Thursday, November 29, 2007

LIFE ON THE PORCH (summer '05)

OK, I've decided that the peace and quiet of a country dawn is a total myth. Peaceful, yes. Quiet? No! If I knew how to identify different bird calls, I could probably list about twenty that I'm hearing right now. First of all, there's the rooster. I thought they only crowed at dawn, but this guy's liable to go off any time of the day. Then there is something honking - I think one of the neighbors must have geese. There are definitely some doves cooing in the mix, and Paula said she heard whip-or-wills. I hear some kind of chattering noise - could be a bird, or maybe cicadas? There are so many others I don't recognize, it's a veritable symphony! Of course, on top of the birds tweeting, there are dogs barking, donkeys braying, horses neighing and an occasional car going by on the highway. The one thing that's missing though, I'm so sad to say, is the sound of our creek. Apparently in the summer, when it hasn't rained much, the water level goes down and it no longer falls over the spillways. I'm so disappointed!

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Being here in summer is way different from being here in winter and spring! Number one is the fact that it's hot. Damn hot. Africa hot... Number two is the creek. Apparently June was, like, the driest month in the recorded history of Texas, so the creek has practically no water in it now. So much for that great swimming hole we thought we had discovered. When we first bought the house, we went exploring along the creek. Most of our frontage is a sheer drop straight off the side of the road, but we did find one spot where an almost hidden pathway led somewhat precariously down to the water. There we discovered, much to our delight, a natural stone chute where water gushed down into a nice deep pool - the perfect place from which to launch oneself in a "toob". Along the side of the pool was a broad stone ledge - an ideal place to spread a picnic. Though it was January when we made our discovery, we couldn't resist plopping ourselves down and peeling off our socks, in order to dangle our feet in the frigid water as we imagined all the fun we would have here come summer. Of course, actually having some water in the creek was somewhat critical to this fantasy.

I know John is chomping at the bit for me to get started on landscaping this place, but I'm just not masochistic enough to be out there digging holes in solid rock at this time of year. Besides, I think the wise thing to do is to sit back and study what is already here and watch how it changes through the seasons, before you jump in and start tearing things up. Also, anything I plant right now will probably get torn up if we do the remodeling John has in mind for later, so what's the point? Another downside to summer is that the breezes out on the porch are a lot more scarce, and I find myself wishing that the original owners had installed some ceiling fans out here.

On the plus side are the hummingbirds. They are fabulous, and so much fun to watch. It's almost mesmerizing. Now that John has put up some feeders, there are more than ever. I never knew they talked (or should I say squeaked?) before. Did I mention that they are kind of mean though, and not at all nice about sharing? Another plus is the fresh peaches. Peach ice cream, peach cobbler, peach crisp, peach pie, peaches and cream, peaches with yogurt and granola... I haven't been on my morning walk yet, but I'm sure I will discover some exciting new things when I do. I can't wait to check on the wild grapes I saw down by the creek last time, to see how they are faring. People who say Texas has no seasons must only have been in the cities, and not in the Hill Country. Truth be told, there are more than four. Every time I come here something new is going on, and I can't wait to experience and record it all!

Sunrises are very strange, and not at all what I expected. When I first wake up, it's still completely dark outside, and sort of chilly. While I'm in the kitchen, fixing my tea, I start to notice some streaks of grey in the blackness, then a slash of pink here and there. Before long, it's light enough to make out the trees and the deer, and to see the pages of my notebook, but the sun itself doesn't peek out from behind the hills for another thirty minutes or so. Then suddenly it launches itself up into the sky as if it were being ejected from a toaster - from barely peeking to completely up in sixty seconds flat! At that point you would have to don your dark glasses if you wanted to remain on the porch, and the heat usually drives me inside. It is now mid-August, and for the first time in months, it's fairly pleasant out here - lots of cloud cover and a good little breeze. It almost fools you into thinking that fall isn't that far away. Unfortunately, I've lived in Texas way too long to believe it. The summers here are truly awful, but winter more than makes up for it. I'm praying that autumn makes its appearance here in the Hill Country a bit earlier than it does in Houston (November or December!). I guess I should adopt the European attitude of Salty and Sweet, and try to remember that I would never get such exquisite pleasure from the arrival of fall, if it didn't follow our tortuous summers!

To be continued.....