It was a day when I decided to put myself on the Platte River, since did I want to be in Tunisia, where nineteen people wanting to get into a museum were slain? At least, it was nineteen people ten minutes ago, but when I decided to spend the morning on the North Platte, it was only nine. So who knows how many it will be by the end of the day?
“You have to choose your reality,” I told Montalvo, my 22-year old son, since that’s something he should probably know, and something he wasn’t at the moment practicing: He was upset about a painting he had done that had once graced the Poet’s Passage, and has since been banished to the storeroom.
“It’s totally ruined my day,” he told me, and I tell him, “careful, don’t give anything or anybody the power to ruin your day…”
This I know, but do I practice it? Of course not, since I was currently myself moping, even after having taken my morning walk, the midpoint of which was this:
Right—now we know we’re not in Kansas, anymore. And that made me remember the Platte River, so I told Montalvo, “hey, wanna go to Nebraska?”
“Where’s that, in Alaska?”
That’s the melancholy thing about Montalvo: He’s a sharp kid, but the base is lacking. So I show him the clip below about the Sandhill Cranes in Nebraska, and that leads to the second clip, about the International Crane Foundation, since it’s quite astounding: The population of whooping cranes was down to 22 in the 50s, and now it’s up to around 400 or so. So it’s great news, right?
Well, wait—all it would take would be one major hurricane to hit the Texas coast, and the experts think that two thirds of the population would be gone. Nor is that the only threat.
Because it’s nice to see the second clip, and watch the crazy ornithologists imprinting the chicks with crane puppets, all so that, after six months or so, a pilot can board the light aircraft plane made to resemble a Frankenstein-Whooping Crane. The plane leaves every morning from one of over thirty stops along the way from Wisconsin to Texas, and the birds, each morning are checking out the territory, memorizing the place so that they can return the next fall. Unbelievably, they do it.
“I love fuckin’ birds, man,” said Montalvo, and that’s true, since who else would bother to take Neruda—a completely annoying Green Dominican parrot—out of his cage, and do this?
That’s one of the things I love about him.
So I go on to tell him, as important as it is to imprint birds and teach them to migrate, it’s just as important to have a place for the birds to migrate to, and that’s a problem, since populations are expanding and everybody wants to have a green lawn or a swimming pool or just to drink water, which is, you have to admit, quite justifiable. So the wetlands are being progressively destroyed, or if they’re not, then the are getting less fresh water, and becoming more saline. And that’s tough luck for the cranes.
“It’s always mankind,” snorted Montalvo, since he values animals several levels higher than man. But then I point out: If we have these birds today, it’s only because two guys, in 1971, decided to start the International Crane Foundation, in Baraboo, Wisconsin. That’s where the whoopers, having been hatched in Patuxent Research Refuge, are raised and imprinted.
“Hey, you ever been there?”
I told him yes, and that it was an almost heart-stopping experience, to see all of the world’s cranes in one place; in fact, it’s the only place in the world where you can see all of the world’s cranes in one place.
He’s young, he’s hurting, and all because he is crosswise of Lady, the owner of the café and the banisher of the painting, and so we go on to have the talk that we haven’t had.
“There’s an apology that I make about four times a year, and it runs like this:
I don’t what I did to contribute to this situation, but I’m really sorry for what I did, and please forgive me.
He hates this, of course, since why does Lady always have to win?
“If you spoke to Lady, she would tell you that everyone else always wins: She never does.”
So then I go on to tell him about my mother, and how at five or six days before she died, she called her sister, and apologized.
“What did the sister do?”
Which story to tell? My mother’s version, of her hearing her mother call her up, announce that the sister had thrown her mother out of the house, and she was ill and had no place to go, and could she come to Wisconsin to die? Or my aunt’s version, which had been that she had put up with Mother for years, and that wasn’t easy, since Mother had insisted on giving valuable advice on childrearing to my aunt, and is that ever welcome?
Another thing I like about my son: He tells me, “why did your grandmother even ask? Christ, why didn’t she just call your mother and tell her, I’m on a plane? Meet me at the airport!”
OK—back up, get back on the right road….
“Have you ever been in the middle of two friends having a fight? And you get both sides of the story? How many times has one person been completely right, and the other person completely wrong.”
I’m figuring it out, now. Because silence means, well, this:
We talk, and get to the question: How important is being right? Because what if you, Montalvo, are completely right, and you shut Lady out of your life, and the years go by and the ice gets thicker and colder, and the snows pile up, and the glacier moves inexorably away? How important would it be, to be right?
“She saved my life, you know,” he told me, “if it hadn’t been for her, I’d be in jail or shooting up drugs, or some crazy ass thing.”
“The Poet’s Passage means a lot to a lot of people,” I told him. “And does she know that she saved your life?”
“I told her,” he exploded.
I debated: Should I tell him that some things need to be said again?
I was silent.
Ah, but was I right?