A Moment of Clarity

snow capped birds nest among tree branchesOccasionally in life we are blessed with a moment of clarity, an instant of insight when suddenly we know something with unquestioning certainty. These moments have the potential to change us forever, to change the way we see the world, and to change our role in it. I had such a moment today.

I was out back taking care of the morning CowChows chores, and as I was trudging along the snow packed path I looked up and noticed a bird’s nest in a tree. It was nearly perfectly camouflaged even now in the dead of winter. Nestled in the bough of a young elm tree its twigs and leaves blended so perfectly that had it not been for the cap of snow on top I might have missed it. Certainly, it had been there all along and I had missed it until now. The tree which held it was itself entangled in the climbing vines of a multiflora rose and I could not imagine how the nest could have been better protected.

As I stood there contemplating this nest and considering the birds who built it I wondered at the process that brought them to make this specific location home. Were they born with an innate instinct, or were they faced with myriad decisions which eventually brought them to this place? As I studied the scene before me and imagined the two birds poring over maps and blueprints I became aware of ice flakes falling about me.

Overnight, a heavy frost had left the CowChows looking as if an expert hand had lightly sprinkled the world with a fine layer of confectioner’s sugar. Now, as the sun shone through for the first time in days and touched upon the upper branches of slumbering trees, these tiny crystals turned loose and wafted gently to the ground. Looking up, I watched them float towards me against a background of clear blue sky and I wondered at how not unlike they are to each of us. Each is unique unto itself and through all of time there will never be any two exactly alike, and yet all share similar characteristics and frailties.

It was while these delicate crystals of ice fell gently upon my face and birdsong carried lightly on the breeze that I experienced that moment of clarity. It came to me not as a thought, but as a fully bloomed flower of knowledge and in that instant I knew without doubt and with unquestioning certainty that, “Damn, it’s still cold out here.”

And I went in the house.

Little Red Convertible

Our little red convertible
Our little red convertible

There is just nothing better than tooling around the neighborhood in a little red convertible on a sunny autumn day. Feeling the warm sun and the chill air on your skin makes you feel alive with promise and enthusiasm. Of course, it helps if you actually have a little red convertible but why let details stand in the way?

Today was too nice a day to be spent inside, so I asked Barbara Gayle what she would like to do. Her first choice, a walk on the beach, stumped me. “Sorry honey; the nearest beach is a two day drive and the jet is out of gas.” But her second choice, a ride in a red convertible, got me to thinking. “I’ll be back in a little while,” I told her and I went outside.

Out back of the CowChows we have a very special assortment of items. Though sometimes referred to as a junk pile I prefer to call it a collection of undetermined purposes. Twenty minutes later I had retrieved a little red wagon of forgotten origin from the pile, cleaned it up, gathered a few other items and rang the front doorbell.

When she opened the door and saw that it was only me, she smiled. When she saw that I was wearing driving gloves, sunglasses and my Scottish Rite cap, because I didn’t have a chauffeur’s cap, she smiled more. When she saw the little red wagon trailing behind me, she giggled. When I popped open the umbrella to serve as the ragtop of her convertible, she rewarded me with her laughter. And then, to my surprise, she climbed into the little red wagon and said, “Let’s go!”

And go we did. We cruised all around the neighborhood, and everywhere we went the kids laughed and waved and came to walk alongside the funny lady in the little red wagon. One little girl brought her a fistful of flowers; another offered a scarf to keep her warm. The neighbors paused in their chores and errands; some to smile and wave or say hello, and some to stare and shake their heads.

And, boy did we have fun. For about an hour we stepped outside of normalcy and allowed ourselves the freedom to be silly, and in the process we created a precious and sustaining memory. Try it sometime. Be silly, just for the fun of it.


Tim Couch

Garter Snake causes Rain Dance

Would you care to dance?
Would you care to dance?

I wish you could’ve been here. What with the summer heat we’ve been having lately BG and I have taken to doing the yard work around the CowChows either early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Mostly late afternoon because early morning is kind of an alien concept to me. I know it exists but I really don’t speak the language or understand the customs. But, this morning she managed to rouse me pretty early and we went out to do some chores.

We’d been out for a while and it was beginning to warm up so we were heading back into the house. As we neared the back porch I looked down and right against the wall lay the cutest little garter snake you ever saw. BG doesn’t like snakes, any snakes. She no longer believes the only good snake is a dead one, but she still believes the only good snake is one that is far from her house. So, while I went to get my Ozarks Snake Wrangling equipment she watched the little varmint to make sure it stayed put.

I returned with my stick and glove, and was easing in to make my move. BG had been standing in the same place for several minutes without moving, and just as I was sneaking up on the snake a giant earthworm wriggled up between her toes. This was no ordinary worm by any measurement. This was the Godzilla of earthworms. It was nearly as big as the snake, and when BG jumped it startled the worm and he began to thrash about like a snake, which did nothing to calm BG. She began to dance and shriek. This in turn startled the snake. He decided to make a run for it, but with me behind him and a concrete wall beside him there was nowhere to go but toward BG. The worm was thrashing about at her feet; the snake was coming straight for her, and she cut loose with a dance that really brought down the rain.

The snake got away. The worm, amazingly, did not get trampled. And I, apparently, wasn’t supposed to find any of this funny. On the bonus side though, I think I’m going to get to sleep in tomorrow morning.


Tim Couch