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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Summer Solstice

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7:00 pm sunlight on the solstice

Sweet Summer Solstice. I went down to the water alone tonight to take in the warm breeze and late light. Listened to the grass whisper and the birds call. A birder shared his telescope with me and I watched a baby tree swallow waiting open-mouthed for his mama, who returned without food, and the baby’s brow furrowed in frustration. Oystercatchers were perched in the distance.

Later, Chris and I went outside to look for the Strawberry Moon and found the first fireflies glowing in the backyard.

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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.

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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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Poetry: 81/365

At art school in France twenty years ago, I studied with the poet Gustaf Sobin. I still have the slim red composition book from that class. He was the first writing mentor who inspired me; the first writer I’d encountered who was so deft at teaching craft. One day he forgot an appointment to go over my work, and later left a note of apology in the most fantastic handwriting, signed, “with ashes on my head, Gustaf.”

Tonight I found this poem that held echoes of the day. We’d gone for a walk and found the eagle atop a telephone pole with his prey, a helpless duck. The eagle plucked and plucked with his sharp beak, feathers falling like big flakes of snow. The duck, black with blood, shuddered, then went limp. We were uncomfortably close. The eagle took off, dead duck in his talons. I kneeled on the pavement, collected black feathers streaked with iridescent blue.

 

Intrigue In The Trees
by JOHN BREHM

Often I wonder:
Is the earth trying to get
rid of us, shake us off,
drown us, scorch us
to nothingness?
To save itself and all other
creatures slated for extinction?
The trees around here
seem friendly enough —
stoic, philosophically inclined
toward nonjudgmental
awareness and giving
in their branchings
perfect examples
of one thing becoming two
and remaining one —
but who knows
what they really feel?
Just last night I was walking
to my favorite cafe,
the Laughing Goat,
when I saw a flock of crows
circling raincloudy sky,
arguing, speaking strangely,
suddenly alight on
a maple tree, dozens of them
closing down their wings
like arrogant, ill-tempered
magistrates. Some kind
of consultation
was happening there,
some plan unfolding
(animals think we’re crazy
for thinking they can’t think),
and everybody was looking up,
looking up and watching.

 

Building: 71/365

Wings Spread

We’re on eagle watch every day around here. Sometimes all we have to do is look up in the sky, and there they are. Chris is the dedicated one, photographing them every morning and every evening. He even went out during the storm two nights ago to see how the nest was faring.

The eagles have been working on two nests, one in a tall pine in a new location, and the one pictured here, in the original woods not far from their old nest. Initially it looked like they would take up residence in the pine, but over the last few weeks it’s become clear they’ve chosen the nest in the woods.

The eagles spent so much time and energy creating two structures (and Chris suspects a third, a ground nest in the marsh), but they may only end up using one. It struck me as a metaphor for writing, the investment of time and energy. Building and building, uncertain of the outcome. That’s how I’m feeling right now; I’m putting in the hours, but I can’t be sure how it’s all going to turn out.

The Joy of Age 2: 59/365

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I love age 2. Exactly where we are right now at 26 months old.

I love my daughter’s laugh, when her heart-shaped mouth blooms into a smile and her head tilts back and she laughs so hard I can see every bright white tooth, rosy apple cheeks pushing her eyes into happy crescents.

I love that she’s able to repeat any word I say: triceratops, guacamole, spectacular. I am in awe of the way she strings words into sentences. I love our conversations.

I love watching her deftly manage a spoon. The way she requests cinnamon for her yogurt. The way she calls it yogurk.

I love watching her climb and navigate obstacles. I love watching her play. Scooping up dirt with her shovel and dumping it into the bucket, and then dumping the bucket out and beginning again. Discovering an old board in the yard that bounces, and balancing her way across.

I love the way she cajoles and charms, especially for breastmilk. She knows that things are changing and I’m not always up for nursing, so she smiles irresistibly and makes an “L” shape with her finger and thumb and says, “Lil bit more milka.”

I love to listen to her count and recite the alphabet.

I love the way she will sometimes call to us the way she hears us call to each other, “Sarah! Chris!” and “hey, babe!”

I love the way she cares for her cats and notices the birds, squirrels, deer, and turkeys. The way she says, “shhh” when we walk by the spot in the woods where the owl lives. The way she shouts, “bald eagle!” The way she collects stones and puts them in her pockets.

I love the way she pretends her doll is crying, and then holds the doll to her chest and sways back and forth humming, hmmm hmmm hmmm. I love the way she makes up stories with her dollhouse people just like I did.

I love that she loves dinosaurs and knows nothing of princesses.

I love watching her delight in a St. Patrick’s Day parade. Waving, clapping, running across the green, making friends, holding hands, dancing.

I love the process of learning to sing. The way she asks me to pick her up, hold her hand like a dance partner and twirl around. Then commands, “Sing Down by the Bay, mama!” The way she sometimes repeats the lines and other times sings along with me. The way she tests her voice as it moves from speech to song. It’s one of those unanticipated miracles you stumble upon during parenthood.

There are so many of these little miracles unfolding every instant. I wish I could cast a net big enough to catch them all. I’m sure I will wake up tomorrow with a fresh list.

 

 

 

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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