Joy of Life

There are few things in life as fine as sitting in a southern place, drinking something cold, and watching a spring breeze tousle the tree limbs in a location where no other sights are visible and no other sounds are audible. I am lucky enough to live in such a place so when the weather turns this way I can walk out the back door into paradise.

The third Saturday in March was such a magnificent afternoon. The Landlord and I sat at a weathered teak table with numerous dogs paying rapt attention in case a Cheezit might hit the deck. Beer from the man-fridge tasted like honeydew vine water.

Male Goldfinch Changing to Breeding PlumageFinches just starting to change color were littering the tree branches directly above us, eating beads that would soon become blooms if left alone. Other birds joined us in this tranquil setting, flitting around oblivious to the stalking cat and lazing dogs scattered around the yard like hot dog wrappers after a ball game.

As we identified the various birds, time retreated more than five decades, to a tiny home in Centreville, Alabama. I sat on the carport floor and perused the World Book Encyclopedia. This collection of information was the internet of my youth, minus porn and insane political arguments.

The section on birds offered vivid color photos of each species. I can still see those pictures when I observe the live examples. Robins, Goldfinches, Sparrows; all looking much the same as their glam shots half a century ago.

I didn’t fare as well with animals. The section on South America confused me. I knew I lived there but none of the animals pictured on those pages looked familiar. There were tapirs, anteaters, and sloths. I’d never seen any of those around the Cahaba River. After my dad explained my error, I quit having nightmares about stumbling into an anaconda while exploring the woods behind our home.

A squirrel dropped down to ground level to tease the dogs and momentarily disturb the tranquil setting. Even the cat looked away from her stalking exercise of whatever was hiding in the pile of fallen tree branches. After the barking died away and the dogs returned to their previous position, everything settled silently back into its proper place.

About midway through my second beverage I started to realize how lucky I am; how lucky all of us are who live where there are days like this. I’ve spent precious time arguing over expenses and fretting about how my children will mature. I’ve wished for more money to buy more stuff. I’ve dug my heels into positions that I felt my manhood hinged on. All of those times took a toll. Few were worth the stress. For as long as the human animal has existed, he has allowed greed and pride, hate and willful stupidity, civilization and superstition to negatively alter the enjoyment of just living in such a wonderful time and place.

The creatures around me that afternoon keep things simple. Eat when something’s available; either flee or fight but do it aggressively; mate with the pretty one or the smart one. Humans used to be like that. Then we developed a brain.

And evolved into intelligent beings.

Image: Male Goldfinch Changing to Breeding Plumage licensed by at
Mike Cox

Mike Cox

Mike Cox currently writes a weekly column in South Carolina for the Columbia Star called "It's Not a Criticism, It's an Observation." He is trying to grow old as gracefully as possible without condemning the current generation in charge to doom. Each day this task gets harder as the overwhelming evidence mounts. He currently has two published books; Finding Daddy Cox, and October Saturdays. His columns have won three South Carolina Press Association awards since 2003. Mike has three sons and two grandchildren and lives in Irmo, Sc, just outside of Columbia.