Corona Chronicles: April 29, 2021

Corona Chronicles XXVII

The Alewife Are Running
Dave Greeley

Come and see an environmental success story in action
The Alewife are running!
Go to the Maine Rivers Website and copy the Maine Alewife Trail Map.
Right Now!

Take a drive to one of about 15 listed locations where you will see thousands of 10″ to 12″ Alewife making their way into freshwater lakes. Damariscotta and Benton and Blackman Steam have special events….it’s a party! The run on the Sebasticook River has gone from virtually zero to several million fish making it one of the largest Alewife migrations in the world! It shows that we can restore the environment. Bring your camera, there will be eagles and osprey and others looking for a free lunch.

Spring Through a Window
Jim Owen

Our gaunt apple tree
arms wide to embrace sunlight
no leaves, brown grass.

Green grass near garden
raised beds just potential,
birds sing for partners.

Despite red plumage
cardinals shout in tree tops,
desperate for love.

The Tale Of Galen The Robin
Rebecca Jessup

Once a young robin named Galen returned to his parents’ nest at dusk, looking downcast.

“Mom” he said, “I am not sure I’m ever going to get through this dating and mating season. I stand out there on a branch singing the same 5 or 6 notes over and over and over, just hoping to get some kind of answer. It’s boring! And what’s more it’s demeaning! Chirp, chirp, chirrop, chirrop — again and again and again! I want to break out, improvise, figure out some different melodies!”

“Oh, no, dear! You’ll never find a proper wife that way! Just please, Galen, stick to the tried and true. It worked out wonderfully well for your father and me! We’ve raised, oh, it must be at least twelve fledglings! And every other bird we’ve ever heard of has mated this same way. Just stay with it a little longer.”

Galen hung his head. He couldn’t think of anything more to say, so he flew up to the branch overhead for the night, shaking his beak. This is really getting me down, he thought to himself.

The next morning before sunrise, he flew around in search of a promising perch. Once he landed, he began the same song he’d sung over and over — but after a few bars, he sang a harmony line. That made him laugh. He hopped around a bit, pleased with himself, and then let loose with variations — above and below the melody line, speeding up a few bars, and then slowing the tempo way down. He added some tremolo here, and a little doo-wop there. He was having a wonderful time!

The other male robins around him were confused. A few were angry. Hey, cut that out! squawked one. What in the world kind of bird are you, anyway? shouted another. Galen broke from his singing long enough to say I’m an original! and he went back to improvising joyfully.

Soon he noticed a young female robin watching him steadily from the next tree. Was she smiling? It’s hard to tell, even for other robins. But Galen was having such a good time, he wasn’t going to stop his little concert. The female robin hopped a little closer, still watching him. He continued singing his small heart out.

Presently he realized that a mockingbird was imitating him — or trying. He slowed down and hesitated, to give the other bird a chance to answer. The mockingbird trilled back its imitation. Galen answered a slightly different phrase, and the mockingbird copied him, adding a little chorus at the end. Soon the two birds were singing back and forth, and then together, and the birds around them were either leaving or listening. A thrush and a warbler did their best to join in, but the only tunes they could carry were their own mating calls. Still, they did their best, and added to the sense of fun.

Before the day was over, the female robin was openly flirting with Galen and he was flirting back, and the happy band of singers had agreed to meet every week, to practice and work up their own repertoire of music.

Travels with Maureen O’Keefe

In my travels, figurative and literal, I have enjoyed the hobby of collecting little ironies. One finds them all the time when one starts looking…

A few years ago, I revisited a country where I had lived with my family for five years—Sri Lanka. As I say many times, Sri Lanka is a cross between Hawaii and India. It’s a marvelous place, boasting a civilization that dates back to 500BC, four major religions, fabulous food and crafts, and gorgeous tropical beaches. It’s popular with Europeans, but Americans haven’t really discovered its charms. And the bloody and violent civil war which lasted over 25 years didn’t help.

While we lived there, from 1989 to 1994, the prime Minister was blown up at a nearby intersection, and there were bomb attacks in the capital, Colombo. The civil war was incredibly ruthless and barbaric. Violent stabbings and regular bombings dominated daily life for a quarter of a century.

On this trip, the war was at a climatic pitch, as both sides were ramping up for an end. Even though there was no anti-American fervor, one had to be careful. We headed south from Colombo for a beach weekend near Galle in the south. After settling in at the hotel we walked out towards the road and witnessed something remarkable: A bus, which had been barreling down the road at breakneck speed–leaning due to its overcrowding, suddenly braked to a stop. As we edged closer to get a look we saw the reason. The bus had stopped because a small lizard was crossing the road. Sri Lanka is, after all, a Buddhist country, and all life is sacred.
In 1981 I was the national tennis coach for the country of Jordan. In fact I was their first national tennis coach because the Jordan Tennis Federation had just been formed. I had developed a young team of boys ages 13 to 16, and I worked very hard to develop their tennis game. The Tennis Federation was anxious for the team to travel to Arab matches, so I found myself taking the boys to Iraq for the Arab championships. It happened to be during the Iran/Iraq war and as we were entering Iraqi air space we were asked to close our windows. It was rumored in the plane that we did this so we wouldn’t be shot down. I had a few bad moments wondering why I was there.

But all was well, and we were shown to our dorm rooms at a sports facility outside of Bagdad. They had to scramble to get me a single because they had not realized I was female. But it was taken care of quickly and efficiently. The tournament week went well. My players did well, but of course fell to the experienced players from Morocco and Egypt. However, there was one interesting non-tennis event.

It turns out that Moroccan Arabic is different from Jordanian, Levantine Arabic. In fact, the players couldn’t understand each other. I didn’t speak Arabic, and usually could get along easily with my English. However, my team went out on an outing with the Moroccan team, and I found that the Moroccan coach didn’t speak English. He spoke Arabic, French and Spanish. My decent high school Spanish was actually better than my elementary college French, so we conversed in Spanish on our walk around town. He was a very personable young man of energy and charm. We chatted along amiably and I was pleased that I could carry on a conversation in Spanish.

When we got back to the dorms, he pointed to an empty room and said, “Quiero hacer amor contigo.” I blanched. “Imposible!” He looked surprised. “Eres Muslim?” he asked. “No” I said. “Entonces, Si eres Christian, por que no quiere hacerlo??”

My head was spinning. He thought that since I was a Christian woman I would sleep with him. It was a whole new upside down meaning of the word Christian!
For our second Christmas in Jordan we went with another family to Istanbul. What a fabulous city. I’ve been there three times now and I have to say it has the most splendid, magical skyline of any city I’ve ever seen. Coming from the Middle East it looks nearly European. Yet coming from Europe it looks seductively Middle Eastern. The food is delicious, and inexpensive. There is so much to do and see: Topkapi palace, the Hagia Sophia Mosque, the Galata Bridge, the Grand Bazaar—the list goes on and on.

On that first trip in 1981 we tried to fit everything in a few days. We found the Turkish language very difficult, and my husband, a language buff, was trying hard to learn words and phrases in the short time we were there. But “thank you” in Turkish is six syllables long!

Towards the end of our week, we encountered an old man peddling shish kebab skewers at an intersection. He took a hard look at us and said in lovely English, “Buy these wonderful shish kebab skewers, to cook famous Turkish recipes.” My husband, wanting a bit of fun, answered him in French, “je n’pas parler inglais.” Immediately the man answered in beautiful French, describing the skewers as “lifelong souvenirs of Istanbul.” My husband switched to Spanish. The street seller changed to perfect Spanish, his eyes twinkling as he clearly was enjoying himself. Up to a challenge, my husband changed to Arabic. Not to be outdone; the street seller knew Arabic well. So my husband started talking in German, which was no problem for the street seller who answered in fluent and conversational German. Coming to his linguistic limit my husband struggled in halting Russian, and predictably, the kebab seller rattled on in Russian and then some. He stood there and smiled, clearly waiting for the next language. But hubby was done. We had a feeling the Turkish street seller was just getting warmed up.

Of course we bought the skewers!

Thoughts for the Day

The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility. To cherish what remains of it and to foster its renewal is our only hope.

In the bigger scheme of things the universe is not asking us to do something, the universe is asking us to be something. And that’s a whole different thing.

Compassion springs from the heart, as pure, refreshing water, healing the wounds of life.

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