Song sparrow is the first to greet me today in the deep woods by the Red River, sounding off with his whistling melodies, tweet-tweet, tweet. However, it is now the full song I was hearing a few weeks ago.
Now goldfinch sounds off with his sharp tsee-tsee-tsee to my left. And now a friend answers him off to my right.
I am wondering what is the meaning of the calling at this time in the summer. It would not seem to be mating, unless there is a second brood they are planning. And they are not singing for my entertainment. Is it to notify their own kind that they are in the area? Is it simply something they must do?
The sky has gradually turned gray with clouds it lingers that way for a while.
And now I hear some gentle rumbling. Gradually the clouds thicken overhead.
I can feel the odd drop or two through the old elm under which I sit. Only very gently the rain begins to come.
Lest you be worried for me, I am writing now from the vantage of shelter. At this leisure I watch the rain gradually, very gradually, rise to a crescendo.
At first it is simply pouring great buckets of water down upon this place. Then it is driven by almost violent gusts of wind.
The gusts come and go, like the intermittent coughing of the heavens upon this place. It is a gentle reminder of the potential violence possible from the sky.
I have come out of a perfectly still day. I recall that at the same moment that the first rain drops suggested themselves through the old elm, a gentle wind moved through that place from the south and swayed the green ash saplings and the man high big blue stem grass that is beautifully headed out wherever there is an open space in the woods. It was a gentle instruction to me to find shelter, which I did.
Then the wind died, and the rain proceeded out of a breathless sky for minutes on end, interrupted only by this great coughing of the heavens with violent gusts, like an actor who had forgotten his lines and bursts in upon the scene in the wrong place.
A white-breasted nuthatch lands on a big white oak tree to my left. He busies himself with something in the bark, sidling around toward the back of the tree in his crazy upside down nutty way until he is out of sight.
The rain has ended. It has been a glorious rain for this parched area of the earth. The land drinks it up gladly, happily.
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.