Friday, December 24, 2010

May You Have...

May you have the gladness of Christmas which is hope;
The spirit of Christmas which is peace;
The Heart of Christmas which is love.
Ada V Hendricks

From my trees to yours,
Merry Christmas

(Thank you to all the elves who put these trees together for me.)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

On the Hunt for a Tree

Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson: you find the present tense, but the past perfect!
Owens Lee Pomeroy

Tis the time of year to get Christmas up in the house. Before us, the annual trek out to the tree farm, family in tow. Riding the haycart out to the fields, wandering the aisles of growing firs. "How about this one?" "Hey! Come see this one." and the inevitable "Just pick one for cripe's sake."

Then a stop at a small town BBQ joint before returning home to open the numerous boxes from the attic accompanied by exclamations of "Oh, isn't this fun?" and "Remember when you made this? When you were two?" "Put on some Christmas carols" followed by rearranging the furniture, getting the tree straight, the lights and ornaments placed. All the remaining decorations spread throughout the house and Bingo, the house transformed into an enchanted winter wonderland, Christmas on the horizon.

Back in the 70's when I met my husband and visited his house at Christmas, I was appalled to discover a tree similar to this in his parent's living room -

What kind of people would have THAT for a tree? Who didn't endure the family hunt for the perfect real tree? No smell of true pine in your house? No handpicking of prickling pine needles at tree's end?

Of course, that was just the beginning of the "fake tree" boom. Suddenly families could simply grab their tree out of the box in the attic and have it up in few moments. No wrangling the pine through the front door and hallway. No arguments on its best side, whether it was straight or not, the husband lying on the floor, twirling the trunk, losing patience while the decision made.

Alas, back to the present tense. I had hoped others in the family might garner interest in doing as always. That as my kids drifted in from jobs and college far away, they, too, might welcome the norm and perhaps generate some interest for me. Funny thing, they don't really seem to have the enthusiasm either.

Gives me pause for relief, and guilt. Relief because my kids are older now. I don't need to put on a perfect Christmas with all the baking, music, festivities. That I, as they, do want the family dinner on Christmas Eve, but maybe we don't need all the decoration hoopla. Guilt, because my husband, under protest, already put up the lights outside.

Perchance my apathy presides because it has been a very full year and I'm tired. Just plain tired.

I awoke four hours ago. I'm still sitting in bed, deciding on the process to come. I've perused via my laptop the shops in Austin with trees for sale. Not a normally barren lot with dry trees cut in October, but a store with real fake trees with the lights already on them. When I find one that arrives on wheels, completely decorated, and can be pushed back into its box and automatically lifted into the attic like magic, I'm buying it.

As to that silver tree of my in-laws, I want it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

May Your Blessings Be Bountiful, Your Day Filled with Love

May your stuffing be tasty
May your turkey plump,
May your potatoes and gravy
Have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious
And your pies take the prize,
And may your Thanksgiving dinner
Stay off your thighs!
Author Unknown

If given the choice between Thanksgiving and Christmas as a favorite holiday, hands down the former gets the prize.

The day before finds me lolling in bed at 9am. No school today. I've done my grocery shopping, Ian has driven the 12 hours home from Alabama, my mom asleep in the next room. The rest of the kids are due to arrive later today and we'll begin the prep work while gathered around the kitchen table - pies made, celery and onion chopped, bread broken to dry for stuffing, conversations shared.

Tomorrow, a half hour of raw turkey wrestling ensues which only means when the big bird makes it into the oven, I can sigh and say "That task done for another year." I can then methodically peel my potatoes or recruit a son happening to walk by.

Then, we wait, and play, and talk, watch football. Not being a fan of early large dinners, we'll eat around 5. Will finish just in time to lie about and, hopefully, watch the Aggies kick the Longhorns across their own field.

Oh, yes, so much easier than putting Christmas together.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. I hope you have many blessings to recount.

And lets not forget the Crimson Tide on Friday!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Blogger's Joy

Praise the bridge that carried you over.
George Colman

Why do I blog? Why do I wonder how those I've met in the blog world fare in their days? Why do I write to those who have not posted in some time to see how life goes?

Perhaps because they have continual faith in me, despite my absences and often lack of individual thankfulness for their comments. Despite my inconsistent visits to their home pages.

Why do I blog? Because when I have a totally crappy day and the audacity to write about it, YOU all write to me. You reassure me. You let me know you are out there. (Even though you may have had an equally or completely worse day.)

That's why I blog. Not for what I get, but what I might give when I'm able to do that. Not to mention I find it fascinating how others live their lives. Also, how fun to read when bloggers get together from afar.

Several of my blogger friends gathered in the photo above. Lovely women, all of them, in attendance at my son's wedding last April.

On the left, Kimber, The Fragrant Liar, the "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille" friend of mine who relocated to Florida in June. On my other side, Bernie, that old broad from Wisconsin at Old?Who? Me? and then Beth at The Busy Traveler, the talented chemical engineer turned writer who travels much too much and sends my jealous meter off the chart.

As for that old broad in Wisconsin, I'm headed up there on Saturday to celebrate her 85th birthday. Feel free to wish her a happy day. I'll be freezing my big Texas butt off in the frigid cold that has descended on that state, because I'm visiting, I'm sure. Believe it or not, there is no Packer game this weekend. Is there no mercy for a long-time fan?

Next post should arrive upon my return, Old? Who? Me? accompanying me for a Texas stay.

Hence, let us not underestimate ourselves. I have followed many of you for almost two years. Community. I thank you for responding when in my dumps and in my highs and middling. I appreciate your comments and suggestions.

You will have that backing with me, also. More important, as a reader for your most lovely essays of norm, and adventure. This roadtrip of the Midlife Jobhunter has been most interesting even though I'm not certain I've metered much mileage yet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Grumble, Grumble

Oh, wouldn't the world seem dull and flat with nothing whatever to grumble at?
W.S. Gilbert

Tis one of those rare days when I don't have to get out of bed. Coming off a day of substitute teaching hell, I awoke to the perfect morning for recovery -- a gray sky complete with a drizzling rain.

With the blinds closed in my bedroom and the back patio door bringing in the only light, I'm furrowing deep into the covers. Such sinful pleasure to lie here. I awakened early, but have decided to warm myself and shake off the remnants of yesterday's bad day.

One of those days where I find myself policing and thinking that if any of these kids were mine, I'd beat the shit out of them for their behavior. However, these days, I'm not up for a fight. Causes me to step back and wonder what the hell I'm doing with my time. Or not doing.

I've known for some time I don't want to return to secondary school teaching or secretarial work. Substituting offers flexibility, but nothing in the way of contributing to any one's life, least of all mine. I can certainly do it and do it well as most of my work is by request. But the pay is pathetic. I've never enjoyed babysitting and it takes me all day to make what most can make in few hours or less.

Late last night, when neither a teacher request nor an open job for the next day had shown up by midnight, I took myself off the morning call queue. I keep telling myself that for right now, this job works -- until I figure out what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I mean, really, it's a Wednesday and here I am, nestled in bed at 8:30am.

And if I don't get out of bed, I won't have to think about what else I might could do.

Ah, the disgruntled Midlife Jobhunter. Guess I'll go soak my head in a pail of water. After all, tomorrow is another day.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Who is that Fat Lady in the Photo?

We have all a better guide in ourselves, if we would attend to it, than any other person can be.
Jane Austen

This past weekend, the Bunco Bitches got together for one of our famous weekends. Hadn't had one since last November. I was ready.

Our original plan had us spending Friday night at JoD's new bungalow in a little town in the Hill Country. (Another Midlife Jobhunter, she is setting up a whole new life for herself.)

Well, you know how it goes. One night stretched to a long, lazy morning and then a walk about town, which led to the local watering hole. Next thing you know, everybody is headed down the road to my cabin for another night of decadent behavior. Home? What is home?

Languid ladies sipping luscious wine while the sun's light slides beneath the landscape.

Of course, we had a photographer in the group. Here I am driving my VW bug on our way to the lake. When my friend posted this photo on Facebook, I looked and looked. Who was that smiling lady with the double chin?

In my last post, I mentioned an excerpt from Simple Abundance - A Daybook of Comfort and Joy (Warner Books, 1995.) I actually found the entry Sarah Ban Breathnach writes in her selection for February 12.

Today, try to find a photograph of yourself when you were about ten. Make sure you're smiling. Put it in a pretty frame and place it on your dressing table, desk... and look at it every day. Send love to that young girl. Try to travel back in time and imagination.

...because age ten was probably the last time you trusted your instincts. You didn't listen to the opinions of your mother, your sister, your friends because you had your own.

...I remind myself that once upon a time, I trusted my instincts. You did, too. Once upon a time there weren't second or third guesses. It can be that way again.

...Try to contact the girl you once were. She's all grown up now. She's your authentic self and she's waiting to remind you how beautiful, accomplished, and extraordinary you really are.

Here is my ten year old self.

Fourth grade. I more often than not saw things differently than those around me. I didn't understand why, nor the loneliness it sometimes wrought, but I kind of liked the independence it created. My mother and I had opposite opinions on what I should wear. My bedroom was a mess; my dresser and night table covered with pictures, artifacts I liked to look at, dust, paperwork that needed tending or filing, and probably something I'd worn and not hung up. My favorite color was blue. I rarely had my attire completely together. I loved spaghetti. I played teacher. My favorite subject was reading.

Hmmm, nothing's changed there. Except for that double chin. Probably should work on that.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Puzzle Pieces

Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
Winnie the Pooh

When you were a kid, lying under a tree or while cuddled under a warm blanket, did you envision yourself as a grownup? In my Midlife Jobhunter quest to discover what I'd like to be, I've returned often to what my thoughts may have been when I was ten. I mention 10 as somewhere I read - I think in Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach - that we are the closest to our authentic self when we are 10 years old.

Ten. Oh, to summon back the youthful vision of ten.

When I completed Breathnach's year long study many years ago, I discovered a long forgotten photo of myself -- at 10. Sure luck as I don't have many photos of my youth. But, alas, from a book my oldest brother had gathered for me, I discovered a picture in front of a birthday cake -- a smile on my face and 10 candles ready to blow. I studied the face of that child, excited about life, unaware of what might lie ahead, and tried to recall her dreams, desires, and hopes.

I'm sure at the time I journeyed through Simple Abundance, I also journaled my recollections. But life, once again, segued me off in another direction.That journal is now buried in a box in the attic and I have no desire to dig around up there. I must begin anew.

Sitting on my porch this morning, accompanied by the morning glories that burst open today,

I recall I liked to explore, albeit with trepidation. I was neither the one with the most guts, nor the most fear. I would climb the trees and ride the neighbor's horse, but always with a tug of angst in my chest. I wasn't fond of getting hurt. But I never minded following a new trail in the forest. I had a good sense of direction and the ability to remember where I came from. I could always find my way back.

I know I wanted to see the world. In middle school, we had assemblies in the auditorium. We saw movies of far away places, different cultures, adventures. My family didn't venture far - a week at the lake in summer and a four day trip to Chicago in the fall. Sunday car rides offered a view of life surrounding our small corner of southern Minnesota - the cornfields flying by, interrupted by the cows walking home or a railroad track with a train due. As my older brother was drilled on his math facts or the parts of speech, I sat in silence, watching the heart and soul in the countryside glide by outside the window. I dreamed.

My mother always talked of visiting Paris so from an early age I knew another world existed. Her father left her a $1000 life insurance policy when he died. She planned to take that money and go to Paris someday. Then more kids were born and life took over and many years passed, the $1000 depleted. But in my head, a world beyond the gridded sections of Minnesota countryside existed. Paris, New York City, the Pacific Ocean.

What does this have to do with my authentic self and what I want to be when I grow up? Hell if I know. Trying to piece it together, I guess. And today, you are my listeners as I sort things out.

Sorting. Always seem to be sorting. Laundry, thoughts, me.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Bama Boy - Joie de Vivre

To live is so startling it leaves little time for anything else.
Emily Dickinson

How fun is that? Youngest son found in the 100,000 spectators at the Alabama/Penn State game. Recognize him? He's the one showing off that orthodontia while he gives you the #1 sign.

What a relief to know Ian's having a great time. We'll find out how much fun when mid-term grades come out in October.

Seriously, though, how fun was that! All 8 seconds of it. Such joy I observe in his smile. Such joy in my heart as I watch on the other side of the screen. Good way to bring him home for a moment.

Roll Tide!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

How Late Is Too Late?

Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.
William James

How long is too long to not write a fellow blogger and thank them for taking the time to make a comment on your post? To respond to the kind thoughts they passed on in a time of need? To let them know how their time and comments made you feel better?

I have that problem. Many of you wrote such kind thoughts when my dad died and my youngest son went off to college. Your comments sit in my active email list. I have 55 to answer. I keep avoiding that. Not sure why.

Sort of like I keep avoiding putting out a new blog post. My last - forced. Only thing coming to mind is my new shoes or that the air conditioning in my car and my upstairs has gone kaput along with the leaky roof.

Or that I haven't told you that the swallows won the sparrow/swallow war. Or that I'm substitute teaching almost every day - and that I so want a cleaning person. A grocery delivery person. The YMCA in my back yard. New feet.

All seem rather trite.

Deb of Catbird Scout (if you don't read her, you should - she is a fine essay writer) sent me an email about the silence on my end. Yes, perhaps the heart has been tainted by the events of the last two months.

I'm hopeful the fog is lifting.

So, how late is too late to let people know how much you appreciate them? Or, that the moon that rose the other night had such beauty and I hope you saw it, too.

Meanwhile, a special moment shared...

...eatin' blueberries with my niece at Lake Michigan. August 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And Then the Rains Came

Let us permit nature to have her way. She understands her business better than we do.
Michel de Montaigne

Be Prepared. The scout motto, yes? Here in Central Texas, we prepare for weather. Any inkling of an ice storm, snow flurry, or hurricane in any sea, our weathermen get excited and tell us how to prepare. We follow like good scouts and invade the grocery store for water, flashlight batteries, and any other necessity to make it through the harrowing days ahead. I, of course, include the wine aisle.

Normally, our preparations are for naught. The ice storm stays in North Texas and the remainders from the hurricane skirt us and head into Mexico. I drink the wine anyway.

Last week, the rains arrived unexpectedly, adorned with the title of Hermine. I'd heard of tropical depression/hurricanes Alex, Earl, and Igor, but where did Hermine come from. No days of fore warning by our weatherman. A hint that rain might come, but no clue that three days of pouring skies might produce new rivers.

I can't tell you where she came from, but I can tell you where she ended up.

In my living room.
There I was, minding my own business. Reading a book while the rain poured outside. Hours of steady rain and then I heard a different sound. A dripping. I looked up from my book to see my fireplace weeping. Sobbing, in fact. Not just from that spot above, but through the rocks.

I rushed to remove all the photos, diplomas and the summer's collection of tidbits from the mantle.

I grabbed pots and pans from the kitchen only to notice water there also - above the oven, coming out of the register.

So glad we got that new roof last year.

Until three in the morning I wandered the house, pulling out more pans and towels, my evil eye tracing the ceiling and rocks on the fireplace for the next spring of a leak. The kitchen ceiling for even more brown spots popping up.

Outside the rain continued to drench, inch after inch. The radar on the television displayed a solid line of red right up our alley with no hint of drying up. Reports of cars under water in an intersection only a few blocks away.

Unprepared, I had no wine in the house. I wept right along with my fireplace.

My husband slept through the whole damn thing. My middle son, Jordan, currently living at home awaiting a new wildlife position, huddled with the computer in the study, playing some game online with his little brother in Alabama.

I stood in the study door, my hands on my hips. "Your dad's asleep and you're playing a game. I'm in here freaking out while the house crumbles before my eyes."

He shrugged and went back to his game. "Calm down, Mom."

Don't you hate that.

He told his little brother to give me a call and Ian called on cue. I was passed off, but I welcomed the call.

Twelve inches of rain, total, for our area. Our damage truly minimal compared to the loss of life and property experienced by many others.

But, my house in a shambles, I did what every self-respecting homeowner should do. I abandoned the property and went to the lake. Needed to check out the damage there, right?

Only 3-4 inches of rain unleashed, but oh, how my flowers loved it.

And look who came to visit.

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.... People think pleasing God is all God care about. But any fool living in the world can see it always trying to please us back.
Alice Walker, The Color Purple, 1982

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Funny How Things Work Out

I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart: I am, I am, I am.
Sylvia Plath

Nineteen years ago, my oldest child went off to kindergarten followed two years later by his younger brother. Four years after that, his youngest brother joined the ranks of student. On the first day of school, they arrived home with backpacks filled with papers for me to peruse and sign, forms to fill out. I hated the big pink ones - where you filled in health info, social security number, who to call and all the other garbage required. Someday, I said, someday, I won't have to fill out these stupid forms.

Someday has arrived. I bypassed the Back to School ads and the watchful eye to identify locker, book, and schedule pick up days for my kids. The familiar angst that summer is over and my days now dictated by defined schedules and childrens events, didn't elapse. Finally, finally, my days of public school over.

Of course, life isn't complete without irony. I no longer have kids in the public school system, but guess who's still there? That would be me. The substitute teacher.

Gave me a very odd feeling to walk those halls of the high school yesterday. I didn't hear the familiar "Hey, Mrs. Anderson" calls. The most heart stopping, I didn't hear "Hey, Mom." Just as his friends that greeted me so warmly have begun new lives at college, so has my Ian. Gave me pause to consider that he is now so far away.

But the boy is doing well. In an effort to grant him his wings, I've only called twice in more than two weeks. Texted twice. Where a little homesickness invaded his world at the beginning, he now says things are going great. Activities joined, classes attended, new friends met. An adventure well on its way.

Ian and his new roommate, Zach.
The family farewell. Ian and I had driven from Austin to Tuscaloosa after flying back from Green Bay. Bob and Jordan drove in from Green Bay. A little rearranging in the midst of schedules gone awry.

I'm not very good with goodbyes, so our last morning whipped by rather quickly. "See you again sometime," is all I mustered before climbing into the car after a quick hug. Shades of the goodbyes my brothers and I shared with my dad, and one my oldest brother, Jon, so eloquently recalled at my dad's service. Thank you, Jon.

A parting glance.

I thank everyone for your most kind thoughts, prayers, and comments from the past two posts. I appreciate the Fragrant Liar's contribution to this blog in my absence. It totally fits that she would choose the photo where she looks best. Ahem! That other blond in the photo? That's our friend, Carolyn, of Backyard Pearls fame.

Okay, now that I've sent you to three different places in one paragraph, time for a bit of relaxation. After my week of solitude spent raking the lake, I had a few friends join me. For some odd august reason, clouds and cool breezes replaced the heat and allowed us to not spend our days dodging the sun. Our focus of the day became taking turns replenishing the drink and food trays. Lazy day indeed.

Just a bunch of old bitties, slacking off. Swimming with the swans.

Back to work.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Raking the Lake

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Kahlil Gibran

Last Monday, I returned once more to the lake after a two-week leave. Two weeks filled with familiar routes on two uncertain journeys. I know the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin very well. For twenty-two years I’ve driven it -- all 23 hours of it. Rarely have I had the opportunity to fly over I-35, I-44, the Mississippi River, I-55, I-39, and I-43.

In previous trips along this route, I wanted the miles to drift by with quick ease, for at the end of the journey, my parents would greet me. But this trip, I didn’t mind watching each farm go slowly by. In fact, I almost wanted to slow down for I knew when I reached my destination, the familiar embrace of my mom would find me, but an unfamiliar welcome from my dad lay ahead. My dad, dying. I didn’t know how to greet that scene.

I had hoped he might pass before I arrived. My dad, his body and mind devoured by Alzheimer’s disease, had fought this ugly demon for ten years. When I walked into his room at the nursing home, my fear of seeing him completely helpless and on his way out dissipated and diluted itself into the excited air of Packer camp brewing down the road at Lambeau Field. After all, he was just my dad -- whom I loved and I knew loved me.

For four days, a seat in a chair beside his bed became a comfortable place.

After he peacefully passed, my family gathered to honor him and celebrate his life. Within 28 hours of his burial, I was on an airplane, passing over the interstates and Mississippi River to return home to prepare for another trip, a day later.

A mere 12-hour drive this time to take my youngest son to college. With previous campus visits behind us, the road now familiar through towns along HWY 31 in Texas and I-20 all the way to Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

My game face on. Once again across the Mississippi to deposit my boy in his new home and encourage him on the grand adventure before him.

Another Mississippi River crossing, tired beyond words and home again, I retreated to the cabin only to discover during my absence, the silky, sandy bottom of the lake had been invaded. Without our watchful eyes, weeds had annexed every inch of our waterfront. Of course, they didn’t choose only us; my neighbor’s plots covered in the garlic smelling green vegetation also.

The languid heat of summer had crept in with indexes and temperatures in the 100’s encouraging the weed growth. With no one tending the floor of the warm water, the squatters took up residence.

I hate weeds. I hate the way they coil around your feet when walking out to swim. I hate knowing they’re down there when I’m floating above them.

These weeds, for which I’m at a loss of heart to research an accurate name, have shallow roots and tiny tendrils that swish across your toes. Rather unobtrusive for the weed world actually. I can use my toes to roost them easily out of the bottom, but this infestation wasn’t like the sprinkling of past years, easily harvested to restore our sandy bottom.

I turned my back on the heat and the lake and slept for two days, letting the weeds have their way. I watched the first two seasons of Mad Men on my laptop. I made a batch of gumbo and ate the entire pot.

On Wednesday, I wrestled a three-foot wide rake from the shed and tackled the lush weed bed.

I began in a grid-like fashion, following up and down the dock, across to the neighbors and back, collecting the weeds in the talons of the rake. I lifted the full catch up through water and spanked them with a harsh clang into piles on the dock. It was easy to follow my route, like walking up one street and down the next.

I tried to mark off my progress in squares, but every once in a while I’d take a crisscross route, to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, my rake yielding a few recluses here and there.

At times I found myself bored with the section I platted. I’d meander making a new pass, marking new territory, winding this way and that. It reminded me of my father’s hearse, or coach as they call them now, weaving its way through the lovely oak covered cemetery trails, finding its way to his final resting place.

As I worked, the lake was calm, quiet and I was alone. Only an occasional jet ski or fishing boat’s motor droned in the distance. No one mowed their lawn nor arrived to pound hammers into the cabins around us enduring endless updates.

Just me, and a few turtles curious as to my motion. A couple of ducks hoping I might break to feed them while the raking of the lake fed me. The peace of my work, underground. Tearing free the weeds, so when I swim, it will only be the gentle sand cushioning my feet.

After five hours of work, more boats joined the lake creating synchronized waves. A breeze erased any remainder of calm water. My arms ached from sifting through two, three, four feet of water. I climbed the ladder and sat on the dock.

My arms tingling.


Rejoining life.

With sincere gratitude, I thank the Fragrant Liar for hosting during my absence.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

On Leaving Footprints

Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never ever the same.

– Flavia Weedn

Hello, Friends of Midlife Jobhunter,

Julie is away from home for a little while, spending some precious hours in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her father, who is not doing well. So she's asked me, Fragrant Liar, to guest post. And though she didn't ask me to roast her, I kinda thought it would be fun.

As a writer, one of my favorite subjects is the relationship between friends—particularly women friends, which is sometimes surprisingly hard to come by and therefore all the more valuable and special when you are blessed with it. I couldn't write engaging four-dimensional characters if I didn't have real-life examples to draw from, like Julie.

What I like most about Julie is that she's down to earth, unpretentious, and says what she thinks. This allows us to cut right through the bull I usually like to sling around. Why, in the 9 or 10 years we've been friends, Julie has been known to say the most loving friendship stuff to me. Here are just some of my favorites:
  • Most memorable party invitation: You better show up.

  • Most constructive comment on my manuscript: No.

  • Best cure for boredom: More wine?

  • Best simultaneous activity while star gazing: More wine?

  • Most shared sentiment on a group project: I'm sick of this shit.

  • On raising three sons (vs my 4 daughters): Pink? What's pink?

  • Most dreaded suggestion for joining her at the lake: Don't forget your suit.

  • Most useful advice: So did you dump his ass?

  • When assigned to create a positive affirmation for ME: I hope I get to come see you in Florida.
Real friends leave footprints in your mind and heart -- sometimes on your ego -- always on your character.

Jules, take care of your pops, and treasure the time you have with your family.

Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Home Wrecker

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we.
Michel de Montaigne, translated

I've destroyed a family, or two.

For the past couple years, we've had a family of Barn Swallows living in our dock eaves. We like them. They sit on the fan above us and sing to us. We watch as their young awaken and the parents tend and protect them, teach them to soar the sky and eat the spiders and mosquitoes living around us. They keep a neat nest and have a lovely song.

On another eave, we've had a sparrow family. I've lain in my hammock and watched that mother push her young out of the nest and down the railing, letting them know their time to explore on their own has arrived. One day last year I observed an eight hour process from pushing the babies away to their actual flight. (Wish raising my own kids had been that easy.)

The Swallows and Sparrows appeared to live in relative peace until this year. The Bird Wars have begun. Apparently in this mottled sparrow mess of collected treasures, the eggs did not hatch.

Which caused the male sparrow to stake out another space and claim the entire dock as his domain. With relentless fervor, he and his female crew began nest making in various spaces, including the swallow nests. Messy nests. Eggs galore.

The swallows relocated their nest to the neighbor's dock, but the neighbors promptly removed it. These human inhabitants also spray constantly for spiders and fog their entire yard to kill any bugs. Seems rather futile to me - we are at the lake.

After a few days back in town, I returned to the cabin. From our front window I saw a flurry of activity down on the dock. With my binoculars, I watched a flustered female sparrow pick up stray nest pieces in her beak, a tad frantic as to how to get them back in place. I assumed the swallows had returned to reclaim their own home and deflect the new building. A walk on the the dock proffered indeed the discovery of broken eggs on the ground, their yellow yolks on the sun-warmed wood looking like a miniature fried egg.

Finally having an opportunity to string a couple of days together to mimic a compete slug and hibernate in my hammock, I found myself engulfed in the middle of these bird wars swarming above me. Seemed a nonstop daily cycle of rebuilding and destruction of homes. The swallows flying through the spires of the dock patrolling the area. No physical fights, just a show of unity and diligence on the part of the swallows. The sparrows - domineering and invasive, unwavering. I decided to intervene.

I had my tallest son - 6'3" climb the ladder and remove the sparrow messes from the swallow nests. And, the extra ones they had started on other rafters. We only cleaned up the nest with the unhatched eggs, as the grasses and collected pieces of feather and matter in that nest dangled like two feet of hanging trash. Following Linda at Wander to the Wayside's lead, I hoped that the nest with lifeless eggs and the loss of their new makeshift nests might force the sparrows to relocate to another dock. My swallows could live in peace. Me, too.

I stayed for a while that afternoon, awaiting the response. The male and female sparrow arrived at their dismantled swallow nest and displayed quiet distress. The female leaned her head against her mates neck for a moment, then flew off. The male, took a few of the loose strands of grass remaining from our cleanup and placed them gently inside the nest.

A tender moment, I'd experienced. I felt like a beast.

Upon leaving the lake later that day, I wondered what might occur while I returned to my home and tended the flock living there. When I returned to the cabin a few days later, armed with my new Google research on the invasive sparrow empire in North America, I worried about my swallows. I found their original nest remained clear. However, another haphazard sparrow nest loomed above me in the rafters. But only one. Seemed the swallows with their tell-tale forked tails had gathered in force - the parents and both sets of babies born this year joined and running recon. One alighting on the fan, while several sat on the eaves, and when the male sparrow inched his way toward the swallow nest, two to three swallows huddled, emphasizing their presence.
Mr. Sparrow keeping watch, never giving up, never giving in.

The swallows equally vigilant.

I question my involvement in this process, that I turn up my nose to my neighbors decisions of chasing away the birds, hanging fake owls, and spraying weekly for spiders. But, I, too, have intervened in the process of nature. Even though I only sought peace for all of them, I chose one over the other. Difficult.

Meanwhile, my birdie looks on.

Happy to visit the lake and spend his mornings outside talking to all his friends as they fly by. Another piece of nature I have to admit I control.


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