Sunday evening as Jane and I were walking home from Circle Park after the fireworks display, we realized again how nice it is to live in Storm Lake. All three days of the weekend were incredibly nice, with temps in the seventies (in July!) and a nice breeze to keep the bugs away. There are a lot of places you can't safely walk at night, let alone relax while you're doing it, but in Storm Lake it was the perfect moment to reflect on just how nice a place we've moved to.
Jane had just returned from Sac City where she'd watched the Chuck Wagon Races, and I had spent the afternoon listening to the municipal band, and taking in the sights and smells of the picnic/party that seemed to envelope the whole north shore of the lake for three days.
For most of the year the north shore is perfect place for a quiet stroll. It's an almost unbroken stretch of grassy parks from King's Pointe to BVU, the high banks offering nice views of fishermen and skiers on the water, and the sound of the waves lapping against the shore. It seemed to me some of that quiet peacefulness lingered, even as crowds of young and old came to celebrate the nation's birth, and even more so, to celebrate its life.
During the parade the next day - the Fourth of July- Lake Avenue had people lined five and six deep as far as I could see. The crowd was a Norman Rockwell painting of what makes America great- every age, race, religion, creed and color blended into a colorful mosaic of humanity united to watch the parade, perhaps without realizing how much they themselves contributed to it. They were sitting one minute, standing the next, and proudly clapping as The Stars and Stripes passed.
And after the parade, the street was closed to traffic so people could stroll up and down the lines of smoking grills, funnel cake vendors, artists, and each other. There is no place I'd rather be.
Over the last couple of weeks I have not seen the black terns during my early morning row boat trips to the middle of the lake. I'm not sure if they migrated or if they're just hanging out at a different spot now, but the lake is emptier without them.
But a barn swallow slowly flew past my boat the other morning at arm's length, affording me a good, close look at it. The feathers on their backs are shiny indigo, almost iridescent, and the breast feathers are chestnut brown. Barn swallows are built for speed, with sleek, backswept wings and a forked tail. They are as maneuverable as they are fast, and spend most of their time hurdling through the air, making impossible turns, skimming the surface of the lake, then jetting skyward, snatching insects out of the air, or maybe just showing off.
But the barn swallow that flew past my boat was just lolling. It seemed to be weightless, slowly floating along on the breeze, rising and falling with each puff of wind, the sun glinting off it's back like a black opal.
When I was a kid we saw barn swallows regularly at my grandfather's dairy farm, but most of the farms are gone now, and barn swallows have gone with them. In Iowa they are so common as to be unremarkable, and I find that very comforting.
Aromas and recollections
Last weekend I took my M1A rifle to the range for the first time in quite a while. It was a warm, sunny day, and as I lay on the ground and snuggled my face against the stock to shoot from the 'prone' position, I got a good whiff of the oiled walnut. As I took in the smell, I was unexpectedly transported back in time to the fields and shooting matches of the mid 1980's when I was shooting competitively in the Navy, twenty-something years old, laying on the ground, smelling that walnut stock without realizing it.
The M1A is the civilian version of the M14 service rifle. I bought the rifle from a gunsmith who specialized in M1As, named Clinton McKee, when I was stationed in Patuxent River, Maryland. Most people opt for a shiny finish on their competition rifles, but I asked for the standard mil-spec dull finish because it was cheaper. I didn't know the smell would be so distinctive, or that I would forget it, or that it would come back to me thirty years later, laying in a field in Northwest Iowa and awaken those dormant memories. Thanks, Mr Mckee.