, mind you, and not all that bright—Myladylove recoiled like a vampire running late for her daily dirt nap.
"ARRGGGHHHH!" she said, trying again for that fearsome glare, but this time looking more like a squinty-eyed Mrs. Magoo…though I thought this similarity was probably not something I ought to mention while she had that half-mug of hot tea in her hand.
"Exactly how am I annoyingly cheerful?"
"You whistle…and whistle…and whistle!"
"Hmmm," I said. "I do whistle…and rather well, I think. I am a good whistler, and I vary my repertoire. Let's see…this morning I did some blues, a bit of gospel, a Hank Williams tune, an old Ricky Nelson song, and—"
Myladylove cut me off—and this time did manage her fearsome glare. "Yeah, but how can you jump out of bed so…perky!"
"Ahh-h," I said. "In point of fact, I staggered out of bed nearly two hours ago. I was not perky, you just weren't conscious. But now I've already had several cups of coffee, answered e-mail, taken Moon the dog out for her walk, checked the river…and waited around for you to wake up. I'm hungry and possibly a bit wired—but I always let you sleep-in on your day off. And I didn't whistle the first note until I heard you moaning and stirring in there; thereafter I whistled skillfully while fixing us a hearty breakfast."
Myladylove's expression softened, a sure sign the tea's caffeine was finally kicking in. "I love it that you cook…and that you let me sleep in, and have my breakfast ready when I finally get up. That's just wonderful!" She grinned at me across the table. "And you are a great whistler."
I thought about this conversation a couple of days ago while working in the yard. Since first light, the sweet May air had been filled with the exuberant, high-volume whistling of a Baltimore oriole. Actually, it was plural—orioles—since there were at least two birds around. They were whistling—a sort of near-continuous call-and-response exchange—which I presume was in hopes of attracting a mate. Apparently they considered their competitive situation desperate, although I think a whistle every couple of minutes ought to have been sufficient. Either you got or or you don't, and a show of self-assurance never hurts.
Did I mention this was a loud exchange? And while we're at it, is there a louder whistling bird on the planet than a Baltimore oriole? Sure, Carolina wrens are pretty good, volume-wise—but orioles are better. WAY LOUDER! Moreover, orioles whistle and whistle and whistle, endlessly, with every breath, for hours on end.
The loud and continuously whistling creatures were working their way through the tops of my yard's numerous sycamore trees. I don't know what they were finding to eat up there, but something good—and plentiful—because they kept going from tree to tree, up and down the riverbank, covering and recovering this chosen feeding ground. And they did this for 12 hours straight…whistling all the while.
Yes, I tried to get a good photo. Tried and tried and tried. These sycamores are very tall and the birds were usually smack in the tops. A 1200mm lens instead of 200mm one would have helped. Maybe. At least it would have provided a better view of an oriole underbelly, which is what you get when you stand beneath a tall tree and shoot straight up at a bird far above. I managed numerous oriole underbelly shots, but they would have been notably better underbelly shots with a longer-reaching lens.
Of course sometimes I couldn't see the birds. Oh, I could hear them whistling, loud and clear, but I couldn't actually see the whistler. You might think a bird only slightly smaller than a robin, decked out in Halloween dress of brilliant orange and black, and located somewhere in the top of a tree whose leaves are only partway filled out for the season, would be an easy mark. You'd be wrong. At least I regularly had trouble spotting them, which was frustrating given the racket they were making.
Anyway, I shot and shot and shot trying to get a better photo; I stalked and maneuvered and did my best…and not infrequently I stomped off in frustration and went back to my yard work, which, I ought to mention, is why I haven't put up a post for several days. Between days of rain and Myladylove's hospital adventure weekend-before last, plus the aftermath of follow-up doctor appointments and tests—and always factoring in my usual margin for personal sloth—I've been long on chores and short on time.
But at least the other day…I didn't have to do my own whistling while I worked!
———————

18 comments:

Gail said...

HI GRIZZ

Great story - I could see and feel every nuance right down to the French accent of 'Moi"? ;-)

My husband can imitate the birds 'whistles' and they go back and forth for quite some time - I love it.

And much to our delight - we put our humming bird feeders out yesterday and in a fw short hours later our first humming birds appeared :-)

I love the promise of their arrival.

Love you
keep whistling
Gail
peace......

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Gail…

Glad you liked the post. A bit silly…but then, I'm a bit silly. Life it too shot to not have fun.

Funny you should mention hummingbirds—I saw my first hummer yesterday, a male rubythroat, who was apparently investigating the azalea bloom near my workroom window…and hovered inches from the glass, looking in at me looking out at him.

Take care…
And tell Skipp to keep whistling! ;-)

The Solitary Walker said...

That's a most charming and amusing portrait of early-married, bantering bliss, Jim! May you still be whistling after many long years of such caffeine-fuelled, oriole-haunted mornings. I'm sure you will.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Solitary…

I appreciate your vote of confidence in my making my allotted three-score-and-ten…though there are lots of days when I'm hauling my sorry carcass around that I have my doubts. Still, I'm always willing to take the optimistic view of such matters.

Whatever my time, I intend to go whistling all the way…

Bernie said...

May you always continue to whistle while you work, play and love. Life is good for you my friend and and I am so happy for you......:-) Hugs

Tramp said...

Oh well, at least you're a happy one...Tramp

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Bernie…

I know you have been through some tough things. Life doesn't always work out the way we want or plan. Happiness seldom comes without cost, though joy is always to be preferred. But whether you whistle or hum or sing out loud as my mother did…I hope you always have music in your heart.

Thank you, as always, for your lovely comments.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Tramp…

Do I detect a touch of the "Bah, humbug!" in your soul…or do you just need a bit more caffeine? :-)

Von said...

Ah the joys of a marriage in which compromise can be reached, humour can appear and the husband makes the coffee!!
For some reason I've always been intrigued by Orioles, never seen one, never will, maybe it's the delight in the name.I wrote a poem about them in the 70's must look it out.Thank you for a great underbelly shot.The joys and challenges of photography!Have a fun day Grizzled and Mrs Grizzled.

Elisabeth said...

Gorgeous post, here. I love the lines: like a vampire running late for her daily dirt nap.

You convey such comfort in relationship: with your ladylove, with the orioles, with the world, despite all its hassles.

It is sheer joy to read.

George said...

What a nice portrait, Grizz. I, too, rise before my ladylove, but she never expects to have a whistle-made breakfast when she arises. I'm a bit concerned that the precedent you are setting is not good for my future. In any event, as a Marylander, I am glad that you have appreciated the Baltimore orioles that I have sent your way. You are undoubtedly a kind man, and one that would not let a favor go by without returning it. May I suggest a case of Cabernet, preferably a few years old, delivered to my home, at your convenience, of course. If you need the shipping address, do not hesitate to ask. During the meantime, keep up the whistling. It may be one of the few things we have control of in this ever-changing life.

Wanda said...

My Dad was a whistler and my youngest son became one at a very young age...I'm a hummer, I catch myself humming Christmas songs, in the middle of summer!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Von…

Quite a wonderful compromise, actually; though more of a synergetic creation. I do the all the cooking; Myladylove puts up with me and my ways.

You must dig out that oriole poem and share it…don't be shy. I'll try for a better photo.

And thank you…I did have a good day. Worked on a low, dry stone wall I'm building, then spent the evening at the Community Health Center's monthly Board of Directors meeting, wading through healthcare and finance matters that can eventually cause your brain cells to turn into tapioca if you pay close attention for too long.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Elisabeth…

I was just remembering all those wonderful old black & white vampire movies from the 50s I used to watch as a kid on the late-night horror shows. No blood-sucking caped count liked it when someone threw open the drapes unexpectedly, and the morning sunlight came streaming into the castle room before he'd climbed into his coffin to rest through the daylight hours. And they (the vampires) always had a scoop or two of their homeland soil in the coffin with them…though I can't remember exactly why.

As hokey and simplistic as it sounds, I do think happiness is a choice. I believe many of the trials and troubles we face in life we cause ourselves. Sometimes you have to choose to be patient, kind, considerate, caring, gentle; love and friendship take work; you have to learn and practice such things as forgiveness and compassion. I have my "down" times. I'm Irish with an Irish temperament, volatile, quick to anger if I let myself go, and world-class at holding a grudge. I'm also artistic, moody, emotional. But negative energy does nothing except hurt and weaken and destroy.

I don't have it all figured out by a long shot…but I do know that life can be rich, rewarding, fulfilling, and so very much fun if we deal from our hearts and not our ego. And the Golden Rule has never been improved upon…

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

George…

I suppose you'd be happy enough with, say, a Cabernet Sauvignon from one of the great vineyards along the Ohio River, although a supply of the good Catawbas might find your fancy.

I'm not sure you can lay claim to the orioles, however—seeing as how both bird and city were named after Lord Baltimore (the ball team was named after the bird); the town because Lord Baltimore was the founding proprietor of the Baltimore Colony; the bird because its colors were close to those on Lord Baltimore's coat-of-arms.

I expect this ownership claim deserves further study…possibly over a glass of wine.

If you cook, perhaps you ought to try having a breakfast ready for your lady. If you don't cook…well, it's too late to start now. (I leave the matter of whether or not to whistle up to you.)

P.S. I'll get back to you on that wine shipping address. In the meantime, I'd appreciate a few more orioles.

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

Wanda…

My mother was a singer and hummer. I whistle…and I swear, I often catch myself whistling Christmas songs regardless of time of year. I didn't think anyone else did such a thing! Good Lord!

KGMom said...

I can't offer any comment on orioles, or your whistling, or even your cheerfulness.
But I can offer a comment on differing body clocks. I am a up late at night type, and sleep in type.
My husband, on the other hand, turns in early and gets up early.
The very nicest thing about retirement is that these two different body clocks are perfectly well accommodated by the leisure to set our own schedules.
And, mutual respect for these differing patterns contributes to a successful marriage!

The-Grizzled-But-Still-Incorrigible-Scribe-Himself! said...

KGMom…

We're all "wired" differently, for sure. I used to be the nocturnal creature—stay up all night until an hour before dawn, sleep a few hours, be up midmorning rarin' to go again. I just didn't need more than 4-5 hours of sleep and could do with less for days on end.

Now I'm in the bed before midnight—usually a bit after 11:00 p.m. I get up at 5:30—6:00 a.m. Myladylove needs at least two more hours, if not three. She's usually asleep on the couch by 10:00 p.m. Goes to bed when I do. I let her sleep until the last possible moment before waking her the following morning…or until she wakes up on her own if there's no reason to get up sooner.

This morning, for example, I've been up since 5:45; went to bed at midnight; since we're going to church, I'll wake Myladylove at 8:45, have breakfast ready, and we'll have just enough time to eat, dress, and make the 10:30 service.