the melodies of woo

Men are April when they woo,
December when they wed.
Maids are May when they are maids,
but the sky changes when they are wives.

William Shakespeare

“In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.”
Alfred Tennyson


(sweetgum tree with a traveling minstral perched high above / Julie Cook / 2018)

I heard it long before I saw it.
Loud yet sweetly melodic.

I scanned the area.
Surely it was close…but as I followed the harmonious calls,
my eyes carried me out toward the backfield meadow then high atop a sweetgum tree.

And there they sat…or more aptly put, swayed gently in the afternoon breeze,
balancing ever just so at the very top of the tender tip-top branch of the sweet gum tree.

Uncertain as to whom I was exactly listening to serenading his love, I grabbed my camera
in order to zoom in to identify this lofty crooner.

And low and behold, it was my resident mockingbird…singing ever so sweetly, ever so tenderly,
ever so joyously to the young lady of his fancy who just so happened to be sitting on
a nearby branch.

Ode to a young man bird and his fancy of love…
sadly, she flew away…

The Young Man’s Song
W. B. Yeats, 1865 – 1939

I whispered, “I am too young,”
And then, “I am old enough”;
Wherefore I threw a penny
To find out if I might love.
“Go and love, go and love, young man,
If the lady be young and fair,”
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
I am looped in the loops of her hair.

Oh, love is the crooked thing,
There is nobody wise enough
To find out all that is in it,
For he would be thinking of love
Till the stars had run away,
And the shadows eaten the moon.
Ah, penny, brown penny, brown penny,
One cannot begin it too soon.

Pests and pleasantries

It is impossible to live a pleasant life without living wisely and well and justly. And it is impossible to live wisely and well and justly without living a pleasant life.
Epicurus

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(dangling sweet gums balls / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(a tent caterpillar / Julie Cook /2015)

Busying myself with yard work a few days back, I rounded a corner of the house when I spied
this fuzzy little stripped fellow clinging to the brick.
Suddenly I was 8 years old again. . .

Spying the first caterpillar of the season, or it could have been the first lightening bug,
I made a mad dash inside frantically searching for a jar.
And since I couldn’t find any empty jars sitting around, I scoured the cabinets and the refrigerator.
Begging my mother to scoop out all of the mayonnaise from the jar that was sitting in the fridge, as I was in desperate need of that particular jar as it was the perfect size you know, just big enough to reach one’s 8 year old hand down into in order to place the necessary sticks and straw. . .
I could never understand my mother’s overt reluctance to give up the jar.
How hard could it be to scoop out the mayonnaise putting it in a bowl??

I needed it washed and dried.
I would then need the icepick.
“What?” I can still hear my mom shriek followed by a resounding “NO.”
Much to my mother’s fears. . .did she not understand that
I had to poke holes in the top of the jar.. .
Even caterpillars, or fireflies, needed to breathe, I thought everyone knew that.

My collected caterpillars, much to my chagrin, never turned into butterflies.
How was I suppose to know that these guys were not of the butterfly variety?!
Sadly I was attempting to raise moths.
And not the beautiful lunar month mind you but more like a devastating pest.
For my caterpillar was known as a Tent Caterpillar.

Tent caterpillars.
Have you ever seen a tree with a mass of white webbing covering large sections of limbs?
As in, there are hundreds of these ravenous critters inside that white gauze,
waiting to come out as moths. . .yet it is the caterpillar who is very hungry. . .
as in no leaf is safe. You know, as in everything you’d prefer to keep in tact and whole,
gets consumed by hundreds of creepy crawlies.

While way up high, nearly touching the sky
resides the sweet gum ball.
Currently a brilliant light green ball which dangles, like a thousand little earrings, from the branches of the tree.
As time passes, come the Fall of the year, these tender green balls turn spiny and brown, falling to the ground.

A sweet gum tree can grow as tall as 100 feet and is a most hardy and prolific tree.
It is a rapid grower and actually possesses a rather pleasant sweet aroma discovered
upon crushing a few leaves between one’s fingers.
And. . .it is a favorite tree of the tent caterpillar.

Eradication means cutting the wrapped up limbs and disposing of them before it’s too late.
The caterpillars are also very dangerous to horses who graze in areas where tent caterpillars roam.
Mares who consume tent caterpillars are likely to become infertile and pregnant mares are at great risk for losing folds.
Who knew?!

The happenstance of seeing this single caterpillar immediately transported me to a different time and place. . .a place full of wonderment and joy. I wasn’t thinking that I was gazing upon a pest who needed to be immediately disposed of before he and his thousands of minions, wherever they may be, devoured a tree. . .

Rather I was back at a certain place and time relishing the simple pleasures of life. It was a time when Nature, with all that she had to offer to an 8 year old child, was something to be savored and enjoyed.
For it was through the lens of a child that I looked upon this current-day pest—
I was seeing it not as a ravenous creepy crawly but as the fond recollection of youth.
Happily, for that brief moment in time while busily working in the yard, upon this momentary encounter, all that came flooding back in that single moment was a warming sense of contentment as happiness washed over me like welcoming wave on a hot summer’s day.

Here’s to childhood, caterpillars and the joy of Spring. . .