Turkey Talk, Cursive Clouds

Walking today around a familiar loop on the side of our mountain— about 10 kilometers with maybe 400 meters of altitude gain—I stepped off Summit Creek Road (there is neither summit nor a creek, just a developer’s scheme to sell lots) and slid down a steep deer track onto this quiet trail.

As you can see, the trail leads down into the ravine and then turns to the right, rising to the bottom of a long meadow that then ascends the ridge from right to left. The houses visible near the top right are on the other side of Loafer Canyon.

I’ve been walking this beautiful trail and meadow for five or six years and have never encountered another human being. Deer of course, elk, the occasional coyote, lots of birds, but never a person of my own species.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when I heard the voices of a couple of women from where the trail rises up toward the meadow. Too bad, I thought.

They were still talking when I reached the turn, but I couldn’t see them yet.

I walked up the trail, maybe 20 more feet, and suddenly they broke from cover: two adult turkeys. In pairs and triplets a dozen or so poults burst up out of the tall grass

and soared down the hillside into the maples and oaks while the adults galloped up the trail ahead of me.

So much for a couple of talking women!

Happy to be alone after all, reminded once again of how prone I am to misperception, wishing I had been able to understand what the turkeys were talking about, I started up the long meadow. Able to walk without having to pay much attention to my footing except where elk had carved a deep path during the wet spring, I looked up at the summer sky.

Lines from nature’s book, I thought. A textual message. This is a good challenge for a translator, I thought.

The page was turned (passive, because I wasn’t certain who turned it):

I studied the text, certain I could translate it if I paid close attention. I have, after all, translated German, French, and Latin texts into English.

A third page:

Then fourth and fifth pages:

That last one is easy, I thought. It means WHEEEEEE! And the previous one has a period at the end of the sentence. I’ll take these pictures home and run them through Google Translate.

At my computer, the translation program asked what language this was. I guessed something like Tamil:


The first two images translated, a little roughly, as “That halfwit thought the turkeys were speaking his own language. Why don’t we gather some friends and give him a drenching?”

Probably a mistranslation, I thought, these aren’t Tamil texts at all. Bet they are Arabic:


“Look at that clumsy idiot!” the translation began. “He just crushed a beautiful anthill. No!!! That was the last sego lily of the season!”

I shut down my computer. I don’t need clouds to tell me I’m a halfwit and a clumsy idiot. I know that already.

If I were a scientist, I thought, I could “read” those clouds, could study and explain their formation on this hot summer morning. I could say what they are rather than what they mean.

But I’m no scientist.

What I do know today is what they mean to me:


About Scott Abbott

I received my Ph.D. in German Literature from Princeton University in 1979. Then I taught at Vanderbilt University, BYU, and Utah Valley State College. At Utah Valley University, I directed the Program in Integrated Studies for its initial 13 years and was also Chair of the Department of Humanities and Philosophy for three years. My publications include a book on Freemasonry and the German Novel, two co-authored books with Zarko Radakovic (REPETITIONS and VAMPIRES & A REASONABLE DICTIONARY, published in Serbo-Croatian in Belgrade and in English with Punctum Books), a book with Sam Rushforth (WILD RIDES AND WILDFLOWERS, Torrey House Press), a "fraternal meditation" called IMMORTAL FOR QUITE SOME TIME (University of Utah Press), and translations of three books by Austrian author Peter Handke, of an exhibition catalogue called "The German Army and Genocide," and, with Dan Fairbanks, of Gregor Mendel's important paper on hybridity in peas. More famously, my children are in the process of creating good lives for themselves: as a model and dance/yoga studio manager, as a teacher of Chinese language, as an ecologist and science writer, as a jazz musician, as a parole officer, as a contractor, as a seasonal worker (Alaska and Park City, Utah), and as parents. I share my life with UVU historian Lyn Bennett, with whom I have written a cultural history of barbed wire -- THE PERFECT FENCE (Texas A&M University Press). Some publications at http://works.bepress.com/scott_abbott/
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3 Responses to Turkey Talk, Cursive Clouds

  1. Geri Lawhon says:

    Gorgeous sky pictures, thanks for sharing them. Seeing a family of turkeys must have been very special.


  2. Pingback: Repetitions | THE GOALIE'S ANXIETY

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