A warm snap. I know. Whoever heard of a warm snap?

Most places have warm days and occasional cold snaps. Up this way along the Red River we have cold days and occasional warm snaps, at least this spring.

Today is one of them. In fact it is enough so, that if you’ll pardon me for just a moment I’m going to take off  my warm jacket.

When I first arrived I felt real smart approaching the river bank very silently as I’ve learned to do, to see if I might come upon some animal activity without their noticing me. When I peered over the bank and down to the water’s edge four feet below, all was quiet.

However, I wasn’t quite smart enough. A moment later a mallard drake scooted out from a matt of old reeds, took to the water and began slowly swimming away, scolding me as he  went.

However again, I still wasn’t smart enough. If I’d thought about it, in this time of the year, where there’s a drake, there’s a hen. Also, he wasn’t swimming away very rapidly, and he likely wasn’t even scolding me, but rather alerting her. All I had to do was pull back slowly, crouch down, and see if I could spot the hen. She even gave me a minute or two to do that. Finally her patience ended, and she shot out onto the water and swam after the drake.

It did occur to me that there might be a nest down below, so I crept along quietly, gazing over the bank. I saw nothing.

It did occur to me that waterfowl hens are pretty feisty about leaving their nest if they have eggs in it. But my experience in such matters has been only with geese, and geese, I’ve noticed, intimidate humans readily. Mallards may be different.

So perhaps I have lost my chance to have a mallard nest right below where I sit in my woolly chair. Or perhaps after a week of quiet, they might return.

The cold has kept the leaves from developing hardly at all on nearby trees. However, the seeds of the old elm under which I sit have popped out on the twigs completely.

I hope the old elm will forgive me, for I plucked one bundle of seeds that had popped out of a nodule on a low hanging branch. As a human you know there are many such bundles of seeds on the big tree; yet, as you pluck the bundle you feel you are disturbing the mystical act of creation. How did such feeling come alive inside of us? It’s a subject for another time.

I count 22 elm seeds in this bundle. I count 10 bundles on this twig. I count 16 twigs on this branch. I see too many branches on this limb for me to count them, and too many limbs on this great old elm for me to think about them. I am overwhelmed by seeds of life, as I sit in my woolly chair under this great old elm.

James Alger, who lives in Fargo, N.D., has been a summer resident of the Leech Lake area with his family for over 45 years. Over that time he has grown to love and appreciate the people and the woodlands of this area.


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