Cuttings

As a senior (wait, what? I’m still a young thing!) held mostly at home by pandemic, beset by the chill of dread that haunts us all, I’m at the same time strangely warmed by an unlooked for grace that makes me rise with a smile and work happily all day. Creating. Generating. It’s as if all the experiences and findings of my long life have found me. Something wants to be done with all this treasure.  As if it matters.  Does it? I hope so. I’ve heard that when love flows in, you are not to be endpoint but conduit.

 

Mary Oliver’s Instructions for Life:  Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.

 

So, an outflow of poems and pictures and iMovies.  Well and good.  But sometimes I miss something.  It’s true that we don’t notice what we don’t notice.

 

For instance, I’ve been rejoicing in the inexplicable surge of my old hoya vine, which has sat greenly on my sun porch for many years, and is now in a frenzy of pink I can only hope is not its last hurrah.

IMG_1824.jpg

This was a gift from a friend, and before that a gift from a friend.  By propagation.

 

Now comes this vine to the attention of another friend, who asked briskly, “Why haven’t you taken a cutting for me?”  When I replied lamely that I never thought to, and besides I don’t know how, she said all you have to do is cut a piece and stick it in a jar of water.

 

So, next pause in Miss Hoya’s furious blooming, I carried her to the sink, unwound her – finding several new buds! – and took a cutting.  We shall see if that’s really all you have to do.

IMG_1859.jpg

 

Reptilian Moves

I’m enjoying the antics of the immature neighborhood hawk.  Active from dawn to dusk, sailing from tree to tree, perching in the Chinese elm, calling out his high hoarse kee-ee! kee-ee!  The songbirds are invisible.

 

Other morning the hawk and I shared a pleasant time in “our” back yard.  It was fun to watch him in his tree, snaking his head from side to side, the better to see what was traversing the airspace above us.  Together we saw high fast flights of doves, egrets, chimney swifts. We spied pink. Roseate spoonbill, I told him.  And no you can’t eat him.

 

Snaking his head. You heard that right.  The sinuosity of his neck reminded me that birds are dinosaurs with feathers.

 

This morning’s reptilian move was inside.  What should I spy in the corner by my bathtub but a very young ribbon snake?  I mastered my terror enough to admire his dark-eyed striped beauty and sympathize with his waving about predicament.  How did I get here? What do I do next? (We both wondered to ourselves.)

 

By the time I got back with a jar and enough courage to help him into it, he was gone.  Where is he now? One may well ask.  Sadly, I don’t know.

 

 

Nest 3 Chronicles: a Huge Sigh of Relief

From Day One she knew it.

The large shred of white plastic she wove into her nest was wrong.

Unnerving, with its bold blue letters.

Like a dress that looked good in the fitting room, but oh my, when you get it home:

What was I thinking??

Well, a dress can go back to the store (could, in the old days)

Or into the closet of hope.

But this! In her face, till the children leave home.

Oh say can you see

How it billows annoyingly?

I’ve glimpsed her tugging

Like the dress tugged one more time over matronly midriff

Which is not going anywhere.

Then she would set the remorse aside

To help someone struggle out of a shell

Or do centering prayer with her husband

Or catch a break to stretch her wings.

This morning she was at it again:

I curse the day I found this miserable shred.

And lo, it came free!

Came free and she settled with a huge sigh

Back onto her babies.

Interfering me, I wondered if I should go out and

Remove it from her sight.

But that would be wrong so many ways.

Not least that her  husband is her practical helper.

And sure enough, before long he took out the garbage.

Soft Summer Morning

July 18, 7:30 a.m.

 

At first I thought it was Mother Robin, standing upright on the rim of her nest, sun turning orange breast to flame. But then I saw her brooding, covering newborns. The steady flame was Father.  He’s usually a hurry of earthworm or housekeeping.  This time, sustained company-keeping.  As if no hurry or worry in the world.

 

They were both looking up, in the same direction.  What caught their attention?  Something in their bower, or something beyond?  Whatever it was, they shared a wordless appreciation. I say appreciation because threat would have called for sharp metallic cry and flurry of action.

 

After a time she resumed her horizontal gaze, yellow beak resting on  the rim of the nest. He looked down and regarded the top of her head, so smooth, dark, and dear.

 

IMG_1851.jpg

Robins’ bower

After my kitchen duties, I went outside and sat in my own bower.  The air this morning felt like heaven. I kept Robin silence, listening to cry of blue jay, high hoarse broad-winged hawk, and merry young voices next door.  As I sat, pink crepe came drifting down, regarded the top of my head, nested in my hair.

IMG_1836

IMG_1834.jpg

Nest 3

Nest 3

 

Magnolia chosen with care

Third nest this season

I see her in the shade, beak hanging open from the heat

I see her wrestle a sky-blue shell

Up to the rim of the cup

For removal as soon as possible

Lest a predator see

Somehow a shred of white plastic

Got built into the nest

Good idea turned too-conspicuous mistake?

Twice I’ve seen her try to unweave it

While two or three blind helpless hungry

She has a lot on her plate

IMG_1838.jpg

I Wish to Have Speaks With You

“A very high pitched kee-ee, almost like a whistle.”

 

As raptors go they’re small

A pound or so per hawk,

And O the joy it brings

To hear their high-pitched talk

 

Kee-ee kee-ee says one

From a slightly distant tree

Kee-ee kee-ee replies another

Perched just over me

 

Kee-ee kee-ee from their child

With his longitudinal streaks

And then all three are gathered

The better to have their speaks

 

I stay as still as I can

Neck craned painfully

As they silently plan their agenda

Perched in my lace-bark tree

 

Not a word is spoken

But soon they have a plan

Each lifts to execute it

My neck will be straight when it can

IMG_1822.jpg

Morning Comes

July 14, 2020

 

Still dark.  And, look!  From east to west:  Venus, Morning Star.  Close by (to my eye), her friend Aldeberan, fierce eye of Taurus.  Earth’s moon.  Mars. Saturn.  If not for the western trees, I might see bright Jupiter!  All in their places.

 

Still dark, but brightening. I at my computer, about my work. On the roof, a party!  The Shadow-tails are playing chase. Thundering paws.

 

Hoarse hawk-cry makes me wonder if Clint Eastwood is riding into town. For sure the action on the roof of the saloon freezes.

 

Mama Robin’s on the nest. Catbirds mewing. I’m moved to go out for a garden patrol, before the heat of the day.

 

Cooking breakfast I spy our young hawk–on the patio, then on the fountain.  Strong yellow legs, handsome of breast and beak. Then he flies into the glass, and I wonder how his training is coming along.  Also if the glass will hold.

 

I’m grateful for this place.

 

From my  bower to yours–whatever shelters and gladdens you:

 

 

IMG_1779

Robin Recycling

I fell for what may be a fake fact.  To wit: Robins don’t re-use their nests; for each new clutch, they rebuild.

 

Some days after the Magnolia Tree Gang of Three fledged, I lifted the nest, situated it just inside my garden gate, and placed in it three commemorative stones.  My way of honoring a work of art, industry, and devotion.

IMG_1749 (1).jpg

In a few weeks, in the exact same spot in the magnolia, Mama and Papa Robin began to rebuild.  Did they wonder what happened to the first nest?  Hmmmm. Did I feel a little guilty for their [possible] duplication of work?  Yes.

 

This time, two chicks hatched.  And then to my sorrow, there was only one.  After growing sufficiently enormous, he fledged, and I saw him no more.

 

Mistaken idea piles on possible fake fact:  sure that in the heat of July Mama and Papa were done for the season, I took the second nest, placed it by the first, and in it one commemorative stone.

 

Come now Mama and Papa to the exact same spot in the magnolia, with more material.  Yesterday I laughed when he offered a shred of white plastic, which she examined, then let flutter to the ground. But only after he’d flown away.

 

This morning as I walked by the Nest Museum, I saw the exhibit had been disturbed.  As an experiment, I swept away the the debris. Sure enough, next time I passed by, more debris.

IMG_1762

As I was taking the picture above, a silent form swept out of the magnolia, through the garden gate, and seeing me swerved sharply under the azaleas. Funny how earsplitting a robin can be outside my window at 5:30 a.m., how soundless at 9:30 a.m. as it tries to reclaim its property.  I will not take any more nests, and I do ask their forgiveness.

american_robin_6.jpg

A Tale of Two Flowers

I trudged across the parking lot toward the one permitted door of the grocery store.  Anxious, heavy of heart, trying to keep my chin up. Despair, wrestling with gratitude for the task and the means.  Masked I was, with foggy lenses, and little looking for grace.  But grace was looking for me. On the sidewalk outside the store, rows of black plastic pots containing little wooden trellises, on which grew mandevilla vines. All looked healthy, and half-price didn’t hurt! So I put one in my cart.  Planted the vine in our flower bed, in a sunny spot, was quickly rewarded with vigorous growth, then the unfolding of snow white flowers.

IMG_1761.jpg

During my inspection some days later I noticed a bud with a rosy cast to it. As it happens, ten dollars had bought me not one vine but two!

IMG_1760

The white-bearing vine is more prolific.  But oh the heart-lift of pink, with contrasting margin!

IMG_1759.jpg

 

Amelia at 2 1/2

The name Amelia comes to us from the Germanic word amal, which means ‘work.’  
Hence the name Amelia means industrious.
Our darling Amelia’s work, in part, is to delight and educate her grandmother.
I don’t want to impute too much maturity to a person of two and a half years, but yesterday I saw Amelia take a moment to master herself.  She had just received from her Grandpa a mild verbal limit on her desired course of action.  Her grandpa–whom she adores, and it’s mutual.  On hearing this directive, this thwarting of her plans and desires, her little face clouded.  Just for a moment, she turned her clouded face to the wall. And here’s the thing: Grandpa on the opposite side of the room could not see this.  It was not for him she did it, but seemingly for herself.  Having managed her reaction, she chose her response: to re-engage the sunshine and go on with her morning.
This morning when I all immersed in a creative project felt outrage at the husbandly assumption that he having presented himself in the kitchen was to immediately receive some breakfast, my face clouded.  But then I chose the Amelia-response.
IMG_1745
I lift my eyes to heaven, from whence cometh my help…