From the monthly archives: "July 2011"

July 22, 2011—

For me, the notion of bird watching was as impossible as marathon running.

Or playing golf.

But last spring I was standing  in the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge near Pascagoula, Miss. looking at birds. For a long time. I did not have binoculars or a pith helmet. I was not on a writing assignment. I was on vacation with my girl friend. She wandered off as she was known to do. I can still see the intensity of her blue eyes attached to the skies in the distance.

i found a veranda near a marsh surrounded by wet pine savanna and pine scrub. It was late morning and puffy clouds rolled across the horizon like boxcars. There was very little sound in the still air. I was nowhere.

I saw some ospry and a red-tailed hawk. We did not see a crane until later in the day when we spotted one standing tall in a gentleman’s back yard on the way to Gulfport, Miss. A local told us where to find the crane as we were buying a six pack of Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan beer.

Last week I was at the Princess Potosa Gallery, across the street from the newly refurbished Potosi Brewery and National Brewery Museum in Potosi (Wis.), 19 miles north of Dubuque, Ia and not far from the Mississippi River.

I saw something of another crane.

The beady-eyed bird was set against a trippy blue and green background under an orange sun. It was a modest piece of art made by Karen Cannon of Hiawatha, Ia. She is a mom and a psychiatric nurse. I bought her crane. It will serve as a heartfelt reminder of the moment I was in, cradled in the gentle hills of southwest WIsconsin away from the demands of a faster life. I also recalled  the quiet refuge in Mississippi.

On the drive back to Chicago I glanced at the painting in the front seat of my Pontiac. Greg Brown was on the radio singing about laughing rivers. I wondered why Cannon painted the crane standing still, instead of the romance of a bold and fancy flight.

I was going over the speed limit on a winding two-lane road. Transitions seem to be happening at a rapid pace this summer—except for my Cubs.

Birds are here today, gone tomorow.

This crane was still grounded.

The author by the “hops shrubbery” at the Potosi Brewery.

July 4, 2011-

The essence of music is deep and free.
Like sprinkles of dust underneath blasted firecrackers and cherry bombs there is a distant salsa beat.

An old blue bicycle takes you to a group of men in Humboldt Park on the west side of Chicago. They are across the way from the 16-inch softball players with the sweeping uppercut swings and the pregnant woman with a light white smock snapping in a gentle breeze.

It sounds like the old bicycle needs oil.

The men are huddled under a tree that shades them from a bright blue sky. No  barbecue, no beer; just their drums, congas and heart beats. No tip jars.

Just commitment, a promise to keep on playing.

You rewind  24 hours when the Iguanas got up at 6 a.m. in El Paso, Tx. to make a 11 p.m. gig at a Fourth of July festival in Berwyn, Ill. They played on and as did Jon Dee Graham who sang about freedom and Muhammad Ali in a green shirt drenched with sweat. These moments become your own, like a lyric in a song that always makes you cry.

The  men under the tree could be playing something from Willie Colon.
Is it  ‘Calle Luna Calle Sol” ?
No one is there to translate such things for you.

You guess  “Silent Sun, Street Moon” That would be perfect.
The men have jerry rigged their speakers to the engine of a white  low rider.
The music jumps starts your heart.