February 15, 2000

Turkey in a Pear Tree

My wife called me out of the shower to see the sight. “Jim, there are wild turkeys outside!” I wrapped myself in a towel and ran to the front window. Six wild turkeys were making their way across the street into our front yard. They pecked their way up around the driveway and discovered the bird seed dropped by our piggy birds from their perches in the trees. Our birds are so well fed that they do not have to be careful about dropping food, much to the delight of the squirrels and now the turkeys.

I dripped my way from room to room in my house as the turkeys moved through the yard to the woods out back - six turkeys, each in its own right a spectacle. But six together, well that is an even bigger spectacle – maybe qualifying as a superspectacle, if there is such a word. If superstar football players can make superspectacular plays, then my turkeys can be a superspectacle.

Later in the day my wife called out, “Jim, the turkeys are back. And there are more of them.” I hurried to count them and this time there were seven. I was not too excited. I had already seen six that day and so one more was not a big deal. If there had been ten, then there would have been something to crow, or gobble, about.

An hour later I spotted three swans swimming down in the creek at the end of the street. I had not seen any swans since the summer, and the group of these snow white long necked beauties against the ice floes on the banks of the creek was quite a sight. And then they were joined by two more swans from across the creek and the five glided together. This called for an even closer look.

But there were only five. I had just seen seven turkeys. The turkeys had raised the bar for my sense of appreciation of nature. Even eight swans would not have been enough. If it took me ten turkeys to get excited, then it would take at least eleven swans to reach that level of euphoria.

As you can tell, my sense of appreciation is warped. I require volume. A few summers ago my daughter’s friend Danny exclaimed, “There’s a deer in your yard!” “How many deer?” I asked. “One.” One is not enough. We have deer all the time. It takes a least four deer to get me out of my chair. I demand volume.

I am not the only one who likes volume. Mariah Carey’s boyfriend recently tried to send her ten dozen roses, but there were not enough in the whole city to make up the order. I am sure that the several dozen that were delivered greatly disappointed her. It all depends on what you are used to. My wife is always thrilled on the rare occasion that I spring for a dozen roses. I have set the bar pretty low on the category of roses.

But back to the turkeys. You thought I never left them? I think I know where this volume problem started. It began way back in the middle ages with the publication of the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas.” You know, that is the one that begins, “On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree.” You will recall that the lover raised the bar day by day, “five gold rings,” “sev’n swans a swimming”… “ten lords a leaping,” up to “twelve drummers drumming.”

Enough already! When is enough enough? Why do I always want more? Is our culture a culture of more? Am I programmed to be dissatisfied with anything less than more? Have you ever seen a partridge in a pear tree? Wouldn’t that be wonderful thing all on its own?

Those questions are too weighty for me. I plan to spend my winter nights deciding just where to plant the pear tree. Or maybe I could plant a whole row. Or even several rows!