They Don’t Teach You This Stuff in College

It’s a beautiful Saturday morning, the air is cool, the breeze is slight, and the sun is dazzling here in my neck of the woods.  I’ve been mulling over my post for today, but with what was a nearly-unconscious move of my hand, my direction changed.  It’s funny how that works.

I was in the backyard, taking care of our small flock of seven chickens (delicious eggs, and nearly constant entertainment).  With the ladies fussing and flapping their wings as they followed me through the yard, I cleaned and refilled their waterer, and topped of their feeder.  We walked back to the coop in Pied Piper fashion, and after dropping the containers off I turned to head back to the house.  It was then that I realized I hadn’t collected eggs in a couple of days.  

Okay, here’s the conundrum.  Just two days in the spring means I’ve got nearly a dozen eggs to carry back to the house.  Mind you, the house is only 40 feet away, but I’m a guy…no, I don’t want to walk up, get the basket, and walk back to the coop, thank you very much.

I have on a fleece pullover, though.  A pullover with big pockets.  I pulled 4 eggs out of the first nesting box, slid them into a pocket, and reached back to the next box and pulled out three more.  Those went into the other pocket.

You’re thinking I’m about to make a mess, aren’t you?  No, I didn’t.  This isn’t my first chicken rodeo.

As I pulled the last few eggs out of the third box and transferred them into the first pocket, I was careful. Really careful.

My hand went into the pocket, and as I heard the eggs make that indescribable sound (clink? thunk? click? chink?) as they settled in together, I was instantly carried back to the hallway outside of my classroom during my first year of teaching.

I had just left my room, heading toward the front of the school on some errand that I’ve long since forgotten.  What I’ll never forget, though, is that one of my students, a tiny, quiet, impossibly-shy wisp of a girl, was walking toward me with tears streaming down her face.  Her little body shook with each sob, and as I approached her I scanned to see what had to be some sort of grievous injury.  

I didn’t see anything obviously wrong, so I knelt down beside her (I was nearly four feet taller than she was–she really was a small third-grader) and asked her what was wrong. It took a few minutes, but finally she calmed down enough to tell me that her egg broke.

Full stop.  What?

“My egg broke.”  As she spoke, she moved her hand toward the hem of her simple, white cotton pullover shirt.  A shirt made in a fashion quite similar to the one I’m wearing this morning.  A different material, definitely a different size, but the same general idea.  A shirt just right for carrying an egg in the pocket.

Carrying an egg, not to save a few dozen steps, but to be just like one’s older sister.  The older sister in high school.  The older sister doing that activity where she cares for a raw egg in order to get a glimpse of the responsibilities of protecting a baby.  

As I followed her hand down the front of her body, my eyes settled on what was a growing patch of yellow, damp cloth, moving up and down with each gasping sob.

You learn how to be a teacher in college, right?  Suuure you do.

That Darn Tree

It’s what appears to be an early spring here in north Alabama, and while most trees are still bare, new green is everywhere. The daffodils have bloomed and are already on their way out, crocus blossoms can be spotted here and there, and even some early wildflowers have made their appearance. Despite all that, we’re still in what is only the first week of March. The gorgeous pink that will appear with the advent of the redbuds and cherries is still in the (albeit near) future, and the iconic magnolias have yet to let their flowers show.

But the Bradford pears…oh, the Bradford pears.

Bradford pear trees (a cultivar of the Callery pear) command attention throughout the southeastern United States, just as they soon will in regions further north.  Their white flowers, dense upon the branch, cause them to stand out on hillsides so as to be seen from an incredible distance.  These trees are not unlike the regional crepe myrtle in that many people love them (their flowers are striking; they’re easy and fast to grow) and an equal number of people loathe them.  Aside from their many flaws as a tree (they’re easily damaged by wind; their dense foliage prevents much from growing beneath them), they’re an invasive species that spreads quickly.

Why, you might be asking, are they a slice of my life?

Flowers have one primary purpose: Seeds.  Lots of flowers; lots of seeds.  Lots of flowers; lots of p o l l e n.  

Okay, I’m a science teacher, and I understand that Bradford pear trees are primarily pollinated by insects.  That means, amongst other things, that their pollen is typically not an airborne nuisance.  I understand that my allergies (argh!) are probably not caused by Bradford pear trees.  

I don’t care.  It’s irrational, but I don’t care.  I can’t breathe, my eyes have been puffy for a week, and I’m buying facial tissue by the truckload.  Allergy meds are my friends.  

Can’t I just direct my ire at the most visible target?  

No, I really shouldn’t.

Honestly, they are a terrible tree, but beautiful in their own way.  

Besides, it gets worse: Just wait for pine pollen.

Today, I’m Glad I’m Not a Dog

I know it’s a little thing, but I’m glad I get to go potty in the house.  Our dog, on the other hand, enjoys no such luxury.  Not that she doesn’t occasionally cross that line, but certainly not with the blessing of either my wife or me.

As with most of the southeastern United States, it’s rained in Alabama quite a bit over the last few days.  To be fair to Maggie, our dog, “quite a bit” is somewhat of an understatement.  It’s rained a lot; nearly six inches in the surrounding area.  You know it’s going to be real when the National Weather Service issues a flood warning before the first drop falls.

After two solid days of rain, our back yard is a mess that’s a few inches deep in some places, complete with a stream that’s floated a canoe before (we just had to try).  The subdivision developer clearly favored our neighbor’s property.  

This morning, as I have many times before, I put Maggie on her leash, bracing myself for the disbelieving look of betrayal that comes with the back door opening instead of the front.  We went outside into what was a heavy drizzle, me leading the way in a resolute show of solidarity, searching for and finding high ground.  A mournful look, a shake or two, and a distracted stare at what must have been a squirrel in the mist: All of those had to take place before the eventual crouch.

And then we were back through the door.  A solid shake, a cookie, and all was well in the world.  Until, that is, I get home from school.  Here’s hoping that approaching front passes through early.