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The ides of summer



Fall, winter and spring, our household awakes to the familiar gurgling and puffing of the kitchen coffee maker. Summertime, however, brings Albert randomly slamming into our windows at sunrise.

Named after St. Louis slugger Albert Pujols, our Albert is a 6-year-old, deep red, male cardinal who sees his reflection 18 hours a day in our bedroom and living room windows. Actually the bumps and thuds start 15 minutes before Morning Edition; I don't even need the alarm. Albert flies and attacks half a dozen windows in the first hour. The phrase "like clockwork" comes to mind.

Protecting his turf from his reflected rival, Albert varies his assault, sometimes beak-first, sometimes a side shot with the wing. With yawns, we walk out on the front porch; Albert rests 20 feet away in a dogwood tree. YouTube has a dozen videos of similar bird behavior. I've wasted way too much time reading all the comments about other territorial birds, especially cardinals, spending their days diving headfirst into picture windows.

Lifeguarding is a noble summer profession. All day long in the hot sun, at the ready for that moment of panic in the pool ... or poop. Yup, not a typo folks. My daughter the lifeguard fills me in on the lingo, one-up or two-up, what goes on in the guard shack, the lifeguard Olympics and the dramas of the day, from frogs in the skimmers to back-talking guests. The other day, she hopped off her stand to pull someone out of the deep end—someone who had just forgotten that they didn't know how to swim. It was just another day at the pool.

Everything changed a week ago when someone saw something floating in the pool. The guards are still saving lives, but they're especially on the lookout for leaky diapers. Guard stations and rotations have changed, parents are being quizzed, and security is at its highest. Wouldn't want to be a toddler at the wrong time. When what-must-not-be-named does happen, the whole pool has to be evacuated, then cleaned.

We do a family beach trip each summer. Creatures of habit and routine, we always try to get the same house, though we've moved around a bit as folks have wanted/ needed different things in a beach house. Used to be all you needed was a nice deck, some rockers and a big refrigerator.

Now there's a significant clamor for a larger TV screen and Wi-Fi. My secret pleasure when booking these summer getaways is a nice simple outdoor shower, good water pressure, a few nails and shelves on the wall, that's all. This current place has a great shower under the house; somebody even left a bar of soap! The sun is setting. It's all so relaxing. One floor above, folks are making dinner and putting a puzzle together.

Sand and sunscreen are gently washing away, I look down at my feet and there's a snake uncurling on the 2x4 ledge where the soap used to be. Of course, I'm barefoot, soaking wet, without a weapon in sight. "Darn, what would Indiana Jones do?" I ask myself.

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