Tuesday, March 04, 2008

The Up Side of Things

Sunday's post was very negative, and I've got a feeling that my tongue-in-cheek series of What Real White People Like is going to be taken by some as criticism of where I live as well, but there are reasons I chose to live here other than just the financial.

Last night, hopped up on a full dose of Tylenol Sore Throat Nighttime syrup, I lay in bed listening as an amphibious orchestra performed a psychedelic noise rock jam session loudly enough to force their music through my double-pane windows and into my drowsy ears, creating a white noise background that helped, along with the drugs, to ease me to sleep.

The drugs were to help me with what I think is the beginnings of strep throat. The frogs just happen to live here and would have been playing whether I was listening or grateful or not. They cling to the trees, skulk in the edges of my ponds or hunt for hot frog chicas at the edges of the swampy areas of the field never fully drained from the first series of heavy showers a couple of months ago. The stringed flute trill of the tree frogs provides the constant fuzz noise over which the staccato bursts of their larger cousins provide a schizophrenic melody while the bullfrogs provide their broken cello groans to given an inhuman rhythm to the music.

As the temperatures continue to rise and the froggy ladies night draws to a close, their jam session will wane, many of the their musicians will pack up and their minds will turn to food from calling in their next one-night stand. In their place insects will take up their instruments and continue the natural chorus with crickets and their kin serenading the night and the cicadas providing their continual high voltage line buzz during the day.

If I were to leave here, I'd leave this most avant-garde of music in addition to the regular sighting of wildlife. I'm not sure why, but even as a child, spotting a wild animal always brought an extreme thrill. It didn't matter that I lived in a heavily wooded part of a very rural region and wildlife sightings were a regular part of my childhood. I spent most of my daylight hours as a child wandering the game trails in the forests that ring my childhood home. We caught the rat snakes that lived in the ancient oak tree in our front yard and saved them from our violent snake-charming cats. My parents worshipped the snakes, not with religious fervor, but for the valuable exterminating service they provided. Any snake identifiable as nonpoisonous in our yard was safe, and I was raised to appreciate the legless reptilians instead of revile them. My parents had to learn the hard way early in their marriage that when you live in a house built in 1917 more for letting cool breezes in than for keeping anything out, that allowing the rat snakes to prosper is key to keeping yourself free from rats in the winter. So, whereas many are raised with their Adam and Eve fear, I grew up celebrating the serpent.

Deer are nearly omnipresent here. They once faced extinction in this part of the world in my grandfather's lifetime and now they approach nuisance levels as hunting becomes a shrinking hobby and their large predators long since turned into a biological history page. I still get excited when I see them crossing the dirt road near my home or even when I see their tracks in the soft soil of a neighboring field or the sand of our road during a walk with K and E. Flushing snipe feeding with their long, slender beaks in the mud between my pond and the flooded field brings an awe that I really can't track to its source. I feel the same about the regular sightings of hooded mergansers that have made my backyard pond one of their regular rest stops during their biannual migrations.

In fact, this excitement I get from the nature that surrounds me even had an effect of my plans for my future. From kindergarten on I had always wanted to be some sort of biologist. My mom kept a scrap book of my grade school years and it always had a line for "What I want to be when I grow up" and instead of the fireman or policeman most little kids listed, I told her scientist as a kindergartner and by second grade, I'd already narrowed it down to primatologist. By fifth grade I'd changed my mind and wanted to be a marine biologist, but it wasn't until high school when I began to rebel against my own plans for myself that my dreams left animal-based academia and drifted to dreams of writing. I regret that shift in goals at times.

I also hope that I can open E's eyes to a love for the life that surrounds him and that he will be as obsessive in his search for knowledge of all things not human as I was and am. I'd like to take him down those same game trails my dad led my sister and me down when we were small children. I want to watch him try to build traps to catch the wild rabbits that graze in the clearing in front of our house and correct someone with innocent academic enthusiasm that, no, rabbits aren't really rodents after all. If I can see my son emerging from the woods, smelling of leaf litter and clutching a lizard in his hand as he excitedly tells me more than I knew about this little reptile's eating habits, I think I can put up with the backward businesses and limited restaurants. At least for a while.

After all, my sister and I managed to spend our first 18 years in this place and still ended up intelligent, worldly, open-minded and progressive people. I don't really plan on keeping him here that long, so maybe he has an even better chance at an intelligent, well-balanced upbringing.

Yeah, it's a black screen, but it's not like I was going to get any footage of the frogs in action on an overcast night. It's actually loud enough outside to be a little uncomfortable. That explains a little of the sound distortion. It is also explained by the fact I recorded this with a digital camera.


Mickey said...

You clearly enjoy writing. This could easily have been three separate posts. That's how I would've done it if I were going for 365.

I especially enjoyed the description of the orchestra. By the way, I'm sure they've got tons of frogs in Adairsville or the rest of metro ATL. Game trails, too.

Chris said...

It's a shame people can't manage to build a thriving community without spoiling most of the nature and wildlife in the area. Maybe someday you can have your singing frogs and funky brew pubs in the same general area.

jonty said...

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