Thursday, June 26, 2008

A Few Small Verities

Big Bras d'Or evokes what Jan describes as my hackneyed "Ah, the eternal verities." The climate scientists tell us the end is near but I take small heart from the Old Reliables I find around me every spring when we return to Cape Breton.

The carpets of bunchberry and clintonia are at least as spectacular as they ever were. Maybe more. A pair of loons pledge their troth to each other on the still water of Dalem Lake. The flame-throated Blackburnian warbler asserts his dominion from the same tall spruce overlooking our middle meadow as his ancestor did when I first took notice three decades ago. Their deed to the land goes back far before my own. Not all the verities are as warmly embraced as the warblers. Hordes of blackflies greet our every spring arrival. Eventually they wane a bit, only to be replaced by the mosquitos. On the bright side, the bugs are a boon to the warblers. Feast well, my feathered friends. Every June brings a brief migration of carpenter ants. Once upon a time I fretted they would devour the cabin before the shingles had a chance to curl in the sun. The cabin still stands and now I mostly let the ants alone. As Bob Nagel puts it, they're only doing what they're supposed to.

Squirrels have the run of our immediate neighbourhood and why not, they are permanent here, not mere arrivistes like the noisy diesel-powered creatures who arrive in June and are gone by October. Jan was very pleased with her newly painted bathhouse; the squirrels seemed much less impressed but they were clearly delighted with the jar of stale peanut butter we placed in the crook of a nearby birch. Their quarrels over the stuff endlessly entertained.

When I was a boy John F. MacDonald had the place next door to the old Livingstone homestead. the most memorable of the John F. residents was a bilingual
parrot who could berate in Spanish as well as she did in English -- and tell you whether John F.'s son Alistair was out milking the goats. Today all that is
left of John F.'s house is the foundation. The parrot is gone but a forest of Solomon-seal and Day lilies flourishes by the ruin. We liberated a few of the flowers and transplanted them by the bathhouse. The heritage flowers appear to be doing well.

After two weeks back at the old cabin we are settling into our own routines. I have cleared the trail to Dalem Lake of its usual winter allotment of windfall. We found our first junco nest yesterday and heard our first pine grosbeaks and yellow-bellied flycatchers on the homeward leg just this morning. The lake seems warm enough that our first Dalem dip could occur tomorrow morning. Then we'll know that summer has really arrived.


1 comment:

SarahLivingstonSchlicht said...

Alan, I enjoy reading your work. Those few small verities in this world ARE wonderful. We have to stop and smell the roses. (Or observe the squirrels or listen to the warbles...)You remind me to do that. Even (And ESPECIALLY) after I spend my day in the salt mines.

Looking forward to your next installment!