Friday, January 29, 2010

The Difference

It is not glands
or tenor of voice
or fire in the eye
as she first thought.

In middle years
she learned
it was not what was funny
or what was important
or who did the most
or who was right
or who won.

She now knows
it is the disquiet
at the end of the day
while she welcomes the sunset,
enjoys the meal and then
so easily slips beneath
the quilt.

It is the need to walk
the yard in winter
planning the land
and hauling the wood
while she reads poetry
quietly in the corner chair
in the sun
anticipating spring.

It is waiting for the
phone to ring
or waiting for the
new news
or opening the mail,

While she sips tea
or red wine
and watches the same
mystery on TV once again
or enhances the photo
of her grandchild.

It is trying to change the ending
versus acceptance of the certain.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Are You Bored Yet or Just at Peace?

It is happening.
Slowly the simpleness levels you.

Smooths out all the interesting edges,
Grays down the highlights,

Fades the lowlights.
No quick intakes of breath.
No sharp laugh to stifle.

No surprise in plan.
Just smiles now.
Just yoga breathing.
And that all important focus
on what we shall cook
for dinner.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Catbird Seat

Since we got this bird theme going I will continue in that vein.  This is where I am on certain days, the catbird seat.  Days that I visit my grandchildren I am definitely in the Catbird Seat.  The grandchildren are of that age where they will race away from the dinner table to stand in the doorway allowing cold winter winds to blow around them and into the house as they wait excitedly for us to unload the car, bring in our stuff, and hug them.

The Princess has gotten new plastic shoes that sparkle blue in the dark and both she and her brother, the Prince, each had a shoe in their hand which they would wave high over their heads from the porch doorway while they screamed our names jumping up and down with glee.  Yes, this is actual glee which is not often seen at least by me in real life.  It is very, very cool, especially when you are the cause of it.  I do not remember getting quite so much glee from my own children, now that I think about it.

If this is not the catbird seat, I do not not know where that would be.  I know that the days are not far away when these children will barely raise their eyes from a television screen or a phone screen or a computer screen to greet us with a quick smile. Precious time races on.

As I enter the house, I am trying to avoid the ice patch on the walkway and trying to hang onto the two bags I have packed and trying not to knock over the two toddlers who cannot get any closer to my legs as they try to get my undivided attention.  I am being very careful.  One heavy bag has the gift of blood oranges and ice melt, both pretty heavy, for my daughter and the other has my overnight things.  As I set down the bags, I begin to hear the endless musical blend of toddler chatter...

"Neena, (that is the name they call me) we have pork chops and beans for dinner and Princess has these new shoes-look at me walk in my shoes and the lights go bong!-come see my ball with the arms which spring open if it gets attacked or if a rock falls on it like this it just goes CRASH and rolls onto the floor-I know that 3 and 3 are six and 3 and 4 are seven-Daddy is at the hockey game-I have ants on my pajamas-I have candy on my pajama pants-we have your plate at the table-see here is your fork-are you coming to my show tomorrow?-I can brush Tinker Bell's hair with this new brush-see, Neena, see-do you want me to brush your hair?-are your sleeping in this room or downstairs?-what is that green thing in your bag?-I have to go pee-pee..."
Since these little ones are talking non-stop I fail to hear any breathing between phrases and just let the words fall about my ears like colored gum drops as I smile and kiss and oooh and ahh in all the right places.
I could sit on this Catbird perch forever.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Waxwing Update

 A note from our rescue lady:

"Update on the Cedar Wax Wing:  with several weeks of small cage rest the bird started flying from side to side, I moved the little guy out to a much larger cage and back into the weather. The bird was doing really well eating lots of his favorites, blueberries, and just about any kind of fruit. I was planning to give you a call about releasing it back down your way but…. it took off on me when I was taking something into the cage. I am sure it will do just fine; it was well feed and strong and flew up into the trees. Thank you for taking your time to help this bird and getting it to me, I am glad that it was able to be returned to the wild."

(Above are four---yes four--- waxwings hanging in the holly.  I have never seen waxwings there before and they let me get quite close to take a photo today, the same day I got the email.  I am thinking this is an omen.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

You Cannot Choose Your In-laws

My life is too short to worry about the views of others and the choices made by my adult children and minds that cannot be changed.  Anyway, my daughter was far into the relationship with my then-to-be S.I.L. before I had even met him.  But I have grown to love him in spite of our substantial differences.

He is a good Catholic (I will not even dwell on my prejudicial fears there..fears about the religion not the people) but my daughter said he did not expect her to convert.  He got a point from me for that.

He is very good looking, well groomed and extremely well-mannered.  He gets points for that although I think he does spend a little too much time on appearances.  (He even gave my 4-year-old grandson a brief lecture on the various ways hair gel can create a look before the pre-school holiday program!)  In balance, he does run and exercise to keep in shape and while vain, it means he will remain healthy into old age.

He is romantic beyond words and loves his children and wife with a passion and gets lots of points for that.

He is hard-working and a good provider and gets points for that.

He has longstanding loyal and honest friends which attests to his character.

He spends too much of his free time either playing golf, watching football or playing fantasy football on the computer...but all people have their vices and his does not involve alcohol or other women.

I did get a clue about some of our basic differences when he tried to shut off the skylight in the bathroom until my daughter explained what a skylight was!

I got another clue about our differences when he told my daughter that he felt we were somewhat prejudiced because we valued higher education so much.  (He doesn't read anything unless it is on a computer screen or in Entertainment Magazine.)

I got another clue when my daughter explained his surprise that she had such strong ethical rules and honesty standards (stronger than his) even though she did not attend church on a regular basis. (This was after he hit a car while attempting to park several spaces ahead and slightly damaging the other car's side mirror.)

I got a clue when we learned he was an ardent Republican and totally had no passion for environmental issues.  He also thought our prior president was pretty smart.

One more clue was provided recently when he told my daughter he thought we were a little strange for taking in an injured wild bird and then spending the time to drive 3o miles to a rescue shelter. 

But the final clarity of how deeply we were different came when he noticed the number of cookbooks on the shelf in my kitchen and asked why more than just one or two would ever be needed.  My life will always be spicier and more interesting and perhaps I can add just a little spice to his life.

I do think that differences in people are what help the world go round and help test our values and beliefs.  We just have to realize we cannot change people and we can only change ourselves.  (It has taken me almost my full life to learn how to live this!)

These two young people do make a well-matched couple as was in evidence when they were visiting their friends over the New Year's weekend.  They were staying up late playing cards, when the mistress of the house where they were staying saw a tiny gray mouse dart under her refrigerator and proceeded to scream in panic as she jumped on the couch.  My S.I.L. followed in like manner and with the same panic stood on a nearby chair.  My daughter and the man of the house got a broom and bucket in an unsuccessful attempt to corner the little free-loader.  There is a pattern and balance to life that works out in the end.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Old Grand Guest

The sunrise
kissed the icy edge of the river
It glowed
with a virginal blush.
But it did not warm
or even embarrass anything.

The sky melted pink
but all else was silver gray.
The hoary breath of January
stilled all in its path.
Even the birds
trilled only once
afraid to let the cold
know where they were.
This temporary status
aches my heart
and cools my memories
and fogs my breath
and slows my bones.
This timeless visitor
has settled into the guest room
and seems to enjoy
the waiting with no
hanging around
like a wet gray fog.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


It seems so strange to wake to a quiet and still winter morning. Somewhere down the road the workers are catching buses or driving cars heading to familiar destinations. Some hoping to change the world for the better and others just trying for one more day to get by.  Mothers and father's kiss their little ones or wave with hidden concern to their young adult children as they head out for the day.  Each busy bee is off onto their own adventures humming with caffeinated energy.  No one ever knows what this day will bring but they will face the challenge.  
In contrast at this time of day, my house is quiet until hubby lets in the monster.

The monster is loud and excited and telling another more somber story, about a place far away.  A story of sudden death and pain.  A story of falling buildings and startled screaming.  There are pictures of eyes filled with terror and blank-eyed faces covered in the dust of a destroyed city.  The story is so overwhelmingly sad.  How can people who have nothing lose even more?

These tests, are they for us...or for those who have lost precious ones?  Or are we indeed all just specs of dust under a gigantic shoe?

Friday, January 15, 2010

The Mask of Zorro - Conclusion

Having an injured bird is somewhat like having a baby in the house.  It is a continual distraction, because even if the baby is napping, it is always on your mind and you are subconsciously listening for sounds.  The photo above is the flock of waxwings that had visited my yard weeks ago.  Perhaps they were the cousins or uncle or aunts of this little one?

It was a long day and we did not reach the rescue house until way after dark.  We struggled to find our way through the nest of houses and cul de sacs in the city suburbs.  The lovely GPS our children had bought us for Christmas was no real help!  It seemed this subdivision, while not new, was off the data map and in some bird twilight zone.

Zorro seemed to be fine in the back seat although initially he was a little nervously active and I worried about him damaging more wing feathers.

As we eventually pulled into the driveway of the rescue house I saw a large furry cat sitting on a cat stand in the window.  But (fortunately) the cat quickly disappeared when I rang the doorbell, and a little lap dog greeted us with high energy, and thankfully no yapping.

Lynn, the rescue lady, takes in all kinds of birds and ends up keeping the hawks and raptors that cannot be returned to the wild as her personal mission. She has an inspiring video on her web site where she recently released a bald eagle that had been rehabilitated.  

She took Zorro and ran her fingers carefully and expertly along the wings and seemed to feel that nothing was broken.  She did explain that it was not unusual for a bird to sprain a wing while flying because of these high wind gusts.

Her laundry room was filled with a gray parrot, and two other smaller parrots that I did not recognize, that had been abandoned by incompetent owners.  While they were noisy it was not the deafening noise you normally hear in a pet store filled with parrots.

Her garage held a number of wild birds for rehabilitation including a seriously damaged Cooper's hawk that had been hit by a police car.  She kept it in a very small cage so that he would not further injure himself.  

She had prepared a little cage for Zorro but I did not take photos in order to avoid disturbing all the feathered friends nearby.

We talked birds for a little while, but we had to head to our daughter`s house in the city.  It was hard to say good-bye because we had gotten attached to Zorro and hubby had actually started negotiating with me to keep the bird before we turned him (or her) over to rescue.  We felt better to know that Zorro was in good and experienced hands.

Lynn sent an email several days later that indicated Zorro was doing fine and eating well, although still not flying but she said that she had high hopes he would repair soon.  This is a good enough ending for us for now, it will have to be.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Mask of Zorro - Part II

It is easy to see in the above photo why I call him Zorro. I let him sleep in and didn't bring him out into the living room until 8:00 although I was very concerned about how he had survived the night. I had prepared a breakfast of chopped dates, and chopped green grapes and found some raspberry newton cookies and actually proceeded to scoop out the raspberry filling in small portions to add to this sugar fix.   I added a few chopped walnuts for fat and salt.  I am quite the gourmet bird chef when given a chance and if I had the opportunity I might expand his diet so that is would be more balanced!

He had kept the fresh water that I gave him last night poop free, so I left it alone and then slid in the plastic lid of chopped fruit. We had also given him some dried grass heads to nestle in during the night and to this I added the fragrant cedar branches that had been picked the night before so that he might feel more at home.

He looked very alert and was hopping around the cage and onto the grass sprigs. I brought him out from the laundry room and placed him near the window that frames the bird feeders in the distance and he started immediately grooming himself. Such vanity this species has!

I decided that he looked healthy enough to be set free, so I placed him in the garage to get used to the colder temperatures.  An hour later I saw a cedar waxwing high on the oak tree in my back yard and hurried into the garage to see if I could do some match-making.

I placed the cage on the deck table outside where we keep the heated water for wild birds. I slid open the bird cage door and stepped back. He looked out carefully through the opening and in a few seconds hopped to the edge of the open door. A minute after that he hopped onto to the table. He hurried to the table's edge and I could almost read his mind. He wanted so much to take off to the wonderful trees on all sides. He could not believe he was free!  He hopped to the other edge of the table and glanced up again and then waited.  After five minutes of this we realized that something was really wrong with his wing(s). He made no attempt to even jump to the deck railing although he was clearly thinking about it.

Hubby scooped him up in his hands and he carefully placed him back in the cage. I called the rescue number I had found on the Internet. After talking to the woman at the other end she told me that she keeps her rescued birds in her garage, so Zorro is going back to that climate and after hubby's dental appointment this afternoon, he is heading to this convalescent home for birds.

I will post more tomorrow.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Mask of Zorro - Part I

We had ventured outside to replenish the food pantry, although in reality, we had enough food to last months.  Our excuse was that I was missing the essential chocolate and hubby needed to get his laptop checked as he had broken the speaker system. How did he do that you may ask?  If you saw the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding you may remember the scene where the young woman gets nervous and proceeds to walk away from her computer with her headset connected and still on her head.  Hubby did not pull the laptop off the desk during his quick retreat, but it seemed that he destroyed the plug-in port and needed to get a USB replacement.  (He is the most expensive computer user I know!) Anyway, I digress...terribly.

We went to the big box store where we could save hundreds of dollars by spending hundreds of dollars and managed in a short time to fill the shopping cart with big boxes of stuff.  Paper towels, pasta, chocolate, know...the essentials of life.

The winter winds continued their bitter stomping through our neck of the woods and they shoved us across the parking lot like tough bullies.  Loading the car took careful speed as our fingers froze and frozen wind whipped down our necks and pulled bags from our grip.

It was on our drive home as we turned into our wooded neighborhood that we saw this wounded, or what appeared to be wounded, cedar waxwing.  He was hopping ever so slowly across the road.  He would hop once or twice and then seemed to catch his breath thinking about whether he had energy to hop again.  As we approached he stopped hopping and just sat there in the middle of the road maybe hoping his suffering would finally come to an end under the wheels of our car.  Hubby looked at me and I looked at him.  Finally I said that we needed to see if we could help. (My loyal readers will remember another encounter we had with an unexpected woods visitor here or the time we failed to help a lovely owl with an owwie which I posted on my other blog here.  I am a BIG softie for animals.)

"You get him." hubby said with decisive speed as he rubbed his hands between his legs and sat back against his seat stoically indicating he was definitely going to remain in the warmth of the car.

I opened the door and moved slowly to the front of the car expecting this fragile gift of life to fly into the sky leaving me cold and startled.  But the small bird  continued to just sit there and then surprised me by hopping across the road and with some effort toward my feet!  He stopped and actually looked up at me!  Honest!

I bent down to lift him and was very surprised that he did not struggle in anyway.  He just snuggled into the warmth of my leather gloved hands like he had come home to mama.  I returned to the car and realized that I had no hands to open the door.  Hubby had to lean across the seat and open the door.  I am thankful to have exercised recently and maintained my sense of strength and balance as stepping up into a large SUV while holding your hands out in front of you in a prayer and getting into those high seats requires considerable strength and balance.

Cedar waxwings up close are the most divinely colored birds.  They are gray and brown and yellow and even a little peach and look as though they were wrapped in the softest velvet.  They wear a dark velvet mask across their sparkling black eyes, intriguing Zorros of the bird world.  (They also are very messy if you read my post on my other blog a while back.)

This little waxwing peaked his eye through the space between my thumb and forefinger, but made no effort to push his tiny head through the opening.  He just watched my face as we headed home and made no sound.

We have a fragile bamboo bird cage that has never held a bird.  It was purchased in Indonesia or Panama...I cannot remember from which roadside stand so long ago.  It was lovelier with the natural bamboo, but I was in my cottage phase of life and painted it white and hung it covered in silk flowers in my sun room decades ago.  The cage now sits in the basement with dusty abandon.  Hubby got this cage into the garage and we released the bird inside.  I took him into the house and filled a small bowl with water.  Since we have well water, I did not have to worry about the chlorine.  Zorro proceeded to poop three times (they are from the Bombycilla family) and then jumped feet first into the small water bowl and drank heartily.

I sighed as these were good signs.  

I could study him now and saw that one of his wings looked slightly askew and showed the blood red wax tip on one of his secondaries that is the reason they got their name.

I knew that they don't eat bird seed but placed a little on the floor of the cage, just in case.  I also put in several small pieces of fresh date and dried cranberry.  Hubby went outside to find juniper berries, without success, and by the time he returned it was dark and I had place the bird on the floor of the laundry room and put a beach towel over the cage so that he would not die of stress or fear.  It is late in the evening and I have not heard a peep out of him.   If he lives, I will call the rescue office tomorrow.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Cabin Fever

This past week the days were filled with 30 mile per hour winds and temperatures that did not go above 30 F for very long.  (It seems that the entire northern hemisphere of earth did not escape this frigid freight train that was storming its way to the equator.  Even iguanas were falling out of trees in Florida like frozen gray green popsicles.)  I watched out the window at the birds darting around the feeders.  They were all puffed up like cotton balls of brown or tan or red or black as they tried to stuff themselves even more round with fatty seeds.  I was getting so tired of staring out windows.

I put on my heavy winter coat and braved the winter winds to see what was happening down on the river.  I had not been outside in three days and this indoor sentence was certainly getting on my nerves.  I steeled my courage to head outside. The back door to the deck which had not been opened in days was stuck and stiff to open.  I pulled hard and it released suddenly blowing open with the rush of bitter icy wind followed by tulip tree seeds that scattered across the carpet.

The wind whipped at my scarf and coat as I held on tight to my camera to keep it warm for just a while.  The naked branches of trees above my head danced as if in some crazy drug induced trance.  Everything was being pummeled by this arctic rush hour expressway.

I saw the scene in the photo above when I reached the river's edge.  Waves had frozen in custard layers as they grazed the shore during the night.  The tide was heading out but against the push of the wind onto the shore creating waves of ice.  Nothing was moving along the edge of the river.  Everything was still and frozen or hibernating somewhere.

A gust of wind pushed hard against my back and almost dumped me unceremoniously into the cold wet river.  I planted my feet firmly and leaned into the wind, but found it hard to keep my balance as the gusts were not predictable and I was out on the edge of the open water and not in the small shelter of the woods.

I took a few photos and then made my way back to the house.  Its warmth was certainly welcome when I opened the back door.

This cold is below the normal and seems to be going on forever.  Thankfully we have not had to contend with snow drifts or ice sheets...just endless blowing wind that was cold enough to freeze a witches...!  Spring, do not be afraid, your turn is coming.

Friday, January 08, 2010

The Drill

For those who celebrate this season of peace and love and know the drill.  

  • Brave the cold winds and bring in all the lights and faded wreath from the deck that is on the side of the house facing the angry Nor'wester.  Yes, your fingers are frozen as you try to untie the tie-holds.  Just cut them and get on with this before your thumbs web to your fingers!
  • Remove the lights from the gable while your wife holds the ladder and hope she is paying attention in these high winds and be thankful that you can't hear her whining above the moan of the Norther.  Be sure to duck when that last line of lights whips across your back.
  • Spend an hour trying to find the bag that the door wreathe goes in and try to remember where you pack the wreath hanger this time so you don't spend two days looking for it next Christmas like you did this year.
  • Get the stool out and bring down all those high decorations on the mirror without breaking your neck or the mirror.
  • Pack the votives that have been distributed romantically throughout the house including those with the candles you never got around to burning...maybe next year.
  • Carefully take all the ornaments off the tree and pack in their correctly marked bins.  Make sure you look at the bottom layer of the bin before you fill the top IS empty and you need to start packing there.
  • Take the ornament bins downstairs so you have more room to dismantle the tree.  You will have to count the number of steps (15) since you cannot see your feet around the bins stacked precariously in your arms.
  • Label the outlets on the artificial tree (again?) so that it will go together easier next time and try to find why the second layer of lights would not light.
  • Take the tree is heavy and it will require two people.  Try not to yell at each other and try not to drop one of the layers on someone's foot, particularly the heavy metal pole end.
  • The layers of tree are much like a Chinese puzzle as they fit in the tree bag...good luck!
  • Zip up the tree bag...unless you notice that small red bird ornament on that bottom branch that was forgotten.  Darn!  Take the ornament downstairs and put it in the bottom ornament bin after lifting off the top bin of stuff... or just stuff it into any old bin that is easy to reach.
  • Drag the tree bag downstairs to the basement trying carefully not to kill each other or damage the furniture or scratch the walls or stub your toes or tear the tree bag or swear out loud.
  • Once everything is packed away be prepared to find that forgotten silver star hanging in the guest bathroom and that home-made wreath from the church still hanging on the kitchen window! 
  • Pour yourself some leftover eggnog with a stiff shot of bourbon and put your feet up, you have survived another season.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bringing Dharma

(This is a brief movie review and if you hate those you probably do not want to read this post.)

Spent a holiday afternoon watching the much touted (or maligned depending on which critic you read) movie,  Avatar---in 3-D.  Writer/Director James Cameron spared no expense and with such lovely and terrifying special effects, the movie should gender a return on these expenses.  His previous work with deep water life can be seen in all the mimicking botany on the planet including the mesmerizing phosphorescence of plant life in each evening scene.  He borrows Jurassic park sounds and uses similar animals to flesh out the wild animal part of the planet and ideas from Star Trek also seem to be there. 

There is nothing really new about this story.  The indigenous peoples of the planet are all spiritual and intelligent, even if sometimes immature.  They 'connect' with all the living things on their planet and have strong family and ancestral ties.  There is an earthling/indigenous being (interracial) love story, of course. 

The earthlings are 99% evil businessmen or military killers providing the action of death and destruction by man and machine.  The industrial military complex has but one mission, to retrieve important minerals without regard for indigenous life.  Such lopsidedness gives the movie an unrealistic liberal skew.  I would have liked to see more respect for our military by adding more good guys. 

In spite of this heavy handedness, it is a good ride to be seen on the big screen, especially if you are a sci-fi fan as I am.  That part of the story is pretty cool.

(The title of this blog was taken from the Hindu gift of Avatars and this blog was written the day after Christmas.)

I also saw Nine because I am a sucker for musicals.  It was not nearly as good as Chicago. It lacked the energy and the theme was a bit old hat. Daniel Day Lewis does a great job of becoming the old Italian artist in spite of his size.  Sophia Loren is sadly stiff in her old age, but I wish she had been given a longer part to warm that face up a little.  The best show numbers are done by the two youngest in the cast, of course.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Leftover Sparkles

I thought that we had gotten all the decorations tucked away into their respective and carefully labeled boxes. We had braved the cold weather and brought in the extension cords and timers from outside. Then I looked out my window and saw that someone thought we were rushing things just a little.   Fortunately,  these sparkles do not use electricity and someone else is responsible for putting them away.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Cold Windy Day!

Being retired means, for most people, that everyday is Saturday or Sunday.  Baring economic hardship, you can pretty much do what you want.  Baring guilt trips or health restrictions you can pretty much do it as long as you want.  Baring the attitudes of people you live with you can do it all day if you want.

Lie in bed and pull the covers over your head on a cold windy winter morning.
Grab the binoculars and watch the bird feeder for hours until your stomach reminds you that you have eaten nothing yet today.
Drink your coffee slowly and mindfully rather than in scalding sips on the way to work.
Read an entire book in one sitting.
Watch more than one movie on DVD in an afternoon.
Spend an afternoon wondering how on such a windy and cold day the geese can manage to tack their way flying down the river pulling into stalls and then tacking to the other side to continue with their progress.  Takes them much longer on a day like today.  Spend another hour trying to get a good photograph of that challenge.

And if you have a little Puritan work ethic in your soul, as I do, go through all those old files in the basement with your husband and reduce them to 30% by tossing or shredding the 60%...
OR actually exercise through an entire episode of NCIS which you have seen several times before!