I’ve been watching a couple of Eastern Bluebirds in my yard since spring. Against the backdrop of my neighbor’s barn, they’ve built their home inside a rustic gray bird house nailed against an ancient power pole. I watched as they worked days and days on end bringing back scraps of bark and twigs and string. I witnessed their war with a Mockingbird who insisted he was moving in too. The smaller blue birds won through tenacity alone. I waited patiently hoping to see evidence of a new family for the two. The multitude of bugs they carried in through the perfectly sized hole in the front of their house was surely for feeding chicks. I watched and waited content in the cool mornings to sit and listen to the Bluebirds and their hundred bird choir fill the morning with song.
My folks came for a visit late last spring and we sat on the porch as usual drinking our coffee and watching the Bluebirds. I asked my dad how many birds he thought were singing at once and he replied, “Hundreds.” My mom looked up from her phone and asked, “You can hear birds singing?” My heart sank. Hundreds of birds were filling the morning air with sound and my mom couldn’t hear a single one. We had known for some time that Mom was struggling with her hearing. There were misunderstandings and requests for repetition of phrases which she would repeat back incorrectly and we would rephrase thinking she didn’t understand. But it was shocking to realize that she was missing something as significant to me as bird song. She was living in a different world than me, one with no bird sounds and it made me sad. She promised to look into a hearing aid as soon as she returned home.
The Bluebirds showed up less and less as summer turned hot and dry. Their baby birds never revealed themselves while I was on watch. Dad had his hip replaced and Mom had her final surgery after fighting cancer for years and surviving. Grandma turned 90 while the whole town showed up to celebrate and Mom got a hearing aid.
Mom and Dad came back for a visit over the fourth of July and the Bluebirds returned too. We sat on the porch together again, though the morning breeze was much hotter, and watched as the Bluebirds repaired their nest. In and out of that little hole they came and went and we pondered a second batch of chicks.
It’s amazing the things we take for granted. To know I can sit on the same porch with my mom and have such an entirely different experience in the same moment. My world full of song, her’s nearly silent. Mom feels good. She’s happy now, and she can hear the birds sing.
“Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.” ~ St. Francis of Assisi
My best friend from high school once described Hell as a calendar full of February’s; terrifying. Up ahead, I see the full month of February blocking my way to springtime. It’s ominous and dark up there and after surviving the chaos of November and December and the treacherous gray days of January, I’m not sure I even want to approach it. There’s no way around it so, here I go…
I have a head cold and I’ve been in denial about it all week. But today, it’s Saturday, and I am giving in to the luxury of a loose schedule to really settle in to my misery. The day matches the way I feel, cold and gray. I look up from my lap full of Kleenex at the sound of angry black birds cawing from the snow-covered lawn. I look up at the gloomy gray sky and realize, it’s not gray at all; it’s white. It’s the same white as the snow on the ground, a mirror image separated by the golden stubble of corn stalks along the horizon. In fact, it’s sort of beautiful.
Ok, I can do this. All I have to do is find something beautiful to focus on each day and before long the red-winged blackbirds will be shrieking in the field grass and the robins will be pulling up worms. In a few months, the poke week and fiddleheads will begin sending up shoots then I’ll find my asparagus, I hope. Finding beauty in the gloom, it gives me hope, and hope will get me through.
There is something about the weather this time of year that just makes my soul sing. The rains have subsided for a day or two and the sunshine has done wonders. My little tomato plants seem to grow greener right before my eyes in the beaming rays of the sun. Late spring delivers those hazy golden sunsets with a dreamlike quality and everything comes alive. It really is my favorite time of year.
I’ve been struggling for the last week with the dreary weather blues and a beautiful weekend was just what the doctor ordered. I worked hard this weekend. There was dirt under my fingernails and bug bites on my shin, my back ached and my muscles were sore but I felt better than I had in a long time, in my head.
I guess the lesson here is to move you. When you feel yourself sliding into that rut of lethargy at your desk, get up and get physical. I’ll be the first to admit that when the day is gray and I have a mood to match, my instinct is to hunker down and shut the door. Truth is, I always feel better if I get out of the chair and do something. Thank you sunshine for luring me back outside. A little dirt under the fingernails never hurt anyone.
This weekend as Al and I cleared brush from around the broken fence near the old outhouse, I spotted a slender spear of asparagus in the grass. I knew asparagus grew wild along that fence row, a leftover from someone’s garden of the past, but every spring I seem to miss the day the sprout reaches peak edibility.
Every year in late March I start walking the fence row searching for a sign that fresh asparagus is on its way. Every year I am diligent in my search for a week or so. Then, I get distracted for a few days and when I remember to search again, I’m too late. The once tender sprout seems to shoot up 12 inches in a day and the stalk becomes fibrous and the top turns to seed.
This year, I got lucky. We just happened to be out working in an area where the wild asparagus grows on the day it was ready to eat. I spotted that one lone spear and I snapped it off at the ground. Perfect. I could tell by the crisp pop it made when I bent the stem to snapping that it was still tender and good. I dropped my rake and left Al to the brush as I took off down the fence row on my search. I scanned the fence line until I found the telltale sign. A wispy brown bundle four feet high revealed where the seeds had fallen last autumn. There on the ground I hit the jackpot. Ten perfect tender spears of asparagus. It was just enough for…me. I didn’t share either. Yesterday, while the kids were in school and Al was downtown at work, I started a pot of water to boil and dropped my bountiful treasure in. I cooked them till they turned a brilliant green. Not too much, I like them slightly crisp. And with a quick rinse in the strainer, and a dressing of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar, my masterpiece was complete. Mmmm, sweet memory, unless I get lucky next year.
Well it’s spring again. How do I know? The first clue was the daffodils in the yard. The second clue…ants in my coffee. We have ants, ants in the kitchen, ants in the bathroom, and ants in the bedroom. They are little ants, not the kind that could carry off the cat, but ants are ants. I loathe them. Last week I sprinkled a product called Terro all around the perimeter of the house. I know this means my karma will have a deficit but I think it’s worth the risk. I am sick of ants in my food and every time I wipe down the kitchen counter I have to pick their little bodies out of the dish rag. Did I mention I loathe ants? Actually what I loathe are ants in my house. They are fine outside, in nature where they belong. But inside, they are on my turf and I want them gone.