Nota Bene: I composed this blog in my head this morning while I was riding my bike in the rain. It has since cleared up and the sun is shining, but I’m going to post it anyway. Btw: How to stop the rain? Bring an umbrella to work.
The sun did not shine
It was too wet to play
Nothing to do but stay inside
All that cold, cold, wet day
Those of us who settle in the northern latitudes do so in part because we dislike the hot, humid, wet weather associated with the tropics, and those long rainy seasons where it pours every day for six months and moss grows on your leather boots.
I remember the night of the first aguacero that announced the onset of the rainy season my first year in Guatemala. It came in the middle of the night, and the force of the rain beating on the roof drove the termites who nested there out into my bedroom. They had wings but apparently had not learned to use them yet as they just crawled around on the floor all night. Sometime towards morning, a procession of giant ants (the Guatemalans call them zompopes and fry them in oil and eat them)invaded my adobe shack and devoured the termites. In the morning, the only trace that remained were their gossamer wings. As I tried to sweep them up, they billowed into a head high cloud, turning over and over in slow motion, one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.
A “credible threat” of a terrorist attack hangs over New York and Washington as we approach 9/11. I told my son not to go downtown on Sunday or anywhere near the celebration. “Dad, it’s not a celebration, it’s an anniversary.”
On Sunday, I will related my 9/11/01 story. In New York and this town, everyone who was alive at the time has one.
Reading about Somalia’s agony caused me to reflect back on my last trip to that country in 1990. I had been doing a number of consulting trips to the country over the past three years, advising the Commercial and Savings Bank of Somalia on a small farmer credit program in the Shebelle River Valley. There had been questions back in New York at the HQ of the UN Capital Development Fund as to whether it was safe to make this latest trip: rumors were that the President, Barre, was about to be overthrown. The UN Resident Representative, whom I met at Mogadishiu airport on his way out, confirmed this.
“The rebels are closing in on the capital from three directions,” he told me. “I’m going to New York to advise them on whether we should evacuate or not.”
I asked, naturally, whether it was safe for me to be there.
“Oh, you’ll be fine!” he assured me.
I met with the farmers, most of whom grew rice, the next day, in a town on the banks of the Shebelle River. “They said that maybe we wouldn’t see you again,” the President of the cooperative told me when I arrived. “I told them ‘No, Scofield will come’.”
Growing rice in Somalia was a challenge. You had to deal with the vagaries of the irrigation provided by the river, but by far the biggest threat was from the massive flocks of birds who arrived at harvest time. A big part of the loans the bank provided went for a line item called “Bird Scaring”. It was labor intensive: the farmers paid for women and children to stand in the rice paddies all day and wave rags at the sine waves of birds who assaulted the crops. Others were dispatched to try to find where the birds nested at night and burn them out. Many of the farmers were women, who had done quite well by it, and wore gold, filligree ear rings and watches by Longine. I really liked the Somalis. They were fearless, and the meekest of them would tell the President himself to go to hell if he insulted them.
Every once and a while I will take a break from humanity and go up to my place in the Berkshires, in upstate New York, about 30 miles south of Albany. I have a cottage that sits on ten acres my mother bought about 40 years ago, when she was working as a school teacher on Long Island. She loved the country, and there wasn’t much of that on the cement glazed sand spit, much less in Levittown, where my three brothers and I grew up. It’s my ‘If it all goes to hell” place. There’s a small fish pond, a big field where the original owner used to graze his dairy cows, and my current neighbor runs her goats and horses when I’m not around, which is all right with me, except when her horses chew the bark off my peach tree, which is not.
The deer show up most days, usually in early morning or late afternoon, taking possession of the field until the buck decides it’s time to move on. This Sunday, while I was out getting the Times, Lorraine stepped out onto the deck and surprised a huge wild turkey in full display. Penny and Bruno (the one charging the camera, pictured above) chased it away.
By far the most interesting visitor was the rodent I found sleeping on the little deck outside the sliding door to the family room. I thought it was a dead mouse, at first, but when Lorraine started to kick it off the deck into the grass, it sprouted a pair of wings and opened its mouth, hissing at us, and revealing a pair of tiny, needlelike canines.
A vampire bat in Chatham, New York?
Assisted by another kick from Lorraine, the Count flapped off and lighted in a large blue spruce tree at the eastern edge of the field.
At this time of year, standing beside the pine trees, you can hear a soft clicking sound which is the cones drying out and the kernals coming unstuck. Yesterday, in late afternoon, I sat on the deck watching a red-tailed hawk and a crow locked in aerial combat. A woodpecker came off a dead walnut tree and, lighting on the roof, began drilling into the metal chimney. They do the same thing to my metal chimney cover back in Bethesda, and I always wondered about that, until it suddenly hit me: It’s not about the bugs. It’s never been about the bugs. They can’t get a sound nearly that loud by drilling into plain wood. They’re sending a message to the females of the species: “I’ve got a big one!“
It was around midnight that my son, John, called from Colorado to tell me: “Dad, Obama got Osama.”