The squirrel isn’t baffled by the shape of the new bird feeders installed
inside the lilac; his tail flirts, second by second, a hummingbird’s cousin,
as he chases the pressure-treated T to grab millet and peanuts, then scamper away.
The doves do not mourn, they just bill and coo as they hop on the ground,
tip-head chicken-pecking at black oil sunflower seed, their preferred feed.
Their tails bob in weird counterpoint to their fat bodies and wee, tiny heads.
This year there aren’t any pigeons or seagulls, though come February or so,
I’ll resist the urge to chuck stale bread in inedible chunks from the porch so those giant pests leave some for the sparrows, the starlings, the other smaller brown birds;
that murderous want will remain despite how that late in the winter,
those unfallen sparrows are the fattest things in the county, almost too big to fly.
Their small, symmetrical shapes are a soothing roundness against the bright red fruit
they’ve disdained to eat from the ornamental crab tree,
the yellow points of rose leaves still twined against the grey-stained trellis
they perch on in hordes, their fat silhouettes clouding the top of the fence
the demented old neighbors next door are convinced is a declaration of war.
Dad hogs the pantry window, waiting for cardinals and blue jays, the woodpecker
with its red crest and habit of darting in at the suet.
He highlights those flashes of color against the now-drab of the yard,
the dormant raised beds and the mulch of spent seed hulls
and guano. I like the blood-orange beak and dull coat of the lady cardinal myself,
the way she seeks cover, here and gone again if we have not done our job
of putting the seed far enough under a bush. On any given day, though, I’ll feed
and be fed by whatever wings in.
Schmutzie has a great post here about quitting the “like” option on FB and how it changed her feed and her interactions with people for the better. It reminds me of blogging 1.0, when we were all on blogger and there WAS NO LIKE BUTTON AND WE ALL USED NETSCAPE for a browser AND WE LIKED IT (ahem) THAT WAY. Uphill, both ways, on a 28.8 bit modem. Rah. Hipsters on my internet lawn.
I say in my “about” page that I don’t “like” back a lot of people who stop by & like posts– and that’s not because I don’t appreciate that you stopped by & took the time to read, but because I am a bit of a blog-luddite-curmudgeon, and, while I admit, my time is limited and I am really bad about being social at visiting everyone who stops by and leaving comments, (and thank you, again, for visiting) I started blogging when you either lurked or took the leap to leave a comment and engaged and took the risk of either being ignored by the big name bloggers out there, or of making good friends for life with your fellow denizens of the ‘tubes.
I have re-made the commitment to reply back to everyone who does leave a comment– and now I need to take that next step again and not just reply but visit back (or email, for those of you who do not have blogs, *gasp*) for everyone who comments, and to make the time to explore and see about expanding that internet circle from the one I started back before there were mobile platforms and a laptop still weighed over ten pounds. : ) So– no, I won’t “like” your blog. But if you leave a comment or question, I will reply, and I will get out of my curmudgeonly shell and visit, just like at the dawn of the tubes when there was no like button at all.
I’m going to thumbs-down the thumbs-up. How about you?
It takes time to rebuild what one tempest brings down. (Tempest in literal hours or metaphor as months or years, pick your perspective.) First, you’ve got to cut back the wreckage of roses, years’ worth of beautiful growth, heirlooms and hybrids, all tangled and thorny and a veritable reminder of what you’ve left lying dormant too long, then let it lie until the blooms have died back and you’ve filled all the vases all over the house with the beauty that still (still) is there, no matter the mess of it all.
And then, when it’s all been cut back, runners and canes gone to ground and all of the pruned bits are bundled and bagged and then (inspiration!) why don’t you have stackable trashcans for this (the old dog has tricks in her yet, because you may be a bitch but that term doesn’t mean anything here in the yard) it’s all set aside and you’ve even remembered the date for yard waste pickup (it feels good to be organized, like a real adult, yes it does) you’ve got to pull down the wreck of the wood you put up with some kind of “help” decades ago. Now, power and hand tools and pry bars and sledgehammers at hand, your shoulders and arms ache in different ways than they did when the trellis went up the first time, when much shouting and swearing about levels and measures and the “right” way occurred, when really, roses don’t care as long as there’s some kind of solid support. Eight-five degrees versus ninety won’t kill a wild thing as long as the inches and feet all add up and the ends meet, more or less. (Now your eyes sting with sweat and sawdust and your arms shake with effort, but you shoulder the support beams yourself as you pry them away where the masonry anchors are rusted fast to the wall, and that rip-crack feels good, in a way, saying something final the tempest did not. Destruction can be good for the soul.)
And then it’s time to rebuild. There’s the handheld masonry bit, your grandpa’s whom you never knew except through his tools and this house with its ancient wiring that holds, that and the set of your father’s chin, just like his dad’s in the photographs on top of the silent piano. The chink of old iron against stone is satisfaction itself, the reverberation through your body from the bit/hammer/swing of your arm placing new anchors (ones that you bought without interference from dudes who may well have wanted to help, but you’ve got Storey’s Wisdom and the internet, too, not to mention a basement full of a dead master contractor’s bits, bolts and bobs and why not put history to your own use, this time?). There’s a feel not just of power but of placement, creation, in the whir-grind-hot burr of the old (as old as you) Skil power drill, extended from the garage thanks to the trench you dug through the yard two years ago and the line you had laid out from the house (sometimes it’s okay to accept you have your limits) as the special concrete bits dig in and bite, take anchor and pull you forward as you push, cast your anchors in stone and then set your planks, two by four by eight hardwood cut to fit the wonky dimensions of mortar and stone.
Vertical struts go on first, drilled and anchored and screwed as the sun crosses the sky and hits your neck and shoulders around the crabapple tree (and today you don’t look up for Icarus, no, today you’re not flying too close or falling, not trying and failing, glorious in momentary success, today you’re just a gardener, because catching a fish feeds you one day, but fixing your garden feeds you for months in more than just the physical way), and then once they’re done, the horizontal slatwork, easy, compared, but un-anchored and needing more verticals to hold the whole rigging in place. It’s a sailboat of sorts, though it’s a ship that sails with the seasons and sun, and not with the wind– at least, you hope not for a while, not like the last blow that brought the last bout of hard work cracking down.
And then last but not least, the oil stain, rubbed on by hand as the ladder teeters a bit underfoot– but it’s not far to the ground, and you’re not wearing wax wings, nor will you be hurt by more than some thorns (would that thorns were all that could hurt us), because you’ve been careful in your construction to pick up the nails, screws and bolts as you go, to be tidy and not leave too much scrap because as you’ve worked, the roses have already budded green, inches and feet gained back from the retraining you gave them at the start of this all. There’s a moment of silence for the dragonfly who flew too close and was wing-splattered with stain. He is still, stiff by the time you see him, resting on top of a thatch of Lillian Gibson’s regrowth, a fingernail’s worth of driftwood-colored weatherproofing forever stilling his flight. It’s an unworthy thought, to think that some flies must die so that things bigger than them can live, but still, there’s something else, if not worthy, than worthwhile of acceptance: even when you’re rebuilding a rose trellis with as much care as you can, you can’t look everywhere all the time, and there are bound to be splits in the wood, spots that you’ve missed, and tempests that you cannot predict, somewhere, off, outside the yard.
Too, it’s a comfort to know (grounding, it is) that just you, Storey’s Wisdom, a well-planned trip to Lowe’s, and the contents of your dad’s and grandfather’s basement built you something your roses, crabapples, and other things to be fruitful and counted-upon in the future, built this all by yourself, give or take five degrees. You’ve taken a measure, and somehow, it fits.
Politely declined the invitation to contribute to the Policemens’ Benevolent Association. Called the ACLU, wallet in hand.
Me: (Smears cream cheese onto the back of the really good oatmeal cookies from work. Hand one to Dad, keep one for me.)
Dad: (Eats one bite, eyeing cookie skeptically. Chews. Swallows. Snarfs the rest. Clears throat.) Are you TRYING to kill me? (Grabs for the tub of cream cheese.)
The easiest way to win solitude, quickly,
is to answer with truth
when you ask “how are you?”
If only I’d known it far sooner.
Sometimes I think back and wonder what the hell I was thinking,
staying so long with someone whose objection to cats was cat hair
and the commitment that might be involved in getting someone
to feed them if we ever went on the vacations we didn’t take all that much,
that and protecting all that hand-me-down furniture we never paid for.
I could have been cuddling (for decades) a wet-nosed purr-ball of love
instead of someone afraid of mess and commitment. After all,
if you can’t fix it with duct tape, a swiffer, and other friends
who have cats, you need to reexamine your choices.
I’m off to the pound.