Happy Birthday Rossini and Frederick

sleep year day

sleep year day?

Gioachino Rossini would be celebrating his 57th birthday today if he hadn’t died 152 years ago; and if you’re a fan of Gilbert and Sullivan you know about Frederick. Born in Leap Year on the 29th of February and indentured till his 21stbirthday, he found himself bound to be a pirate’s apprentice to the age of 84.

My local news reveals that seven such Leap Day babies were born today in Flint; no word on how many in Ann Arbor, but presumably as many as are born on February 28th or March 1st. Somehow it doesn’t strike us that way. We know about the Flint babies because someone

deerswerve 2

deer too drunk to leap?

considered it a photo op and made cute little Leap Day infant onesies for them, but I’ve already seen online comments suspecting a conspiracy. They haven’t said what kind yet, but they will. This is our human heritage: assemble two or three random facts, and draw wild conclusions. It’s harmless enough where birthdays are concerned, but then we apply it to everything from the political opinions of our erstwhile friends, to the spread of coronavirus. Could we please stop that?

The operetta ended happily; some of Rossini’s operas ended in tragedy, but some were happy, too. Let’s hope things work out well for the new crop of Leap Day babies.

Valentine’s Day

valentine 1This year the entire outdoors is suitably lacy for Valentine’s Day. The snow is piled artistically on every tree branch, the cardinals flit about like red paper hearts, and I spent some time in the kitchen making fudge for Doug. The three classical radio stations I listen to (interspersed, not all at once) have been playing Puccini arias, Brahms intermezzi, slow valentine 3movements of Mozart, and other blissful romantica all day. The UPS man delivered a long, green florist box that opened to a dozen long-stemmed red roses.

I love all of it, but there’s something especially romantic to me about Valentine’s Day in the snow. Red roses are more special against the valentine 2white winter of Michigan. In California they had to compete with spring in full sway, cherry and plum blossom, azalea, geranium, tulips – a banquet in a yard that never went hungry. But here came my roses, my box of roses, delivered by a figure booted and hatted against a temperature barely out of single digits. We’re halfway through winter, sledding into spring. Let’s enjoy the ride.



There is something very soothing in the call of owls at dusk, the long, smooth vowels like the flight of the owls themselves.


Wiki Owl

It’s not so soothing to be awakened at 5 a.m. by these same calls right outside the bedroom window. I don’t get out of bed at 5 a.m. to look, so I can only identify them by their voices. There are two voices, having a conversation. Their calls overlap a bit, as conversations may. Not speaking owl, I don’t know if they’re saying “how was your hunt?” or “let’s go to bed now, sweetheart,” or “this is my tree, get out.” My neighbor tells me it’s owl mating season, so probably one of the last two.

Doug found a nest of birdcalls to listen to on the internet some hours later, and reported back. Definitely Great Horned Owls, he said. None of the other owl files sounded anything like our morning owl alarm.

I wondered why owls are considered wise. In ancient Greece they were the symbol of Athena, goddess of wisdom; but are they wise through association with her, or are they associated with her because they were already considered wise? The internet was less help with this than it was with birdcalls. It offered circular arguments, and a claim that owls are assumed to be wise because they look old. But really, with those big, round eyes they look very child-like. And feathers don’t wrinkle. You want to see an old-looking bird, try a buzzard. No one claims buzzards are wise.

z as owl

Cat as Owl

And now it strikes me, thinking of those big eyes, that owls are like cats. They can see at night; they will clear vermin from granaries without having to be trained or asked; and, apparently, they are noisy during mating season. Flying cats. Maybe not wise, but definitely cool.