The Sunday Nature Call, uke 38


The Sunday Nature Call, uke 38

It was a very old taste that was flooding my mouth and not in a good way. It was the taste of a very old and dead animal, the dust and sweat of decades. Yuck! Try as I did, I couldn’t spit enough to be free. So long was I was still afoot walking home there would be no relief.

Don’t you love it when a smarty-pants, a know-it-all get’s his what-for. There is a pleasure we take when someone who thinks they are so damn smart and clever gets expose to be a fraud or is undone by his or her own “genius.” Expressions about for what must be a universal human trait: “Hoist on your own petard,” “Schadenfreude,” “Just desserts,” etcetera.

For those you who know, I think by now you have developed a grin of pleasure anticipating this wise-guy getting his own “what for.” Feels good, doesn’t it? Yes, yes it does.

I walked to a birthday party down the road, only about a kilometer to pick up number two son from a birthday party. There had been rain showers on and off all day, it was just spitting now. I was decked with my overcoat and my trusty western-style hat of beaver; think more Harry Truman, less John Wayne. This outfit has covered me for almost a decade of walking to work in all manners of weather in Iowa. The articles themselves date back even longer. The overcoat was part of my original uniform issue in the Marine Corps, about 25 years old. The hat was Dad’s and is probably twice the vintage.

Meghan thinks I look silly, but I don’t get too many stares anymore on my familiar route in Marion. Although I still witness on occasion an explanatory conversation between a parent, and young child who was pointing at me. I imagine the child, raised on a rich diet of American cartoons transcending the years, just asked her mom what Inspector Gadget was doing walking by Indian Creek Elementary school.

Here, Meghan hates the hat. Accordingly it makes me want to wear it even more. The trap is set.

The nature story of the week has been Petra, birds and foliage get the week off. I don’t find the irony of a flood inducing storm named after a desert city amusing. Plus I just can’t stand storms getting their own names that aren’t tropical hurricanes. It’s like every kid getting a prize just for showing up. George Carlin would be livid.

The afore-mentioned storm visited the Kingdom and deposited rain, rain, and more rain. The volume was unusually high and flooding was severe. Farmers, already suffering from a wet, a cool growing season, are watching crops soak in the fields, hectares of grain lodged, and hay grown into unpalatable weeds. Not funny at all.

Yet rain is a part of life, more so in western Norway but overall a ubiquitous part of life. I spent a couple of days this week in lovely Bergen. The postcards of Bergen drench it in sunshine but by God everybody knows you plan for rain. I too shared my experience with some of its famous rain. In my personal journal I wrote that Bergen deserved rain.

Now, hold on, there’s nothing spiteful in that statement. It’s just that Bergen is so beautiful, that if it had more predictable sunshine it would be insufferably wonderful. It would be loved to death by the world. You wouldn’t be able to get any work done because you would be ceaselessly beckoned outside. They are lucky to have the rain.

When it rains during recess, the boys play outside. Of course they do: it rains, kids go outside for recess, “everybody does it.” Parents are expected to send their children to school with a full kit of rain gear. Their school has a generous wardrobe for all that wet gear. There was some planing in the design for it.

I don’t feel our American schools are built for the weather they actually find themselves in. My opinion is that we build schools for the postcard day. We show building plans with sunny skies. Open-houses for new construction and remodels seem to be held only in the fair weather months. We should design them better for December and March. We could design schools to handle children coming in from a post-winter storm with snow, and wind, and bitter cold kit, but we don’t. Where are the planned well-ventilated areas for all that rain gear to dry during lessons? Have you seen them?

I carried the tiny umbrella along for the walk in my pocket, reserved for number two son. The party was a riot of boys and sugar. The hosts were magnanimous. The kids were just finishing their destruction of the cake so I would have to wait a bit to leave. No worries mate.

We ended up being about the last to leave, typical. As I was speaking with the host mother Owen twice came to interrupt that he couldn’t find his rain boots. Go look again.

On no, really? They really were not there. Now he clarifies the mystery by saying that another boy has the same rain boots as him. My mind had to take a pause for logic, “but then what about the other boy’s original boots?” Focus Hanson, pack to the crisis at hand. Through the miracle of modern cell phones the host mother was able to phone before the missing boots got too far down the road.

Ensconced in his own gummi’s and carrying a partying gift of popcorn in a large paper cone, Owen and I set off to climb the hill on Vækerøveien back to our apartment. It was raining now, I gave Owen the umbrella to keep his treat dry. The size of the canopy was scaled perfectly for a boy. We walked on.

The volume grew to a steady downpour. My lower jeans were getting soak where they met the bottom of my trench coat. Owen was babbling brook of conversation, I just wanted to get home.

We passed Rema 1000, the neighborhood grocery, halfway there. Now we were in a full-on deluge. My head was getting wet, I didn’t expect that. Water was streaming down my face and neck, into my mouth and down my shirt, I didn’t expect that either. A brief glance downward release a healthy splash of water from my hat. The cool clear water strained through years of life transformed into something disgusting. I certainly didn’t expect that.

Owen tried to stop and show me the great big puddle at this school. I barked at him to keep walking. Actually what I roared was, “I don’t care, I just want to go home!” Not one of my better moments as a father, I think I startled a neighborhood boy playing nearby.

Finally we reached the deck and kitchen door. Owen was full of excited reporting, Meghan helped usher him in and strip out of his kit. She took one look at my sad, sour, and soaked self and did everything she could to restrain her grin. I did expect that.

Nobody in Norway wears a hat like mine. Their hats are for actual weather, not postcards. It’s been two days and my hat is still wet. I deserve that.

Looking ahead, looking up, and keeping my pencil sharp. -jlh

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