Letter from Birdland: Even in dry, we find things of beauty

Letter from Birdland: Even in dry, we find things of beauty

In Birdland we are still hoping for rain. The corn is drying in the fields. The golden color is lovely against the blue sky, but rain now won't help the kernels swell. It is too late.

The beans are beginning to show yellow in the green, so it might be too late for them, too. Their leaves are starting to fold over, turning their undersides to the sky. It's like the plants have given up.

I can't remember the last time I mowed any grass. It's not that I'm eager to mow, even with my nice electric mower, but it's a measure of how little growth is going on in our yard.

It's our second year of drought, and we may get accustomed to the dearth of bugs, but the lack of birds in the yard is spooky.

Despite the dry weather, we did have a nice crop of peaches. They started forming back in June, when we had quite a lot of rain. Our trees are quite young, and, thankfully, pretty supple. One tree is not much taller than I am, but its long, thin branches, weighed down with peaches, brushed the ground like a weeping willow.

The chickens helped themselves to the fruit, knocking it off the tree or sometimes just pecking it even as it clung to the twigs. As I picked the peaches, the branches would slowly rise, bit by bit, relieved of their burden. I picked the last of them this evening, and the tree sprang back upright.

The sedum also does well in the dry weather. It is a succulent and finds ways to make lush blossoms without the rain. The flowers started out a pale green but then grew white, then pink, and are now a deep, dusky red. Later they will begin to rust to a deep brown that will dry and stay all winter.

The other day a man parked next to me at the store as I was transferring my groceries from the cart to my car. As people sometimes do, he offered to buy my cart so I wouldn't have to take it back to the turnstile to get my quarter back. As we made the exchange I realized he looked familiar.

"Are you Mr. Hohn?" I asked.

He admitted to being my sixth-grade teacher! We talked for just a moment, and he very kindly remembered me. He didn't seem to recollect that I was a difficult child in the sixth grade, or perhaps he has forgiven me after all these years.

He went on to do his shopping and I went on home, as I had milk and cheese that needed to be put away. I drove off and realized, too late, that I should have asked to snap a photo of the two of us with my phone, or I should have thanked him for all he did for me so long ago.

Oh yes, we battled over my handwriting, but in many important ways he taught me how to be a teacher. Once, while demonstrating a chemistry experiment for us, he dropped an empty test tube. As it fell, he kicked it with his foot before it hit the floor, and it didn't shatter.

"Do you know why it didn't break?" he asked, then told us that his kick took the brunt of the blow so that by the time it hit the floor, the test tube didn't have to break. Thus, he taught me how an unplanned disruption can turn a lesson aside into a different message altogether, no less valuable than the intended one.

He planned to teach us chemistry, and we got a mini physics lesson with it. This is how I learned to follow the question down surprising turns in my own classroom.

I've also saved a lot of dropped crockery from shattering on the floor, and each time I do, I think of Mr. Honn.

How often do we have the chance to thank the teachers who have helped bring us to where we are today? I missed my chance at the grocery store, so I'll take this opportunity here and hope he chances to read this column. Thank you, Mr. Honn.

Fall in beauty; land in peace; blessed be.

Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. The more she thinks about that test tube, the more metaphors she finds. You can read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at letterfrombirdland@gmail.com.

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