A Patch of Bare Grass

My desk, where I am sitting right now, faces a window that looks out to our back yard. I got home from work a few minutes ago and I came here to set up my laptop. As I opened the window blinds, I was amazed to see part of our patio bare of snow, and, what’s more, even a small patch of yellow muddy grass!

This may not seem incredible to most people on the Wasatch Front, who have had bare ground for a while now, but to me, here in the canyon, it is astounding. Our yard has been buried in feet of snow since December. We used snowshoes a month ago to go out there to check our propane tank and get something out of the shed.  Just last week we received three days of snow dumping, bad enough that one evening last week our neighbor, who conveniently for us owns a backhoe, used it to help clear out our street and even one of our driveways.

So I was somewhat heartened by this little observation of melting snow, and was sitting here by myself thinking that it was remarkable enough that I ought to compose a little sentence or two about it for twitter and/or facebook, when I saw movement out on the snow. My first thought was one of dread: it must be a rat. The shape I saw was about the right size for a rat, and we saw one living on and swimming in the river by our house last fall. I peered into the waning evening light and soon caught sight of the movement again. Standing right in the middle of the newly revealed patch of grass was a fat red-breasted robin, and it was yanking a worm out of the ground. In the few minutes since then, I have seen this robin flying around our backyard with yet another robin. I couldn’t see very well in the evening light, but I think my first robin was fighting the other robin for this precious territory. Now the robin is sitting in our pine tree, making quite a pleasant chattering and squawking racket.

I’m going to try to resist giving voice to the sentiment that no doubt we are all thinking right now.

They are flying around again. I can now see that one of the robins is smaller and not so colorful. There is also a definite call and response going on with their chirping, too. I’m thinking now that what I’m privy to is probably less a fight than it is a tumultuous courtship.

I’m not going to say any more until all the snow is gone and there are buds on the trees.

Lines Composed While Cooking, Eating, and Digesting Ball Park Franks

There’s a special feeling that often comes to me after eating hot dogs for a meal.

I guess I have to admit that hot dogs are a personal favorite food.  I now recognize this because, when I’m left to my own devices at the grocery store and/or subsequently at home, as I am tonight, I have a great tendency to buy them, cook them, and eat them.

Hot dogs really have a lot going for them.  They have a great flavor. They are inexpensive and extremely easy to prepare.  They give one the satisfying impression that one is eating something meaty and substantial.

But that’s not all; in addition to aroma, they exude nostalgia.  The frankfurter has a storied history that is deeply entwined with many pleasant elements of American culture: baseball, barbecues, camping, street vendors, amusement parks, drive-ins, kids meals, and our desire to give things new names when we decide we don’t like the country they came from.

And yet, examined without all these culinary and cultural trappings, the hot dog is quickly revealed as one of the most bizarre food items imaginable.  Processed from the vaguest of origins and with a truly nonsensical name, the hot dog is far more abstract a food than any other sausage I can think of, except perhaps bologna.  They contain high amounts of sodium, fat, and preservatives called nitrites, which I know nothing about but are supposed to be unhealthy when ingested in high concentrations.  These strangenesses and apparent flaws, one can easily argue, originate only in the admirable desire to make good use of all resources and plan for the future.

However, in a culture where fat and salt are readily available and we can preserve food through refrigeration, the hot dog has a new reason for its particular form and function.  A food often marketed and fed to children in a culture in which many are completely detached and ignorant of the sources and production of the food we eat, the hot dog is one of our most successful attempts at nullifying and mollifying ourselves out of recognizing the animal-ness and living-ness of our food sources, perhaps more so even than the hamburger or the chicken “nugget”  or “strip.”  Now more than ever, the hot dog is an iconic American food item.  Let’s please not start discussing the corn dog, though, or we’ll be here all night.

There it is, that special feeling just hit.  There are several more hot dogs left in package in the fridge;  I am sure that I will be eating them sometime soon, in the days ahead.  I don’t like to to let food go to waste.  But still, my stomach roils and rises up in a cry of betrayal, just now realizing that it has been tricked yet again.

[Ball Park Franks]