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On Tadpoles, Ducks, and Rainy Days

Tadpole

Get ready for rain drops on roses, puddles in driveways, and a small creek between our patio and the parking lot.

Get ready for rivulets on the windows, nonstop dancing on the roof, and mud tracked across the gray tile of our kitchen floor.

DunkingDrakeForget your rain gear and weather reports.
Slide into the water like a duck. Swim. Fly. Hop.
See the world like a tadpole: new, fresh and game.

Get ready.

The sky will be gray, relentless and constant.

Decide now to drown in its kisses.

Get ready.

The sun will be absent, tentative and weary.

Choose now to forgive its weakness.

Get ready.

The storms always come.

Resolve to meet them with love.

 

Today’s poem was inspired by “On Tadpoles and Joy,” a homily by Fr. Brian Zumbrum, OSFS. Oh, and the weather report.

 

Tadpole Photo credit: RayMorris1 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Duck Photo credit: ViaMoi / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Stormy Weather and Sunshine Kisses

I just kissed my husband goodbye as he headed out the door to work. It wasn’t quite a long enough kiss (are they ever?) but he left smiling and that makes my heart shine.

pine tree and sunshineHere at home, the wind is picking up and the sky is shifting colors. I’m enjoying the momentary juxtaposition of blue skies, sunshine and storm clouds. Though Virginia has been affected by the drought plaguing the rest of the country, there’s been just enough rain to make people forget to water their gardens. We haven’t had many good soakings, but we are getting showers or at least sprinkles a few times a week.

Roberto has found summer rainstorms to be a revelation, especially when it drizzles while the sun is still out. His exact word for that is “weird.” He grew up in Southern California and equates summer with sunshine. In his experience, rain only happens for about six weeks in the winter accompanied by media warnings at nearly the same level of hysteria one would expect for an alien invasion. Here in the gentle South, seasons are a bit more complicated, meteorologists try to be analytical and most people recognize that rain is a year-round precipitation option, with occasional snow, sleet or hail thrown in for flavor.

As a Midwestern transplant to Los Angeles, I always missed the ferocious summer thunderstorms that sprinkled my childhood with just enough excitement. I remember hiding under the dining table with my siblings, delighted that the sky was turning green. After two decades of relentlessly sunny California, it’s been a thrill for me to move to the land of hurricanes, floods and derechos.

Let me clarify.

I’m not fond of power outages, destruction of property, or the casualties of nature that inevitably follow a blowout meteorological concert. I don’t want people to suffer just so I can enjoy an awesome show of power with wind and lightning effects as yet merely mimicked by Hollywood. But severe weather warnings seem to be a fact of life here and so I try to make the best of it. I’m not going to be a storm chaser, but if I’m sitting on my patio and one rolls by, I’ll take pictures.

The little valley where I live seems to have its own microclimate; a brief rainstorm here can be a serious downpour up the hill. This means that I’m often watching weather reports for my general area that have no reflection on what’s happening outside my window. Since the biggest storms often skip my neighborhood, sometimes I feel like I’m missing out on all the fun.

In the brief time I’ve been writing this post, the sky has gone from blue and sunny to overcast and cloudy. Right now it smells like rain but the birds are still singing and sailing into the bushes and trees. I don’t know their trills well enough to tell whether they are warning each other to take cover or discussing last night’s baseball game. Several sparrows take shelter under the cream-colored Cadillac a few spaces away. The clouds are swiftly drifting by, low to the ground, a dull white followed by dark gray splotches. All is  quiet. The wind dances through the trees, dies down and returns again. The rain arrives.

Virginia Exports Bulls. To Russia. Really.

Holstein dairy cows from http://www.ars.usda.g...
Image via Wikipedia

Yep. Virginia cow farmers are making a concerted effort to send some of their finest bulls to Russia. Apparently decades of communism and turmoil have depleted the breeding stock. And Russian cow farmers prefer actual animals to the shipments of semen or embryos that seem to suffice elsewhere… because there aren’t a lot of artificial insemination livestock experts hanging around? Either that, or they just love these beautiful Holsteins so much they have to have them the way a car lover just has to have a Ferrari.

I suspect it’s a case of total Holstein love more than the article’s claim that Russians are ‘lacking expertise in assisted bovine reproductive technology.’ Couldn’t they acquire that expertise faster than the ten years it took to negotiate this deal? Right now, the Russians are the only country with regular space flights. Ok, occasionally a satellite launch goes awry and skywatchers pontificate about space debris while comedians crack jokes about Russian probes, but the farmers of Russia could surely inseminate a cow if they wanted to.

Russia may be poor, corrupt and completely hostage to unfortunate social patterns, but it is actually a decently educated country. Adult literacy is nearly 100%. Check out these UNESCO statistics. When compared to the United States, there’s a spending and quality issue at the university level but you can’t say Russians aren’t smart enough to inseminate cows, complicated though it may be.

They just want our Holsteins.

And they want them bad, bad enough to negotiate for ten years just to acquire sixty bulls.

Why?

For one thing, they are beautiful animals.

And for another, they are profitable and productive for farmers. Holstein Association USA includes the phrase ‘for maximum profit’ in its logo. The government reports that Holsteins are “well known around the world for her ability to produce large volumes of milk, butterfat and protein. She is a very profitable cow for farmers when large amounts of feed with high levels of grain are available.” Apparently Holsteins can produce nearly three times as much milk a year compared to Russian cows, which were bred for both meat and dairy production and not great at either.

Don’t worry. American ranchers are exporting Angus and Hereford bulls  at an even faster pace so Russia will soon have plenty of steak. And milk. NSRW Dairy Industry 1 Russians are so desperate to improve their herds they will do anything to improve productivity from their animals, including giving them televisions and bras because a mere pasture isn’t enough.

But back to Virginian dairy farmers. They’re cleverly taking advantage of the low dollar and the high demand for their product and it’s a great business concept, for now. In a few years, the Russian dairy herd will recover. What’s the next step for Virginia dairies? Perhaps the Virginia Dairy Princess knows…

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