Friday, July 25, 2014


Anybody who still believes that crows don’t swear was definitely not in bed with me this morning. I was there, though, savoring the peaceful ambiance of a morning dream until it was shattered by a long, loud repetition of America’s most popular curse word, coming from a high branch of the chestnut tree. It's a term not much used out here in the Japanese countryside; it's mostly used in the big cities, where it has far more utility. I recognized the word at once, even though it was in Crow.

It had to be Young Crow. He probably picked the word up while strutting in the chestnut tree waiting for his mother to feed him, while I was down below, splitting knotty oak. (It has to be knotty to get a good swearstream going.) Crows are excellent mimics; they also use tools, and words are tools, so need I say more. Come to think of it, Young Crow must be the only crow in Japan that really nails the rhythmic and tonal niceties of the term. Lacking lips, he can’t quite get the F, but the enunciation is close enough to be effective, especially at that volume.

And in a bird so young! Until recently he'd been a big mama’s boy, strutting local summits like the chestnut tree, complaining about his hunger and lengthy solitude, calling over and over to his mama for more more more food, which she fetched to him as quickly as she could, back and forth from the vast larder that is my garden and its neighborhood, while she - much smaller than chubbyboy - got thinner and thinner as her tubby darling scarfed the general vicinity. Now he was grown enough to finally be on his own, and he was not pleased with the new arrangement.

On and on and on he went, cursing at all the ground around, much as my boss and later my drill sergeant used to do, and with nearly the same sharp and steady rhythm. I’d never heard any crow do this before, no matter what age or mood. It was damn impressive, I must say. And in a bird so young!  Just confirms my long-held belief that cursing is an elemental drive.

Young crow has got his own life to live now, in any case, and should be given the chance to tarnish it a bit, just as we humans do, take some of the glare off. As the more experienced party, though, I'd advise the lad to spend more time on his delivery and, over the years, be sure add a bit more salt.

Life does have its needs.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

  • Wild pig invades property, ravages nothing in particular: “Just for fun of it” 
  • Leaves filling culvert and accumulating on roadside await attention 
  • Hornets nearly the size of  your hand invade carpenter bee nest in front eave; aftermath recalls Punic Wars 
  • Crow stops using chestnut tree outside upstairs bedroom window for nationwide dawn announcements 
  • Garden growing feral, organizing; home committee shorthanded, indecisive 
  • Deer enjoys nightly snack of beautiful pumpkin leaves growing in all directions from compost pit outside garden fence; “succulent blossoms a special treat” 
  • Fall of deceased oak awaited, chestnut going piece by piece 
  • Green wheelbarrow with yellow handles full of broken garden pots; mental committee allegedly forming 
  • Cherry limb that should have been trimmed a long time ago now popular woodpecker resort 
  • Uncleaned rain gutter bitches and moans even in light rain 
  • Brady hears loudest thunder in his life, in clear midday, right outside house; suspects unilateral attempt at stimulus 
  • Mushroom logs confused by weather have no idea where they are 
  • Anonymous midsized bird begins enjoying Brady cucumbers 
  • Water pressure falls unexpectedly one morning for no reason 
  • Generous village neighbor leaves some of her surplus sweet onions beside our door 
  • Local farmers visit upmountain paddies now and then  
  • All calm as rice grows 

Wednesday, July 02, 2014


Well, the Quartet left for the States this morning, and this afternoon in the bleak of my mood, which was bleakening by the minute as I stayed indoors amidst years of signs of the presence of grandchildren and thought about things for which thinking is of no use, I decided it might be better to go outside into the garden and do some needful overdues, engage in some activity that could at least have the effect of putting my mind's foot down elsewhere than on my own neck.

So I put on my work duds and went outside, opened the garden gate in all forthrightness and entered that green dominion, stood there looking around with suitably humble authority, chucked a few too-long-ignored plants under the chin and in return received the worst visual scolding I've ever gotten from a garden.

Some pretty nasty vegetal syntax out there-- bean and pepper sarcasm, cuke and goya irony right on down the untended rows. Given their passive and vulnerable nature, vegetables can be pretty ruthless when given a chance to lash out; naturally, they're gonna give it all they've got. Fortunately, the grandies had left the country, so they didn't have to experience this, not that neglected gardens are all that restrained in California. I did have an excuse, though, sort of - over the past few weeks there's been so much going on in my own life that required my time, focus and energy - but full-time, hardworking produce has little sympathy for the problems of absentee humans.

The peppers were covered with weevils to an extent that agri-bureaucrats could call abusive; the favas had toppled into yellow tangles of no return; the tomatoes - mainly a distraction for monkeys - were plunging into lowlife with abandon and the climbing beans had that rebellious attitude I remember from high school. Neglected lettuce as well can be pretty damned ungrateful. The only satisfied plants were the luxuriating weeds and the stately fennel, which needs no one to maintain or affirm its beauty. The Andean potatoes as well were brightleaved and thriving at this luxurious altitude. The overall picture, however, was not a pretty one.

I went around doing what I could for the survivors: clearing some space, weeding, thinning-- more sunlight here, a bit of support there, a little encouragement over here and so on, but they knew my heart wasn't in it, I could sense it in their attitude - you know the way vegetables can get - they knew that next year things would be even more different: only two mouths to feed and fewer hands to plant and weed and care, no new hearts to laugh and be amazed at all the surprises that can stem from seed into beauty, no more shared delights of the spirit, spread out over summers like there used to be...