Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Most Beautiful Morning

Yes, it was. The most beautiful of the summer, so far. I don't mean to compare it with so many fresh, sparkling morning we've had in recent weeks, but this one had the added virtue of being present, here, now.

I went out to prune some bushes at 6, taking care not to make too much noise as I opened the garage door and reached for the pruning shears. Not for the first time I said to myself, "The wrong bushes were planted here," using the passive voice to evade culpability. I should have said, "We planted the wrong bushes here." 

Get over it! We've got three robust shrubs—a viburnum opulum, a green-twigged dogwood, and a forsythia. The only problem is that they all want to be twenty feet tall, rather than eight. I tried to dig up the cranberry bush years ago, and eventually took an ax to the roots. But no. It wanted to stay. And considering how many of the things we've planted died decades ago, I ought to be thankful.

Two baby chipping sparrows were feeding amid the cast-off fruit of the basswood tree that overhangs the driveway. (We got none of that heavenly linden smell this year. I've never figured out what the factors are that determine production.)

It had rained during the night and a few pools of water had collected on the concrete. The humid air smelled like plants and dirt. The sun was just beginning to streak through the cottonwoods in the neighbor's yard across the street. And suddenly it occurred to me I ought to drive down to Bassett Creek and measure the clarity of the water.

This might sound like a hare-brained idea, but I've been monitoring the water there once a week for several years, and sending the results in to the DNR in the fall. They're especially eager to get readings after what they call "rain events."

(If you want to see the data I collected last year, click here.

If you want to see a broader view of the hundreds of monitoring sites, click here. )

As I drove down the parkway with the window down, a simple and haunting piano piece happened to be on the CD player: Franz Listz's Annees de pelerinage:2eme annee: Italie. Spozalitio. (I didn't know what it was, though I suspected Listz. I looked it up in my iTunes catalog just now.)
The water level in the creek has been low, but the water I scooped up from the bridge a week ago scored 100+. You can't do better. This morning the water level was back to normal, but I lost sight of the little metal disc at 68 centimeters down the Secchi tube. A bit muddy. (The creek's worst score ever was 19.)

Having made my reading, I returned the bucket and tube to the car, then lingered in the cool air, relishing the subtle and spectacular dawn I was standing in the midst of.

The sun was still behind the trees, but there was plenty of light to see the watery sparkle on the grasses and shrubs lining the creek. An egret was feeding in the shadows on the far side of the pond, and a school of suckers was riling the water thirty yards upstream from the bridge. A flock of geese flew by overhead. And a common yellowthroat was singing merrily in the tall grasses alongside the makeshift archery range just across the parkway.

It won't be that long before the birds stop singing. On the other hand, evening cricket-choruses on the deck are also just around the corner. 

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