Columns » Bob Lancaster

Spring forward

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Spring is the time when ticks emerge to remind you that you don’t really want to share the outdoors with them. Out there is their trailer park. They’ll abide trespass by tarantula and fire ant, but not you. Try to screw them out of it the way you did the aborigines and they’ll make you sorry. They’ll get into delicate places that will freak your squeeze and disgust your circle. You had one where? I want some inerrantist to explain to me why there had to be ticks.

Spring shoots these stupid impulses through you, for instance that you shouldn’t “waste” such pretty days but rather ought to be out there fishing. Why would anybody in the 21st century fish, except maybe to win enough money in a tournament so as not to have to do it anymore? George W. Bush stalks them “big perch,” but … well, there you go. If you’re of a mind to eat one of the slimy rascals, remember that progress has been made and you can now leave the prep horror to the help and betake your appetite to one of these mudcat chunkaterias that keep the Vietnam economy afloat, or to one of the uppitier chains that call it “seafood.” Fishing to feed all those supper-table maws is now mostly considered unsporting as well as declasse, may even be against the law, so you have what they call “catch-and-release,” which supposes that a high degree of recreational satisfaction is achievable from maybe one time in a hundred outwitting a creature with a brain the size of an English pea or Dan Quayle’s, and that you might choose to do this even if something worth watching was on TV.

Spring makes me want to get out there and plant plants, but I have a knack, a gift, for choosing the suicidal ones. All my efforts to humor them, coddle them, encourage them, sons-a-bitches couldn’t care less. No interest whatever in how foolish it makes me feel paying good money for barnyard manure. They don’t want barnyard manure. They just want to die. Providing me with the smallest slenderest thread of hope that they will leaf and fructify isn’t their concern. Some people talk to puny-ass plants and the exhaled carbon dioxide is said to be an elixir to them, but these despondent plants I attract won’t be inspired to exert themselves. Maybe someday higher plant life will go through a period in which vegetative psychotherapy is all the rage, and that might briefly strengthen the resolve of these slackers’ descendants, put a little starch in them, so to speak, but I won’t live to see it.

Spring launches a new season of frog song, and in my time I have written some mighty lyrical tributes to the spring peeper serenades. But anymore they just get on my nerves. Counterpoint and syncopation in their concerts, primordial rhythms and themes — it’s all the same with the teen skanks and gangsta cockwobblers. Racket. And yes, I recognize this as a small instance in a general pulling back from the natural world, and no, it won’t be long until we’ve moved over completely into the cyber, where it’s a clean blue hum and there ain’t tick one.

Spring migration ’07 has been entertaining, martin-led as alway, but with the largest-ever passing-over concatenations of least bitterns, golden plovers and pied-billed grebes. More cyber play is a possibility in those observations, too, but geezering eyesight has nothing to do with it. I can still tell blackbirds and read a field guild without too hard of a squint. And never mind that remarkably swift-moving and strangely cawless crow murder the other afternoon that turned out to be, according to the other passenger in the minivan, just an elongate mess of that faux Arabic graffiti on the boxcar side panels of a passing train.

Spring is no longer associated with robins but I’m reminded anyhow of how my late father-in-law considered the robin a disreputable species because it hopped. He wanted a tandem stride in his bipeds for some reason that he was disinclined to share. Now many other birds hop, too, but his view was that the robin is somehow more brazen about it, or flamboyant, or unapologetic, or some damned thing. I wondered if there might not have been in this the suggestion or intimation of cross-species homophobic transference, as if the bob bob bobbing had come to be seen as the inappropriate bird-locomotion equivalent of a grown man of somber disposition on a pedestrian mission skipping. But I don’t know, and looks like I never will.

Spring brings the annual free-sample seed packet from the nursery that is surely ashamed that I used to be a customer, and this year it’s a new variety of lettuce. Like husbanding lettuce is going to happen when I could be using the time to deplore U.S. Iraq policy on the comments-from-outlander-rubes thread of the Huffington Post. Not hardly. Me doing any kind of leafy greens high in Vitamin A would approximate the ribald admixture of hoot and embarrassment when Sen. Clinton made her late sashay into the rastus dialect. I will do the hot radish, onions in the washtub, and one or two more of the seasonal rites, but ever aware that not far yonder yawns the abyss.

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