Eastern is Ailing

Few sadder tales are told

Than the course of this dastardly cold

Muzzy and drooping, raspy and crouping

Fast in a virus’s hold


Sickly I sit in my chair

Eyeing the gloom out there

Chill winter day, not even a jay

To lighten the lachrymose air


A novel limply in hand

A famous brotherly band

With Russian names vexing and motives perplexing

I wish I cared more but I can’t


O dreadful deadening curse

Could ever this cold get worse?

It could and it will, but life grips me still

And lo, I behold a new verse!


A poem of a yard this place

Where feathers have brushed my face

And now in this hour of plague so dour

a phoebe flashes its grace!


Sweet bird of Nature’s art

Dark phoebe stirs my heart

His long tail dips, away he zips

Then back to his perch like a dart


Strong and sure he seems

This creature of bubbling streams

A positive yearning for phoebe returning

To dance her sprightly dreams


But meanwhile my aching frame

Again forgets its name

So back to bed my concrete head

Till it’s time to get back in the game

Coming to My Senses

In this morning’s post, Richard Rohr recommended an all-senses meditation.  He noted our need to come back to our original bodily knowing. That we cannot do all our thinking with our minds.  That during times of stress, “remembering how to come back to our bodies can be tremendously beneficial.” I trust Father Richard. So I tried it.


What did I see?  Dark outside. Beloved desk, in the lamplight. What did I taste? Coffee with cream. What did I smell? Impossible to define enchantment of familiar house. What were my touch-sensations?  Elbow on formica, chin in hand, bare feet on the floor. Stomach growling. Air on my skin.


What did I hear? Ah, glad you asked.


Loudest was the eternal rush of passing carbon emissions on Major. Lower notes were refrigerator and HVAC humming, faraway rumble of a train.  That was pretty much it.


But now the backyard is waking. As it always does, with variations of season and weather. Ah there I go, thinking and remembering and assigning meaning!


Back to immediate perceptions:  Sleepy twitterings.  Emphatic proclamation: “see-bee-see-bay.” Now the first solemn “cheer, cheer” of this day. (It gets more cheerful as he continues.) Shadow-tail thundering across the roof.


Interesting that the emotions called up by this exercise are more than I expected and curiously paired:


Gratitude, and grief. Exhilaration, and cut to the heart. Presence, and absence. Dawning light, and gathering shadow. Thank you, Father Richard.


To What Shall I Lichen Thee?

Storm over, I emerged from our house to check the mail.  On a sea of sparkling green neath our Chinese elm I found a beautiful lichen attached to a boatlike curl of bark.  I’ve learned to pay attention when things appear at my feet, as if gifted.  So I brought this organism into the house and gave it a place of honor on a paper towel next to my desk.  It dried out, became less green and more gray. Something about it continues to captivate me.


Did you know a lichen is a dual organism?  For mutual benefit, an algae moves in to the filaments of a fungi, producing a tight pair-bond known as lichen!  Lichens grow very slowly indeed and live a really, really long time.  Lichens grow on bark, leaves, mosses … or other lichens. They grow on rocks, walls, gravestones, roofs, dirt … Some estimate that they cover 6% of Earth’s land surface.


Which brings us to the Thicket.

“And further, deep into the thicket.” [Saint John of the Cross]:


Only last week it was reported to me and interested others that 137 species of lichen have been counted in our own neck of the woods, that is to say, the Big Thicket National Preserve. Two of these are new to the state of Texas. Well, new to our awareness, anyway.


Here is my own beauty, resting on a Taxa Tally:



This week I came across the following excerpt from BUZZARD EGGS and other big thicket recollections, by A.R. Fillingim (1897-1977):


Did you ever see a buzzard nest? If not, you might never see one … When it comes time to build a nest, they look until they find the thickest part of the woods, the most difficult for a person to get into, and make their nest … After I was grown I spent about twenty-five years living in the Thicket and I found three or four buzzard nests. One thing that I learned about them that surprised me was that they like pretty things and appreciate beauty. Who would think that a buzzard ever had a beautiful thought? At the nests I found, while the young ones were still in the nest, there were pieces of chinaware that had pretty flowers painted on the pieces, and pieces of glass that were blue or green—just anything that Mama or Papa buzzard thought was pretty. I suppose they wanted to give the little ones a bright outlook on life when they first entered the world.


I have never seen a buzzard nest, and now I know why.


But back in September I met a buzzard.  She was a hard luck case — hit during her dinner on the side of a road, rescued, and rehabilitated.  She will not fly again.  So she cannot be released to resume her life as a wild thing.  I see no beautiful thoughts behind that captive visage. Do you?


But after reading A.R.’s recollection, the hope did waft into my mind that perhaps the memory of “play-pretties” in her nest of origin keeps her outlook as bright as possible under the circumstances.


How “play-pretties” got into my vocabulary, I couldn’t say. The collective subconscious?


Following this train of thought, I looked up the definition of “play-pretty” in an on-line regional dictionary. I was amazed to find it used in a sentence as follows:


1913: ” The children have few toys other than rag dolls, broken bits of crockery for ‘play-purties,’ and such ‘ridey-hosses’ and so forth as they make for themselves.”


Here’s to collecting pretty bits and pieces,  little esteemed in some eyes, but precious to ours.





Another Gym Report

January 9:  Today the singers on the soundtrack mostly behaved themselves.  Something about Havana, something about I like it when you call me senorita, something about thunder and lightning, something about work hard play hard, and my favorite:  Seems this guy wasn’t feeling that great but then he went to the club with his girl.  When they took to the dance floor,  everyone there just froze in amazement at how fine they looked.  He couldn’t say it enough times:  All eyes were on them.  And now the guy feels a little better.

I’m really glad for him.  As he ages, he may find that he prefers less attention.  And, he will get it.  Just saying.

Thus passed the weight machine part of my workout.

Then, into the shadowy sanctuary of the aerobic room.  Put up the yoga in session sign, close the glass door, the soundtrack turns to a dull thump of background noise, and peace descends.  Even more peace than usual, for I’ve inadvertently managed to change the setting of our yoga DVD from “full instruction” to “minimal instruction,” and I can’t figure out how to change it back.  Now, our virtual Rodney Yee is disconcertingly terse.  Just calls out the poses.  No finer points, no letting us know how well we’re doing.  Good thing my yoga partner and I have many years of this DVD under our belts.  If we don’t know what to do by now, well…

And so we work at strong and nimble. No one is frozen in amazement.  But we do feel a little better!

When I Was Young

One night when I was a young mother of two—a toddler and a newborn—I went to sleep feeling overwhelmed and not good enough. I dreamed, and in my dream I stood on the corner of E. Fourth Street and Vine, Prescott, Arkansas, waiting for my grandfather—William Robert Hambright—to walk home from the bank where he worked.

How many times I stood on that corner as a girl, anticipating that beloved figure.  How excited I would be when after what seemed an eternity I spied long-legged Pop, and the coat and hat he wore, coming toward me.

Now, this dream happened in 1984, five years after Pop died.  Yet in my dream, there he was, alive again.  At a distance he was just a dot, but by the emotion I felt, I knew him.  As he came closer I saw the familiar coat and hat, and I was filled with such joy.

Interestingly, Pop walked with another man—same height, dressed like Pop.  As they drew near, my eyes were only for Pop, and his delighted eyes were only for me.  We did not embrace but simply radiated love. Then, after a few words between us, he turned to his companion, whose face I could not quite make out, and Pop said, “This is my granddaughter. She lives in Beaumont, Texas.  She has two little boys, and she’s doing a fine job of being their mother.” The companion said nothing, revealed no expression.  I’m pretty sure he already knew. But the words wanted to be said.


Bright Sunshine Saturday

Three friends motored to Orange this morning, to Shangri-la Botanical Gardens.   Our mission was to remove ornaments from two outdoor Christmas trees we decorated last month to represent the Big Thicket Association and Texas Master Naturalists. As a kinswoman of blessed memory used to say:  “Christmas is OVER.” At least the outward manifestation.

Our work was quickly accomplished.  On our way out of the Gardens with our boxes of bird ornaments, we paused for some live birds:  big tree swarming with robins and some tiny grey and yellow models. For these, we decided “goldfinch” was close enough to an ID.  But then a few minutes later we saw a man with a camera.  Figuring that made him official,  we asked him about the little birds.  Quoth he: “Pine warblers.”  Now we know.


On the road home one of us spied a hawk on a power line. We retraced our route, for a closer look.    We eased our car pretty close under him. We agreed it was a red-shouldered hawk. After a few pointed glances from those dark raptor eyes, we took his message, and moved along, happy to have seen a buteo.  What is a buteo? You may well ask.  It’s a class of hawks who are stockier and more compact than some.  A red-shouldered hawk is a buteo. A buteo can also be a red-tailed hawk, a broad-winged hawk, a short-tailed hawk, a Swainson’s hawk, a rough-legged hawk … well, you get the picture.