A Day Without Glitches in the Matrix

Yesterday was the one of those days where everything seemed to happen for a reason. If we had arrived at Terry Trueblood Recreation Area a few minutes too early or too late, we would not have seen the mesmerizing rise and fall of the shore birds on Sand Lake.

I thought of the word “murmuration,” which refers to starlings flying in tight, swirling patterns. I checked the dictionary and discovered that the word “murmuration” refers to the murmuring sound similar to low-pitched noises starlings make as they fly in flocks, swirling this way and that, presumably to avoid predatory birds.

This led to my wondering if starlings were the only birds that form a murmuration.

I wonder of shore birds also do it because we saw them flying in a sort of swirling pattern when there were no visible predators.

We might have missed the light shining just right on a majestic American Sycamore in all its glory, festooned like a Christmas tree with its seed balls hanging from almost every limb. In fact, some people do make Christmas tree ornaments out of them.

We might also have missed the squirrel munching on his lunch in a tree. It was not eating American Sycamore seed balls, probably only because it was not sitting in an American Sycamore tree.

We have walked the Terry Trueblood trail often, in every season, including autumn. We’ve never seen the seed balls before.

And we might have also missed the Subaru Outback with Wisconsin license plates in the parking lot. It was covered with decals. And later I discovered that the word “decal” is short for “decalcomania,” which is exactly how I would describe how the car came to be so heavily decorated—from an episode of decal-co-mania.

A lot happened yesterday which seemed somehow just right. Some people see so-called “glitches in the matrix,” which are events that seem out of place and ill-timed, leading to the idea we’re living in a poorly run computer simulation.

What about the times we see and feel everything occurring so smoothly that we’re surprised by the flow? Maybe we don’t call attention to it so as to avoid interrupting the miracle.

Be Kind

We went for a walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail yesterday. It was a nice break from reading the news.

Sena wore her shirt which has printed on it, “be kind, be nice, be love.” She got a compliment about it.

We saw a lot of birds, including Tree Swallow nestlings in the nest boxes along the trail.

There were three in one of the boxes. They seemed to be doing well. I thought we saw a Gray Catbird, although it was singing a complex song at the top of its lungs—from a treetop. I guess I’m not sure what it was because Catbirds are usually secretive and makes sounds like a house cat’s mewing.

I guess all I know is that the bird looked gray.

Anyway, friendly people were out and we said hello to each other. Kindness was in the air.

How the Feathered Half Lives

We were out on the Terry Trueblood Trail and saw a lot of different kinds of birds doing the things that birds—and humans do. Looking for mates, mating, nesting, hunting, feeding. We’re a little more romantic about it, at least sometimes.

Often, I wonder. Who are the real bird brains around here?

Lucky Spring Birds Are Back!

We finally got a sunny break yesterday and headed out to the Terry Trueblood Trail for a walk. It was good to stretch our legs. The spring birds are back. The Tree Swallow nest boxes are installed, although one of them was upside down. I’m not sure how that happens. A sparrow chased one of the swallows off, probably staking a claim on one of the nest boxes. Lucky break for the sparrow. Lucky for all that the nest boxes were available; unlucky if some are upside down, though.

The great weather was a lucky break, actually. Rain is in the forecast for the next couple of days. Talk about luck. We both got lucky playing cribbage the other day. Sena got a double run of 2 through 5 counting the cut card—and so did I. We both got 12 points. I had the crib, and got 12 more. Neither of us can recall what we threw to my crib.

Luck is important in cribbage. An expert player, Frank Lake, once said that cribbage is 85% luck and 15% skill. Others back him up.

Some say it’s often better to be lucky than good.

The Park

It’s balmy for December. Sena and I went for a walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail and ran into our neighbors doing the same thing! Seabirds were diving headlong into the lake. We’ve never seen them do that. Maybe they were fishing for minnows. About a week ago we saw a hawk. It might have been a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-Shinned Hawk. It had a yellow spot at the base of its bill, so I’m going to say it was a Cooper’s Hawk.

We also saw a small brown creature in the lake on a stack of tree limbs. It was eating something. I couldn’t see its tail, but it could have been a young beaver or a muskrat. Its nose tapered instead of looking blunt and boxy, so maybe it was a muskrat.

Last week a squirrel chattered at us almost nonstop. It was pretty grumpy for some reason. We sure know a bald eagle when we see one.

Sometimes it’s more fun to enjoy a little mystery than to hunt for all the right answers.

Stretching Our Legs on the Terry Trueblood Trail

We got out on the Terry Trueblood Trail today to stretch our legs, feel the breeze, and free our minds of the daily news, which is usually bad. It’s nice to just listen to the wind and the birds on the lake.

We see something interesting every time we walk the trail. Caterpillars were pretty busy, trying to cross the sidewalk without getting crushed by bicycle wheels. Some don’t make it. The grasshoppers are a little sluggish.

There’s a myth about woolly bear caterpillars. If they’re all black, some people say it predicts a really bad winter. The longer the brown color band, the milder the winter. We didn’t see any woolly bears today, just some nervous caterpillars trying to avoid getting smashed.

Common Trekkie Birds

We took a walk on the Terry Trueblood Trail yesterday and were struck by a goggle-eyed looking Tree Swallow, which was caused by the angle of the sunlight and the shot direction—we think. It reminded us of a big-eyed alien.

Partly because I’m kind of a Star Trek fan, I think many common birds have fascinating features which can make them seem almost alien. For example, the Common Yellowthroat has a weird call, which one author has described as “witchety-witchety-wichety-witchety” (Birds of Iowa: Field Guide by Stan Tekiela). We just managed to catch it–the bird’s call, not the bird.

The Eastern Kingbird is well known for its Klingon-like aggression. The Red-wing Blackbirds tend to dive bomb you if you get too close to their nest.

It was good to get outside. There are a lot of people who get credited with the quote “Keep looking up.” The one I remember is Jack Horkheimer, who used to host the public TV show Star Gazer.

Keep looking up.

Easter Nest Hunt

Yesterday we drove over to see James Alan McPherson Park, and it was filled with people who were having a great time. Because it was crowded (partly because of the Easter weekend), we went to Terry Trueblood Recreation Area, where we typically go for walks. We’ll return to James Alan McPherson Park on a weekday. Ironically, the larger park seemed less busy than the much smaller one.

There seemed to be more birds than people out. They were out hunting for places to build nests. There are plenty of Tree Swallow nest boxes spaced at wide intervals around the trail. Competition was keen for them, or so it looked. It reminded me of house hunting humans.

Messages of Hope on the Terry Trueblood Trail

Spring was in the air as we took a turn around the loop of the Terry Trueblood Trail. There was something different about it since we were there in late December. The wind was not as blustery. What leaped out at us were messages of hope written on the sidewalk in brightly colored chalk. The messages said things like “This Way to Greatness,” “Enjoy That View,” “Go Go Go,” and “Stay Strong!”

Along with these written messages were other signs of hope. One of them was a beaver slapping its tail in an unfrozen section of the lake, near its lodge. Snow-white geese and gulls sat further out on the ice, heads tucked in their wings—for now gathering strength before thundering into the sky.

It has been a long year. The pandemic of coronavirus and corrosive social and political upheaval exact a heavy toll on the spirit. It’s hard to see beyond what is callous, pathetic, and catastrophic.

The walks along the Terry Trueblood Trail are often healing, even if only in a small way. It made me wonder who Terry Trueblood was. I found a description of him on the web. Among his many accomplishments, he was Iowa City’s Director of Parks and Recreation. The Iowa Park and Recreation Association unanimously renamed its highest professional award the “Slattery/Trueblood Professional Award.”

Terry Trueblood was a very dedicated professional but more than that, he was devoted to his family. He had a great sense of humor. He was compassionate and generous. He was fair, honest, and was “the definition of integrity.” He “benefited every life he touched.” There are no signs in life pointing the way to greatness. Terry Trueblood found the path anyway.

It’s easy to ignore or deplore the countless common stones we find. We need to see the rare diamonds of hope in the spring.

Windy Terry Trueblood Trail

Day before yesterday was the eve of Christmas Eve. We ventured out on the blustery day despite the forecast for winds in excess of 40 mile per hour. We got started late in the morning and the temperatures dropped like a rocket in reverse about an hour later because of wind chill. A thin film of ice formed on the lake and it looked like the geese were leaning into the wind, which was blowing hard out of the southeast.

It almost looked like the water fowl were listening for something. In fact, we thought we heard a low-pitched hum when the wind was gusting the hardest. Sena heard it first. It came and went. I think we heard it best when we looked up at a patch of cloud-filled sky on the east side of the trail. One cloud looked sort of like a turtle’s head to me, although Sena thought it looked more like a pig’s head. The hum seemed more noticeable there.

There was a fair amount of excitement several years ago about seemingly pervasive low-pitched hums and many people were very sensitive to the noise. Some of them said it make them miserable. There is even a Wikipedia entry about the phenomenon. One guy even recorded it. I’m not sure if it’s the same sound, but it was similar. I didn’t think it was unpleasant; just odd. It’s unlikely you’ll hear it in our YouTube video, but then again, your hearing may be much keener than mine.

A heavy sign with the word “Skating” on it got knocked down by a powerful gust. We watched a very strong guy set it upright—it blew over again moments later.

Along with the wind, a blizzard was predicted for the Midwest, but it missed us. We barely got enough snow to sweep off our porch.

Merry Christmas! I hope Santa watched out for those crosswinds.

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