Saturday, July 3, 2010

Family, Frogs, Feathered Friends, and the Fourth

One thing that gets in the way of writing a blog about retirement is going back to work. Three times a year I return to the college I retired from and enter application data for all the new and returning students. It gives me a chance to see old friends and to earn a little "fun" money.

We've also been hosting Joe's cousin from Vermont, his wife, and their son and daughter (14 and 15 respectively). In addition to the usual sights (i.e., Sea World, San Diego Zoo, Missions) they made some wonderful memories: Joe's cousin gave his daughter a para-sailing flight as an early birthday gift...she was thrilled. Son, Mom, and Joe went horseback riding out at Camp Pendleton, and on another day a close friend of Joe's gave them an up-close personal tour of the USS Midway. Mom and Dad had their picture taken in front of the "Sailor Kissing the Girl" Statue at the waterfront (at their daughter's encouragement, they struck the same pose much to the delight of onlookers, including a tour boat going by).

On to the "saga of the frogs". Since they arrived at our house after midnight on the first night, they weren't introduced to a unique feature of their temporary quarters. In California, if you put a water feature in your yard, within hours the tree frogs will discover it. The photo here shows one of these critters sitting on a leaf...not a very big leaf...they are about an inch-and-a-half long and very hard to see. However, what they lack in size they more than make up for in croaking volume. At precisely 8:30 pm every night we have to close the sliding door if we want to hear the tv. The males try to attract a mate with their high-volume croaking. Once they've found a willing female, they get quiet....for a little while. Then it starts again, louder than the time before. (Did I mention that the pond is right below the bedrooms where our company is sleeping?)
As a preface to the end of this post, I want to tell you about my Dr. Doolittle-like effect on creatures. Whenever I would accompany our daughters on field trips to the zoo or to Sea World or any other environment where animals or birds were present, inevitably there would be mating. From ducks on our vacation in Kauai to walruses at Sea World (they could be heard all over the park...think "When Sally Meets Harry" times about 5000) and I can't omit the lowland gorillas at the Wild Animal Park...there were many times when I had to be creative when a 7-year-old girl asked, "What are they doing Mrs. Sarnecky?"

The most unique time was on a whale watching voyage out of our local harbor. Several Girl Scout and Brownie troops combined together for the afternoon outing so both of our daughters were there. We had been told that the whales NEVER mate before they get to the warm waters of Baja California. That was before I was on a boat in their vicinity. For those who might be unfamiliar with the California grey whale, they are huge animals. Because of their size it takes "three to tango" adult male, one adult female, and one immature male. The latter acts as a "guide"...helping the adult male find the target. Enough about the "how"...the result is a churning and splashing as they do barrel rolls over and over...the tour guides were positively apoplectic! (I just thought, "not again"...perhaps I should have added the word "feranomes" to the title of this blog.)

I also had a semi-domesticated roadrunner for three years in a row. This funny little bird would catch a mouse or a lizard and come to my sliding glass door and tap-tap-tap with his beak to get my attention. If I didn't respond right away, he would tap louder and longer until I would go to the door. I would look at whatever he had caught and say, "what a nice mouse" or "wow, you got a great lizard"...then he'd do a little bounce up and down and run off to his mate. I swear! Our son-in-law, Mike, thought I had made it fact, he thought the roadrunner was created just for Wylie Coyote...until I showed him this photo. (That's him just beyond the rocker with a mouse in his beak.)

That same summer we also had "honeymooning ducks" in our pond. (The female is the dull grey one; the male has the pretty feathers.) After their tryst, the mama duck came back about three months later with her brood....they swam a little in the pond and then took off through the vegetable garden. It was almost like she took them on a field trip to show them where Mommy and Daddy created them!

Getting back to this week...Joe was in the kitchen and looking out into the backyard and he called me over to the door...there was a Mama Duck and seven adorable ducklings. They couldn't have been more than a couple of weeks old. They spent half an hour just swimming around the pond. At one point four of the ducklings got out and started walking away. Mama Duck quacked a command and they did an about-face and went back in the pool. We took many photos but here are a couple of my favorites. Unfortunately our guests were in Los Angeles and didn't witness the transformation of our small pond into a duck water park. (I wonder if this Mama Duck is one of the offspring of the earlier honeymoon couple.)

Having company visit us always makes us see our little corner of the world through other eyes. It reminds us of how much we love it here and how we couldn't imagine living anywhere else!

To all the veterans out there, including the one I share a life with, "Thank you for your service." As you light the barbeque or head to the beach for fireworks, say a prayer for the men and women who continue to risk their lives so that we are free to enjoy the wonders of this beautiful country...wonders like frogs and whales, walruses and roadrunners, and baby ducks.

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