Friday, July 18, 2014


For some of us, observing nature is a way of life—something we do without thought, as automatically as taking our next breath. It doesn't matter whether we're ambling along a sidewalk, driving along a city street, walking across a parking lot, downtown, uptown, in the suburbs, or sitting in the neighbor's back yard. We don't even have to be outside! I've watched plenty of birds and mice and a few other critters while pushing a cart around the snazziest supermarket, trekking about one of the big-box home improvement retailers, or sitting in the middle of a crowded mall, watching the endless passing of bag-laden shoppers.

Wildlife and wild things are everywhere—from sparrows flitting about ceiling gridwork, to a sprig of chamomile growing through a sidewalk crack. You don't have to hike into wilderness, stroll about a city park, or even take a drive in the country in order to see nature-in-motion.  

I'm still in the midst of our whole-house remodel, a long-term job that consumes practically every free minute when I'm not working on my columns. Free time to ramble woods and prairies has been nonexistent. I haven't been for even a brief a walk in two months, unless you count visits to Lowe's and Home Depot. Photographically, I've managed barely a handful of shots, mostly taken while accompanying Moon-the-Dog around on her peregrinations. 

But I've still noticed a few things I'd like to report. 

The first is a dandy little song sparrow [see pix above] who's been keeping me company while I prepare my materials. My outdoor work area is at the rear of the cottage. The pickup truck—loaded with sheets of plywood, 2x4s, various boards and trim pieces—is parked near the back door. My sawhorses are set up a few feet away—handy for offloading, as well as carting whatever I'm working on down the hallway.

As you might imagine, what with all the power sawing, drilling, sanding, routing, and hammering, it's a pretty noisy area. But the song sparrow doesn't seem to mind. In fact, he's gotten so tame he now sits within 5 or 6 feet of where I'm working, hopping about, rearing back to sing at the top of his lungs whenever the mood strikes. He's not even put off by the extended piercing howl of the circular saw. I find his company delightful.

Another workday companion is the large toad who apparently lives under the back door's 4x4 foot entryway deck. One minute I'll look and the deck is empty—the next, ol' toad will be sitting there, a nobby brown lump, benign and oddly Buddha-like, with alert gold eyes. This small wooden platform is located about 6 feet from where I'm working. I must step on it—and over the toad!—every time I enter and exit the hallway…a dozen or more times an hour, depending on what I'm measuring and fitting inside.

The third observation came inside, in the middle of the night. I'd finished building our new platform bed with storage underneath. We'd opened our king-sized memory-foam mattress from Bed-In-a-Box and were pleased by how it looked and fit. And now we were giving it the sleep test…well, Myladylove was, and I had been, until back pains drew me from my slumbers. Remodeling, with all its lifting, carrying, twisting, bending, and general body abuse is not the ideal activity for a man with a long history of severe back issues. But, if you want things to get done, you have to suck it up and push through the discomfort.

Sometimes, though, the pain wins. I'd gotten up with the intention of sitting in the recliner a while, and maybe popping a couple of extra-strength Tylenol—which is about as heavy duty as I go on pain meds, and that only rarely. 

Anyway, I was up, 3:00 a.m., shuffling down the hall, past the kitchen toward the great room…when I see these flashes. Multiple flashes, coming from every corner of the kitchen—ceiling,  walls, and atop the refrigerator. Lightening bugs! Maybe twenty or so, all intermittently winking their yellow-green tail-lamps.

How extraordinarily weird! Not weird because a few fireflies had found their way inside. We always seem to have at least one or two lightening bugs blinking around. They appear to be drawn to the cottage—though maybe it's just due to easy access. Because I generally keep the door open while I'm working outside so Moon can come and go as she pleases. 

And to tell you the truth, I enjoy seeing fireflies indoors. Especially when I'm hurting and can't sleep, I'm mildly comforted by their friendly flickering in the long darkness.

Still, it was weird how they'd all gathered in the kitchen. Why? 

After a moment's observation, I had the answer—though within it lies a bigger question along with a statement of how our evolving modern world can prove increasingly confusing to the love-life of such humble creatures as the lowly lightening bug. 

Myladylove had recently bought a small ice-maker to keep up with summer's hot-weather demands for cubes to cool our iced tea. She'd placed the little stainless steel unit on the corner of the kitchen counter. And the ice-maker's tiny, blinking ready light was a perfect match in size, brightness, and yellow-green hue, of a firefly's built-in signal lantern. 

Fireflies, as you probably know, do their courting via a series of flashed messages. Males query, females respond. A love-matching lightshow played out above the tall grass. Or in a cottage kitchen, when flummoxed by digital technology. 

Whatever come-hither tease line that blinking ice-maker was feeding to her suitors, she had them locked on point and flashing like the neon marquee above a Vegas casino! 

Can a lightening bug blow a fuse?

Worried, I did everyone a favor and unplugged the ice-maker. 


Marianne said...

Grizz my friend, you need to walk and loosen your body. I'm like you - house to renovate, garden to dig, too many important things to do. At 64 I stiffen up completely unless I walk for 10 or 15 minutes, several times a day, plus swing my limbs, my back, wriggle everything often.... It'll save a lot of problems later on.

Bonnie said...

What a good man you are, Grizz. There's nothing worse than expending life energy in pursuit of what will never be.

Sorry to hear that you can suffer so severely from back pain. I, too, have been dealing with back pain for years. Funny, I pulled out the information sheet for a high blood pressure med I have taken for many years to see if a persistent chronic cough is one of the possible side effects (it is). While scanning down the list I see that back pain is also a possible side effect of this BP med. Go figure. Solve one problem and create another ... or two.

Take care of yourself, Grizz.

Hope to gather with all your faithful followers for the newly renovated house warming! When is it? :)

Grizz………… said...

Marianne …

Thank you for your kind and well advised words. You are right…I know you are. And so, as much as I want to devote every single free moment to doing what I have to get done on this renovation, I'm going to try and take the time to get in the occasional walk—if not daily, then very close to it; at least a brief ramble. I do need the exercise, can feel that lack, and I also need the space and respite time away from the project's immediacy. You comments have been taken to heart.

Grizz………… said...


How true. I've chased a few impossible dreams myself…and as much as do believe, with all my heart and soul, in following your dreams, I know you have to learn to distinguish those which simply lead you astray.

I've had serious back issues practically all my life. I played football, and then spent time rodeoing (bulls, bareback and saddle broncs) which added its share of damage. Over the years I've fallen off cliffs, out of trees, and beaten and banged my body and spinal column in any number of outdoor misadventures and plain stupid accidents. A few years ago, after a bad fall in which, for a minute or two after landing I thought I'd actually killed myself—when I subsequently went for X-rays to see what all I'd broken, the technician came out and said he'd never seen anyone with with that many old back injuries upright and walking. "You have to be in terrible pain. How can you keep going?" he asked. I wanted to remind him that I'd entered his office stooped, hobbling, and being assisted by my son-in-law, which didn't really qualify as "walking" in my mind…but instead I just said: "I don't have a choice." And I still don't—not one I'm willing to accept.

But the truth is, you can learn to live with pain, to work around the limitations injuries impose. I seldom manage to sleep all night in bed; I have to sit up at least an hour or two, until the pain eases a bit, before going horizontal again. I have one of those grabber things which, if it's handy to wherever I'm at, I often use to pick up stuff off the floor—saving my back from a bend-over. My legs go numb if I sit (or drive) too long without adjustment. If I stand still too long—and especially stand and bend over, working at a counter or table—my back begins to spasm, so I often take quick sits on a stool. You just cope. At least I have, even though my back pains keep getting a bit worse with each passing year. Still, there are days and times when I don't notice. Not for long, maybe, but by and large I do okay. I'm still on the sky side of the grass. And I have a brand new beautiful granddaughter! That's real purpose!

Like you, I take meds. And like you, I've read the accompanying literature, which can scare you to death sometimes if you let it. The bottom line is, there's no free ride. You're putting chemicals in your body—often very powerful chemistry. Modern medicine is incredible stuff. A medication will improve one thing, though often at the expense of something else. Long term usage is especially problematic. Meds in combination are really troublesome as they often interact. They can certainly do good and save or improve your life. But they're also a compromise. It's not the same as being healthy without that particular problem. But, it's what we have. And all you can do is inform yourself, try and choose wisely, understand the risks and rewards, the possibilities and probabilities, the upside and downside…and make the best compromise that you can manage with life and the terms you're willing to live it.

Hey, as to a house warming party…I really don't expect to have everything done before late autumn—and maybe not even this year. I hope I'm wrong. But there's an awful lot to do and it's pretty slow going. But when I reach the point where I've done all the jobs I can do, and decide it's time for the experts to finish up (like laying a stone floor in the great room) I'll happily celebrate crossing that Great Divide! And that might, indeed, occur sometime this fall.

I'll keep you posted. It was great hearing from you. Take care…

Bonnie said...

Oh my, I wince just reading the description of your back injuries and resulting pain. Certainly puts the pain I experience in perspective!

As for getting more exercise ... seems to me that all the movement involved in renovating a home must count as exercise. One way or another we have to keep moving!
Soon you will be going for walks down a country lane with a little hand in yours, hearing her sweet voice preface each question with her special name for you - and in that moment there will be no pain.

Gail said...

Hi Grizz - fascinating info about the lightning bugs. I did not know their mating rituals until I read your post. Amazing.
So sorry to her about your back pain. Have you tried the all natural glucocomene (sp) Skipp is taking it now for his hip and knee joint pain and it is helping.

I sure would love to see some pictures at some point of your renovated river cottage. It all sounds so natural and lovely and 'user-friendly' :-)

We are having a quiet weekend - spending some even more 'quality time' together - my sister is going out soon and will be gone for hours so we can howl as we choose if you get what I mean (wink-wink) - Skipp bought a nice bottle of Chardonnay - and the rest is history to be made - memories created - blessings and freedoms and gratitude overflowing. Hallelujah
Love to you

Grizz………… said...


I appreciate the kind and caring sentiments. But please don't think of me as some sort of tragic, stoic figure…I'm not. While I'm almost always in some degree of pain, and forever working around my back limitations—it's something I've been doing and experiencing for so many years that I truly seldom notice. I otherwise feel pretty good and enjoy myself. I am loved and greatly blessed, know joy, and ultimately, am genuinely happy. I would trade any of that for a brand new strong and pain-free back!

Re. the exercise during remodeling—you would think all the bending and twisting and flexing had to help. But it mostly just makes it worse and at the end of a day I'm stiffer and hurting way more than when I started. Maybe over the long term that will change.

My granddaughter is a big factor in my future plans—right down to the hopes and needs of me doing all I can to extend our future time together for as long as possible. I look at her and my heart melts, and I can't begin to tell you how much I'm looking forward to watching her grow.

Grizz………… said...


Lightening bugs—fireflies—are really amazing creatures, way more so than just the few tidbits I mentioned in my piece. I'll do a post on them one of these days.

And yep, I took glucosamine chondroitin for several years. While it seemed to help a bit early on—and certainly helps Moon-the-Dog with her arthritis—after a while, I could discern a difference, though I went on and off three or four times and used various brand and formulas. Guess I'm beyond it effectiveness.

You know, if I ever get the cottage interior done, I just may do a "result" post—providing my work doesn't turn out to be overly embarrassing.

Hey, hope your "howling" went well. ;-D