To Everyone in All the World

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A few days ago my birdie girl said, “Is it an owl? Who who! Or is it a mourning dove?” Sometimes I think if I could solve these toddler riddles, we could save the world.

Today she asks, “Are you happy, mama?”

“Yes, I’m happy, bug.”

“It’s going to be alright,” she assures me anyway.

In the car, her current favorite song is Raffi’s “To Everyone in All the World.” A fun little ditty that goes, “To everyone in all the world, I reach my hand I shake their hand. To everyone in all the world, I shake my hand like this. All all together, the whole wide world around, I may not know their lingo, but I can say by jingo, no matter where you live we can shake hands.”

We sing it again and again, “all all together, the whole wide world around” as we drive through the afternoon’s thunder and pouring rain, washing me clean of the divisive language circling through cyberspace.

In the store, she says “hi!” to every single person she encounters. She extends her warmth and kindness without hesitation. And nearly every time, a smile and greeting is returned. There is more power than we realize in our everyday exchanges. No matter what is happening in the world, we can always smile and say hello, we can always choose to be kind.

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Photo credit: Dreamstime

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Fierce and Fragile

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This fickle Spring will not decide. Rain and cold and gusting winds have made a perilous beginning for the robins. The cedar bends and sways while the mama holds her perch in the tidy nest. She hops around, chirping her warnings when we come near. I wonder if I will ever cease to feel it in my heart, tenderness for the fierce and fragile new mother, creator and nurturer of life. The awesomeness of that responsibility.

(Post 118 of 365)

Bright Green Warm Happy


Mid-May sunshine day, green leaf trees, lilacs in full bloom. At least five projects begun but not finished. A small pocket of time spent editing when I should’ve been writing. Toddlers at the water table. Little birds everywhere. And a robin nesting in our cedar tree.

Some days success is measured simply by how patient and present I am with my little one. Bright green warm happy.

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Ode to April: 88/365

I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.

But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.

Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.

The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.

We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.

Believer: 87/365

I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through twelfth grade. Even my college was Catholic-affiliated.

Today I think of Catholicism as an old family tradition.

If asked whether I identify with a particular religion or philosophy, I would say I’m a secular humanist. A secular humanist who believes in miracles.

Or maybe I am closer to Lakota, believer in the Great Spirit that animates us all. Tree and wind, earth and sun, bird and buffalo.

When I was waiting for my daughter, I called on every one of them: ancestors, saints, trees, wind, water, animals, poetry, song.

Birds: 54/365

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Lidia Yuknavitch says we have to look for what repeats in our work; this is how we find our metaphors.

In the tag cloud on my homepage, I watch the word “bird” becoming bigger and bigger as it’s used more frequently.

Chris now sets out for the eagles with his camera at first light.

As I’m folding laundry in Isabella’s room, it occurs to me that the three drawings hanging on her walls are of birds. I began a small series of pencil drawings during the time I was trying to get pregnant, as one year gave over to the next and it all felt so uncertain, so endless. Drawing felt meditative and grounding.

I’m not sure what all these birds mean, but it seems worth taking note.

 

 

Birdwatching: 50/365

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“You cannot share your life with a dog… or a cat, and not know perfectly well that animals have personalities and minds and feelings.”

 Jane Goodall

Chris continues to faithfully track the eagles and document their progress. They’ve left the woods and taken up residence in a tall pine on a street nearby. He’s captured photos of them with their talons full of reeds and one with a wishbone-shaped branch in her beak culled from their former tree. This photo is one of my favorites, the expression of joy on the bird’s face, so distinctly different from the expressions of distress in my post two weeks ago.

The eagles are working hard to build the new nest themselves. Eagles can be bullies and often overtake the nest of a hawk or osprey, capitalizing on the hard work of another bird, as they did with the nest in the woods. It seems they aren’t taking chances this time. They astutely scouted out a stronger tree and are building from scratch.

The same day Chris captured this photo of the eagle in her new home, he tracked them back to the woods that evening, to their original tree. This struck me as profound, the pair perched precisely where their first nest had been, where their egg had fallen. What does this say about their internal life, their grief and rituals, their connectedness to their unborn offspring and former home, their resiliency, their intelligence?

As much as I love spotting them in the sky, I wouldn’t be able to contemplate their behavior if it weren’t for Chris’ passion and keen eye. I’m grateful to him for capturing the story as it unfolds, for the privilege of being able to study wildlife behavior up close, to observe them as they cope like any of the rest of us with happenstance, the changing weather, the things we can control and the things we can’t.

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Updates: 44/365

I’m not very good with numbers. Or dates. They’re just not something I pay attention to unless I have to. So it took 43 posts before I noticed – before my sister noticed actually – that last night’s post had a date stamp of March 3, not March 2. It never occurred to me that the blog’s timezone defaults to London time (UTC +0). So I figured out how to update the timezone setting, but it means all my posts from 1 through 43 that were published in the evening are stamped with the wrong date. It wouldn’t bother me so much except that this is a daily practice, and though I haven’t missed a day, the date stamp says different. I’m wondering if there’s any way it can be fixed…

For anyone who read my post Reverence a few days back, I’m happy to report that I spotted one of the eagles this morning swooping over our yard. When Chris went to investigate, he found them with branches in their beaks, rebuilding. Chris had some of his photos featured by the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and has officially earned the new nickname Bird Nerd. He captured this photo this morning of a great horned owl who resides in the same woods as the eagles. Birds are wondrous creatures, aren’t they?

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Garden: 42/365

Sunshine driving the harsh chill from the air, the birds making their announcements, the days stretching out just a little longer before the sun sinks purple and pink into the marsh. Almost Spring, teetering on the cusp. I imagine everything green again. And we start talking about the garden. Chris says, hot peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes. I say, sunflowers, lettuce, peas, beans, cucumbers, carrots. We have some raised beds out back that will need new soil. Should we do any container gardening? Let’s make bean poles from driftwood! I wish we’d been composting. We’ll need a wheelbarrow. I haven’t grown a garden in six years. I picture Isabella watering the plants with her tiny watering can, picking strawberries, biting into ripe tomatoes. Warm sunshine, warm dirt. I cannot wait to get my hands in the dirt.

Reverence: 37/365

 

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A storm rolled in at midnight, lighting up the bedroom. Big cracks of thunder. The wind coming off the water gusted over the roof like it might tear it off. It was enough to wake Isabella, but she wasn’t bothered by it.

I thought of the eagles in their nest in the patch of woods a block away. How they must be hunkered deep protecting their new eggs. The sway of those high branches, the rain pelting tucked wings. What a night to endure high up in a tree. I thought of the three squirrels who dwell in the thick hollowed out branch of our backyard maple. And the small birds, the woodpeckers, cardinals, blue jays and robins, who frequent our feeder. I lay listening to the storm wishing them all safe refuge. I think about us all being made of the same life force embodied in different physical forms. I think about it as a family value, unspoken but understood among the three of us, a deep respect, a reverence for all life. I think less about instilling this value in my daughter and more about the way she instilled this in me with her birth, her very existence.

In the course of writing this post this morning, alternately doing dishes and sitting slumped at the computer indian-style, breastfeeding the two-year old in my lap while my hands fly across the keyboard, I see the eagle swooping, soaring from the window. I scoop up Isabella and run barefoot and jacketless in pajamas out the back door onto the wet deck to get a better look. There she is, soaring against the new blue sky. I call to Chris who’s upstairs, “Get the camera, they’re putting on a show!” He dresses and rushes out, walks up to the woods with the camera.

He returns a half hour later with the news that the nest is gone, and with it their two new eggs. The spectacular swoop and soar from the woods to our house and back again is one of distress. Chris says, “She’s screeching. She’s beside herself.” Isabella is in my lap, our cheeks pressed together as we watch the eagle fly low and straight over us. “Do you see that?” I say. “The mama eagle is flying.” And she says, “Eagle! We have to give her food!” She has the right idea, wanting to help in some way. But as with so much of life, all we can do is watch, pay attention, and with reverence, bear witness.

Photo credit goes to my nature-loving husband, Chris Bousquet, who can name all the birds and plants and trees. 

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