Lightning and Life

A few years ago lightning struck our house. It seems most of the energy was safely dissipated via a ground wire, as intended. Yet some took a variant path, following along the eave trough and blowing the downspout away from the house, before jumping to an unused underground cable and heading towards our prized maple tree. The telltale sign of the end of its path was mound of dirt over where the wire once was. The height and width of this trail diminished as it approached the tree, disappearing a few feet from the trunk.

I expected the leaves to turn brown in a couple of days. I braced myself to watch my tree die. To my relief, this didn’t happen. The tree lived the rest of that year and all through the next. A year and a half later, just as the leaves began to unfold in the spring, they stopped growing and turned brown. Within a couple days, my maple tree was dead. The likely explanation was the lightning damaged the root system enough to where the tree couldn’t recover.

Above the ground, the tree looked healthy and alive. Yet, hidden from view was a tree fighting for survival. Though it hung on for eighteen months, it couldn’t recover.

Such it is with life. Every action has ramifications. Yet if the effects are delayed, we can easily assume everything is fine. With an unwise action, the lack of an immediate consequence can lull us into assuming everything is all right and embolden us to repeat our reckless behavior. On the outside, everything may look fine. But what no one can see – what we may not even realize – is that on the inside we are wounded and moving towards death, be it literal or figurative.

We need to do what is good, even when we see no benefits from our wise actions or no consequences because of our unwise acts: we never know what may await.

Peter DeHaan is magazine publisher by day and a writer by night. Visit peterdehaan.com to receive his newsletter, read his blog, or connect via social media.

Top 10 Posts on From The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012

Here are the ten most popular posts on The Musings of Peter DeHaan for 2012. Some are quite recent while others are still being read now even though they were posted years ago. Thank you for reading my posts:

  1. Responding to Email
  2. Woodpecker Wars
  3. A Micro-Garden
  4. Healthcare Costs
  5. 3 Responses to the US Election
  6. Smile…You’re Being Scanned
  7. What If There Was No Mail?
  8. When Innovation Falls Short
  9. Google’s Chrome is Yet to Shine
  10. Do You Lie to Your Doctor?

Which one is your favorite?

Where Do Frogs Coma From?

Last night while mowing my lawn, I saw three frogs in my yard. In 24 years of living here and mowing the grass, this was a first.

Where did the frogs come from? I know the biological answer and the evolutionary answer and the creation answer, but those are the wrong answers to my question. I want to know why this trio of amphibians suddenly showed up in my yard.

  • There is no water on my property or near by,
  • We are not in a low spot,
  • My lawn is not even damp, and
  • Given the drought earlier this summer, the water table is surely lower than normal.

Where did my frogs come from?

I asked the ever-resourceful Google and was treated with 29,300 exact matches to my query, but the top four sites didn’t provide the answer I was seeking. With 29,296 still to check, I’ve already given up.

I turn the question over to you: Where did the frogs in my yard come from?

Squirrely Behavior

The squirrel population around our home seems to be on the increase. One of their favorite pastimes is gathering nuts from my neighbor’s trees and relocating them to my yard. For years this has been happening with acorns, resulting in me pulling up tiny oak trees each spring.

Now they’ve added hickory nuts to their menu, as my bare feet frequently encounter empty half shells in my lawn. Though they try to bury their treasures, my sod is too thick for them to have much success.

These squirrels are increasingly comfortable around humans, too, no longer scurrying away as I approach. Last week, while moving a sprinkler, I saw one squirrel furiously pawing at my grass attempting to dig a hole at the base of a Maple tree — and having some success in doing so.

I approached him to scare him off. He was not deterred.

Forty feet away and he stopped digging to give me a long look, not fearful, but amused.

Thirty feet away and he paused to give a long and vigorous scratch to the back of his head; I think he was grinning at me.

Twenty feet away and he rolled over on this back, but not in a posture of submission as some animals do. He shimmied from side to side, rubbing his back on the hole he was boring, feet flailing in the air with unabashed jubilation. I’m sure he was laughing at me, daring me to come closer.

Ten feet away and he scampered around the tree trunk, poking his head out to watch my approach.

I circled the tree and he did the same, climbing up several feet so we could look each other in the eye. I think he was enjoying this.

We played hide and seek for awhile and then I couldn’t find him. Eventually looking up, I spied him perched on a branch, looking down on me from a safe distance.

I instructed him sternly to stop digging holes in my lawn. I think we have an understanding.

Could Spring be Right Around the Corner?

Technically, the first day of spring will not be for a couple more weeks (this year on March 20 — unless you live south of the Equator, then you have a much longer wait).

However, the seasons seldom line up with the calendar.

For me, the best sign of spring is when I see a robin for the first time. That happened today.

Another typical sign of spring’s arrival is bulbs whose new growth begins to emerge from the ground. Unfortunately, for me, that indicator is flawed this year, as my tulips got confused with a warm fall and actually began showing their greenery last October.

Bravely these early arrivals, with their one-inch stalks, stood guard all winter long, despite repeatedly being covered with snow. Though they are no longer a vibrant green, they did nonetheless maintain their general color all winter long.

And now, with warmer temps, they seem to be growing again. It will be interesting to see if they have enough energy left to produce flowers later on, but nevertheless they do assure me that spring is on its way.

Gas Consumption

Each winter, I have an informal means of judging the severity of the season, of ascertaining annual snowfall.

It is quite simple, really.  The more it snows, the more I run my snow blower.  The more I run my snow blower, the more gas I use.  Ergo, there is causality between my gas consumption and the amount of snow.  (Last winter, by the way, there was a moderate amount of snow.)

It never occurred to me that the same connection might exist between the quantity of gas consumed by my lawnmowers and the amount of rain received, but that seems to be the case as well.

In the month of May, we received a lot of rain and I used a lot of gas.  I recently quipped to a friend that it seemed that it was either raining or I was mowing lawn.

Indeed, the need to mow my lawn every three or four days has burned through a lot of gas so far this summer.  My gas consumption is at a faster pace this year then in previous seasons, so that must mean that we are receiving more rain than usual.

With the price of gas over four dollars a gallon, I wish it would rain a little less often.

Leaves Be Gone

A few weeks ago, while admiring the red leaves on my burning bush and the yellow leaves on my Maple trees, I noted that dealing with the falling leaves would soon occur.

Fortunately, this is a task that I hire out — it is the only yard work I don’t do myself.

Ten healthy, growing Maple trees simply produce too many leaves for me to deal with.  So, I called my favorite leaf service and in a couple hours, a team of three had the leaves corralled into the pile pictured below.

A Huge Pile of Fall Leaves

Although it looks like they might be ready for curbside leaf pickup, we don’t enjoy such a service where we live.  In fact, we don’t even have a curb.  Part of the service includes pickup by a separate company.

As of today, the pile is gone — and with it, my leaf responsibilities for another year.

Squirrely Behavior

This year, I’ve noticed a lot of squirrels in my yard — or at least one squirrel many times over.  This is a bit strange, as squirrels like oak trees, walnut trees, hickory trees — seemingly any tree with nuts — and I don’t have nutty trees in my yard.  I do have Maples and I’ve never seen a squirrel build a nest in a Maple tree.

So, these squirrels (or one squirrel who is a repeat visitor) are frolicking around my yard.  They prance about the lawn, going to a tree, climbing up as if to check it out, then climbing back down, only to cavort over to another tree and repeat the entire process.  In like manner, I’ve witnessed them systematically checking out each of the six Maple trees in my back yard — and then sashaying over to my neighbor’s Maple tree.  (They sniff at the base of the pine trees, but never venture any further.)

To add to my amusement, they have been collecting hickory nuts from my neighbor across the street — for relocation in my yard.  Once they find a suitable spot (I have no idea of their criteria), they begin a futile effort to dig a hole.  But the sod is thick enough, that they don’t get very far before giving up.  So the tip of the nut is pushed into the ground — then they cover it with grass!

Then a couple of days ago, these two antics were combined.  The squirrel climbed the tree, with nut in mouth.  He re-emerged a few minutes later, without his nut.  I don’t know what happened, if he dropped it — or tried to bury it in the tree!

What a squirrel!

Yellow is Nice, Too

Yellow Maple Leaves in the FallAfter dissing my Maple trees on Monday for turning yellow instead of the anticipated shades of orange or red, I realized that yellow is also pretty, even if not what I expected or was used to.  So, I snapped a picture yesterday of one with all its glorious yellow hues.  It’s a good thing I did, as even today, the trees are a little less grand, with a bit fewer leaves, and a greater hint of yellow turning brown.

I also mowed my lawn yesterday for (hopefully) the last time of the season.  The grass actually wasn’t grown much in the past several days and it should have been cut last week, but yesterday was the first time that the lawn actually dried off enough to mow.

Aside from leaf removal, I think my yard duties are winding down for the year, with only end-of-the-season mower maintenance needing my attention.

By the way, there is a chance of snow predicted for the weekend!

 

Ruby Red, Not Fire-Engine Red

Fall is a colorful time in Michigan.  Even so, the colors in our area of the state do not seem to be as vibrant this fall as most.  In my yard, for example, is a “burning bush,” which typically turns a deep fire-engine red in the fall.  This year the shade is muted, more akin to ruby red.  Nonetheless, it is still quite stunning.Burning Bush in Fall

Leaves on the Maple trees in my yard, tend to turn orange in the fall, with some yellow and a few red.  This year, they are decidedly skewed towards the yellow spectrum, with no orange to speak of and nary a hint of red — and not worthy of a picture.  I don’t have anything against yellow, but it is the orange and red hues that give me pause and strike me with awe amazement.

Most of the leaves are still on the Maple trees, but they will be falling soon enough — and about that time, they will all turn brown, regardless of how they look now.

Brown leaves are my least favorite color — they’re not pretty to look at and they mean work!