[Special holiday blog]
There is a wide railing around the huge deck outside the window where I’m sitting. Onto that railing my father pours sunflower seeds several times a day, to feed anything that can get there. Of course the birds come in, but at the moment I see eight squirrels contentedly having breakfast. Most people who keep bird feeders tell sagas of how they fight to keep the squirrels away from the bird seeds. My father doesn’t care and feeds them all. And if you are using your imagination just a bit, you are correctly picturing masses of sunflower seed shells littering the deck.
It’s New Year’s Eve, and today I will transition from this quiet bucolic scene in north Georgia to a party in the evening in Charlotte, North Carolina, with quantities of good food and a plentiful supply of drink. There will also be lots of people speaking Russian quickly in a noisy room, where I will sometimes understand what is being said to me and sometimes just nod and pretend that I did.
I have no profound thoughts to mark the end of the year, except “Glad that’s over, let’s do it again.” But I do have a few observations from the last couple of days.
1) Birds hold conventions. Two days ago I was standing on the deck where the squirrels now celebrate their discovery of The Place With Endless Food. The deck is rather high off the ground and surrounded by trees, and when I looked off into a brushy area below, I counted 15 male cardinals. During the winter, against a background of browns and grays, even one of those amazing red birds is a sight. To see fifteen of them gathered to conduct some bird business was astonishing.
2) I think the earth is round. When I come to Georgia from Pennsylvania, both summer and winter, I can always tell the difference in when it gets dark and light. I arrived at this cabin this morning just before 7:00 a.m., and it was still quite nightly outside. Back home it is already light at that time. I think the difference in when the light arrives has something to do with the curvature of the earth. That’s just my theory, you can take it or leave it.
3) You can create tourism out of thin air. The closest town to us here is called Helen. A hundred years ago it was a small mountain town of no particular interest, but with a sawmill, as people went about the business of stripping the hillsides of trees. Sometime around the 1960s, a local artist proposed that the town redecorate itself to look like a German alpine village, which they did, and the idea has grown and spread until such decoration is now required by code. Some of it is tacky and strange, some of it is interesting, and a little bit even has a faint “German” ambiance. The town is a big tourist attraction. Of course the beautiful setting of the mountains helps.
4) Even rednecks like tacos. Last night I went with my father and stepmother into Helen, to the alpine German Tex-Mex restaurant, operated, it appeared, by actual Mexicans. I ate more than one is supposed to eat (one of my goals at mealtime), and my father and I drank a pitcher of beer. When we left the restaurant, we passed a huge pick-up truck, the kind that is so large as to declare the anxious masculinity of the driver. This truck was also covered with bumper stickers, at least eight of them, saying things like “Redneck” and “If heaven ain’t a lot like Dixie, I don’t wanna go” and with one bumper sticker saying some stupid shit about the Confederate flag. Clearly the macho man driving this truck was not someone you could have an intellectual conversation with, but he was inside having food that his Confederate grandpappy would not have approved of.
It is time for me to stop this useless nonsense and go on to something important, like taking a nap.
Have a happy new year.