Another Day in the County
With answers, short isn’t always sweet
© Another Day in the Country
In our life in the country, we are so lucky to have our cousin Gary’s grandson, who will be turning 4 this summer, living nearby. He’s quite the little philosopher and keeps us on our toes with his observations.
The other evening after supper, I was clearing the table and said something about the leftovers on his plate and how we should take it out to the hens in the back yard.
“The chickens are gonna fight over that corn,” I said, laughing.
Well, he fixated on the word “fight.”
“I wanna see them do that,” he said.
That? What was “that”? I’d forgotten what I’d said. Finally we figured out what he was talking about, and I tried to explain what a figure of speech was. Just try explaining that to a preschooler.
“They sorta argue more than they fight,” I told him.
But he was sure that this was going to be an exciting encounter, so, Jess volunteered to take him out to give the scraps to the chickens. Unfortunately, the chicken squabble over corn was short and sweet, and didn’t hold his attention for long.
Jess pointed out a meadowlark up on the wire above the chicken house.
This little bird has been our summer companion, singing his heart out day after day, claiming this area as his territory. Jess lay back in the grass, listening to birds sing and enjoying Clayton’s company.
Clayton lay down, too, and looked up.
“Blue is really a beautiful color isn’t it, Jess?” he commented in the silence as they watched the clouds drift past.
Out of the corner of his eye, Clayton noticed our old cat, Marshmallow, making his rounds along the edge of the yard, laying down scent.
“Why is he doing that?” the little boy wanted to know.
“Well, you know how when you were little you used to like to smell things?” Jess began.
Clayton nodded. He still is very aware of the smell of things.
“Well Marshmallow is laying down scent to let the other cats in the area know that this is his property,” Jess went on. “Cats learn things about each other just by smelling. They can tell if a boy or a girl cat has visited. They can tell if the cat is healthy or not. They sniff and learn if the cat is young or old, just by smelling,”
Clayton was patting her on the arm to get her attention. She stopped talking and looked over at him.
“You know Jess, I really don’t like long answers,” the little boy said softly.
Later that night, after they’d all gone home, Jess told me about their discussion out by the chickens.
She chuckled and said, “So much for the ritual of passing down vital information from one generation to another. You’ve gotta keep it short or you lose them.”
I realized I’m sorta like Clayton. Long answers give good information, but it takes a lot of patience to keep listening.
After the presidential election, I decided I had become too accustomed to short answers — headlines in newspapers, the breaking news on television, the encapsulated version of what’s happening in my favorite magazines.
So, I subscribed to a couple of serious news outlets that told carefully researched and documented news stories.
“I’m a responsible, caring citizen and I want to hear truth and not razamataz,” I said to myself, “so read good material, thoroughly and thoughtfully.”
This has been difficult. Instead of a column of information, I find myself reading page after page after page! We’ve become lazy.
“How long is that article?” my sister wants to know as I read out loud to her as we’re driving somewhere.
“I must admit it feels like more information than we really want to know; but we should know these things, so I’m persevering,” I said, reading on.
Assimilating the real news is a little like eating brown rice when I’m used to basamati rice — white and fluffy, so light you barely have to chew.
And here I am chewing away on the healthier version of the latest events, on another day in the country.