They work as if I were not here

Do you see the pollen on their legs? Oh to light on a sunflower and come away laden with life sustenance.

I was walking to the mailbox to send a card. My phone was in my pocket–gone are the summer days when we would walk empty pocketed, wandering possibly anywhere and unconnected to any satellite beam, unwatched. Maybe, if were “grown-ups”, we would have folded a couple of singles and a five into our shoes. A neighbor, several houses down, had lined their property with sunflowers. A week and a half earlier they were just green stalks, pretty indiscernible from the tall privet hedges with which they share the property edge. Now they had not only burst forth, they were giving out seeds, some having already distributed all they had.

And who do I see there? Bees!! Bees of all stripes, my hive’s residents sharing surface with bumble bees and perhaps others of their community. Look, look, they’re making a beeline!

Do you see them? Each flower has or is receiving bees on this beautiful late morning in August. What a gift!

I want to thank these neighbors for planting so many sunflowers. But I do not know them. This is too bad, that I stop myself from knocking on their door. I can attribute it to the ongoing virus. But I have been enjoying the ways in which they use their green space for several years now. How many of us know our neighbors these days? How many of us have any familiarity with what occurs just outside our front stairs? Our back porch? Our back window? Beyond the fence, the hedge, the wall that demarcates our side from another’s? Nevermind the people down the block, or one or two floors below or above us.

I could be an old fart and grouse that it’s only these past couple of generations who do not know, raised, as they have been, on keyboards and computer screens, even when outdoors, as their heads are bowed to the pittance of a screen on their handhelds. But let us confess, we are almost all of us limited in our awareness of what immediately surrounds our living spaces. We are more attuned to what is broadcast for us on one or another screen than the space through which we pass, or could easily pass, if we ventured forth. I remember the delight I experienced 20 or 25 years ago when I could pull this little pocket phone out of my pocket and call my sister as I walked down the sidewalk! How cool is that!! I can call her and describe to her where I am walking right now! So quickly it became I need to call her right now, this call cannot wait until I am back home, this call to ask what date is so and so’s birthday, demands to occur now, nevermind the patch of wildflowers I am passing by laden with bees dipping and delving, doing their remarkable life-giving pollinating before my very eyes, if only I looked, instead of poking at the numbers on my electronic device. This call, this distant contact about unurgent matters matters more than this moment here now.

So I need to stop, need to look about me, breathe, listen, touch the textures at hand, lick the salt of sweat off my upper lip. Put the phone back in my pocket. Stand still, watch the bees, watch the sunflower petals riffle in the breeze. When I set myself back in motion, to make it slow (hard for me! it is easier to stop short and peer around for a bit, than to amble at a pace below three and a half to four miles per hour), and notice what surface I am treading, what sits at the edges, who is standing at their front door ready to say hello to me if I will say hello to them.

One more capture of the bees loading up on pollen, whether I am watching or not. And of sunflowers that are finished sharing, and sunflowers yet to open and provide.

Here are a couple of photographs, hard to see her, but look carefully–a great blue heron in, due to our current drought, a low water pond. I stood and watched her for about 20 minutes, and then I couldn’t stand still any longer; I just had to move on (:-)) She had been there before I had arrived, and she remained standing there after I left. She preened feathers, aired out her wings, scratched under her chin, preened again, and paid close attention to the terrain. She stayed in place. Attending.

scratching her chin
then noticed and immediately set to watching something in the distance

May your day bring delight.

Happy birthday, Todd.


Can you say you have ever experienced complete silence? Do you believe one can experience complete silence? Do you know if it exists? As what, a concept, an audible absence-external and internal, only external? I will stop offering options for what I am asking it is, because by them I am skewing your response. I go back, and rephrase just slightly. Can one know if complete silence exists? How?

I go forward and re-ask again slightly differently, if you know complete silence exists, where, how do you find it?

Is it felt? How?

Is it calming? Does it cause fear? Peace? Anger? Freedom?

I come back, can silence even be a concept? Is it a presence? An absence?

Sometimes I can walk down a New York City street and become aware that I have not been hearing the always massive-decibel sounds surrounding me, neither original sounds nor echoes, neither mechanical sounds nor human. Why? Has a shawl of silence draped itself around me? Is noise, perhaps, only a function of attention? What does that say about silence?

When you think of silence, do you think of it as lightness? Do you think of it as weight?

Can sound be felt? Can a thrumming inside one’s head, seemingly inside one’s ear be called sound? If so, does this make silence impossible?

And, if so, can someone without the physical capacity for hearing experience sound, feel sound?

Does motion mean sound? Therefore, in life, is silence even possible? Blood flowing through our veins and arteries, constantly; organs tugging their needed sustenance out of resting or passing food stuffs; breath even held still circulating in the lungs in the vessels in the molecules–not silent?

Something just occurred to me as I sit here pondering silence “out loud”, two things actually–when you read this text, do you hear a voice? Whose?

Secondly, it seems that silence can be visual. See this picture? This guy at this moment in the presence of a rushing river, chattering and squawking gulls behind him, chirping songbirds behind me, and automotive traffic behind them; this guy embodied silence and it took my breath.

Napping Robin

Unphotographed, but closely watched, through fairly new binoculars through the kitchen window, as I sat, eating my lunch at 1:00PM this humid, hopefully soon rainy day, was a young robin. She looked, it seemed at me for a few seconds, then turned her head left responding to a sparrow who had landed further along on the very branch on which reposed said robin. The sparrow, as sparrows do, immediately leapt off the branch toward another spot, angling his way toward the bird feeders, currently well populated by other sparrows. One sparrow does not care if 10 other sparrows are at the feeder, he shoulders in when he is ready. Everyone squawks and everyone shifts.

The white breasted nuthatch announces her arrival from the west, about a tenth of a second before she lights on the sunflower seed feeder. She lands or redirects to nose-down, everytime. Her long, sharp beak pokes into the grid, she yanks out a sunflower seed, and rushes back to the tree face to jam the seed in and then repeats this procedure, three or four times before she pauses her flights, likely to then poke the tree bark against the sunflower seed tucked underneath it using that broader push surface to force the seedpouch open the the seed to fall out, and she, the nuthatch to consume it. Meanwhile, the sparrows are flicking and flacking each other from feeder to feeder, variously clutching and falling off of perches, and fluttering their wings to regain balance. On top of the shepherd hooks from which the feeders are suspended, are several immature sparrows, with two more on a back branch of the dogwood, all feverishly flapping their still kind of tiny wings and calling to the adults, feed me, feed me! And they do. Child opens wide, and adult places seed in gullet to be swallowed and used.

There is also a parent-child downy woodpecker pair appearing daily, usually in the morning early and then at noon. The child, whose crown is brown, and so I think may be a male child, waits clinging to the thistle feeder, while the adult/mother pokes at the gross (to me) suet in its feeder, digs an ample chunk out and brings it to the child, 6 inches away or so on the thistle feeder. Here too, the child opens wide, and the adult sets the food morsel deep into its mouth. They repeat this five times or so and then fly away for a bit, to return 5 or 10 minutes later.

Sometimes in the morning, sometimes at lunchtime, sometimes in the evening, these days, the cardinal father and child pair arrive. The child either perches on the lip that encircles the sunflower feeder, or on a branch of the dogwood, and the father, brilliant red and in full voice between tasks, pulls out a sunflower seed and places it into his child’s mouth, again and again.

But this young robin, today napped so assuredly eyes tightly shut, not even cracking a peek once it tired of watching me watching it. The sun gentled her head and shoulders. Her tail, two u-shapes at their gathered bottoms; her wings draped alongside her, like a shawl falling from her shoulders. She was lulling me into a parallel ennervation, when from a ways off to her right side a cheep, one loud cheep struck her ear. Her eyes flew open, she turned, and she flew off the branch straight at that sound. And I was seeing only a branch, around which she had easily curled her long slender toes and dozed.

As noted at the top. I have no photographs of these goings on. Nothing to visually accompany my tale of today’s lunchtime antics. I hope you can picture them in your mind. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.1

So here are two photographs I just took while sitting on the porch (when I come out onto the porch it takes the birds about five minutes to adjust to my presence and return, whence they had hastily departed upon my interfering arrival)–the four feeders around which these birds all congregate with a few branches of the dogwood to your left; and the beehive that remains ever active behind those bird feeders.

You will notice, in the top photograph, the voracious sparrows have finished today’s complement of seeds in the plastic-sided, tubular feeder

As I type this right now, thunder is rumbling in the distance. Our hope is for it to evidence rain this time. We remain green so far, in our trees with their deep, deep swallowing roots, and shrubs, and the bushes that feed our fragrant pink and red roses and the stalks that hold orange lilies, white daisies, pink, yellow, white, blue wildflowers; but our grasses are brown and beige. We are not accustomed to such prolonged evidence of dry here in New England. Happily not.

1Hebrews 11:1

Let Us Begin

I mostly do not write to propound political or economic or societal or religious views. I write to share moments of this life on earth that might intrigue another of you as they do me, or might surprise, or might please, or evoke laughter, awe, a smile, once in awhile a tear. Sometimes something just pokes its face inside my head and sidles down my arm, into my fingers and out onto the keyboard, leaps into the space that electronic communications fill, and to you, if you choose to reel in what those electronic waters are running past you at your moments along their shores.

Today though I have this to say: Let us begin to value being. (what is that called when the letters of a word rearranged are another? anagram? yes. begin being. Let us begin to value being. What is it called when a word or phrase spoken sounds just like another word phrase? homophone? yes let us lettuce.) lettuce bottoms a setting, and on it is built many a salad, which comprises such a mix and is the beauty of its own eclecticism; let us enjoy from the bottom up that which surrounds us, that which is life as we know it, unpredicted, unpredictable, an adventure of no certain outcome. Let us find its good base, and climb up what this base holds firm and sing a melody, discordant or concordant, harmonized, multivariant, however it grows and merges, let it, let us.

We were made good. Let us let good be; let us begin being good. Every element was made good, and for good (both meanings — for the purpose of good, and for all time. what is that called — both are a noun, one is moral one is computational, and yet each one impacts the other. How to think of this? Each one, made good, impacts the other. But did begun-good/made-good stay good or become not?

This begins several photographs of a long downed, but still growing, and while growing supporting others’ growth, Silver Maple in the Concord River in Lowell.
Same root mass and fallen but growing Silver Maple, viewed from its foot rather than side. Notice the bricks it encases, which came with it from the wall on which I stand to take these pictures, and which, once, had been the limits to which the Silver Maple’s roots were permitted to spread, so they saw options, and grew sideways.
Out of the dirt that clutches the downed Silver Maple, that undoubtedly was downed in part because the wall did not permit its roots to plant as efficaciously as they needed, grow new Silver Maples and another infant tree, not sure, perhaps an ash?
A view that better shows the length of this tree and its continued health, its tenacity, as you can see by the abundant green leaf canopy at the top of this photograph. I should tell you, the river is very, very low right now due to the dryness that has prevailed of late. When it rises, this tree is often struck by the rushing waters along this rapids. Still it prevails.
And, just to complete this story, flush against the rock in the center top of this picture are some of the 10 ducklings who, with their mother, spent this moment with me. May we spend moments with one another however we got here, whoever we are, whenever we cross paths, whatever our destiny, being IN each other’s company, revering it, sharing it, receiving it, and being it.

Why, oh, why from the bottom of slopes do slopes slant so steeply up; for some? All start at 0, creation ensures it. Why are some ascendants’ adventures so beleaguered, cratered in the slipped-foot gashes of others? Why is not a hand to help held out, tilted to be caught into, cupped to carry? Why instead a fist, uncoupled, ungraspable? Why is good so difficult to accomplish, so unoffered? Thus in time, derelict, unreceived?

And, yet, it is not impossible. The answer to my question above the photo story, my question asking: But did begun-good/made-good stay good or become not? Both. Let us together remove ‘become not’ (good)’ from the experience of life.

May I?

have this dance? cross this line? have more? call you? take this book home? ask you a question?

What do these May I questions evoke in you? Who do you see asking each question? Is it ever you? Is it never you?

Is May I polite or argumentative? Is it neither? What is it then?

Are these questions hard for you to answer or easy or mindless or annoying?

May I surround you with love? (maple hanging on in New York City)

May I dream

May I have this dance? (ancient oak persisting in London)
May I make a promise that I will keep? (Dogwood buds foreground, Pin oak background left)
May I protect you even as I age; delight you as yet again I burst forth with color and dance? (copper beech)
May I accompany you along your way? (ornamental cherries)
May I show you that new life emerges even as winter’s emissary, snow, strives to remain? (dogwood again)

The next five photographs are of two tulip poplars. The first three are of a tulip poplar I recently discovered a mere half mile from the one I have been watching for years, the one that is slowly, graciously dying and is the subject of the final two of these five photographs. After photograph three and before photograph four is a paragraph from one of my favorite books of all time, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard.

May I, even as I am —
— May I show you that despite you I am again?

“A tree stands there, accumulating deadwood, mute and rigid as an obelisk, but secretly it seethes, it spits, sucks, and stretches; it heaves up tons and hurls them out in a green, fringed fling. No person taps this free power, the dynamo in the tulip tree pumps out ever more tulip tree, and it runs on rain and air.” (Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard)

May you know that I am and can, and will
May I let you know that before you were even seeded, I was, I am
May you know that the gingko, which this is, is prehistory.

And that gingko note, the very word, prehistory, makes me laugh, a bit joylessly. The fact we hold anything before we humans were is, semantically, as not. Perhaps we will begin to read epochal signs a little more humbly. Before we were is was. Will we, singlehandedly, bring it all down along with us?

So many sources of life surround us. May they be.

May we hope that these two trees along with nearly two dozen others survived a planned roadway widening in Euston Square, London? May we find that as our dreams grow more generous, our reach pulls back?

Four fourteen twenty twenty

I love the look of that title. Why? Something about its rhythm — visual and aural. I like to write numbers when they include the number 4. I even try to pay bills (I still pay bills with checks) on a date that includes the number 4 in it so that I can write the number 4. Why? Is it a self centeredness because my birthdate is on the 4th day of the month? Why? I keep coming back to its aesthetic. I like the look of the numeral 4. But, the new wrinkle today is that I also keep looking up at the title and liking it a lot. And it is not numerals. And it is not just fours (4s), but two twenties. Not twenties. But twenty and twenty, side by side. Twenty twenty. Four fourteen. I wish I understood musical notation, 4/4 means something? Is that four four time or four quarter time? I should research that, certainly I have time these days, and the sources for searching here at my fingertips-tap tap tap. Or maybe it’s in math, with four quarters summed equals one; 4/4ths equals 1. And then there is the way the word four forms on one’s lips. Like a kiss.

So I like that last thought. It is friendly. It is pleasant. Saying four is like a kiss.

footprints in the woods. sets of four.

Or or, it is like when surprised. Oh, I say. Oh! I like to be surprised. A surprise introduces me to something new. Something I haven’t already textured with anticipation, colored with expectation. Something that will bring me to a new place. Oh! Four! Oh! Saying four is like being surprised. Or, or it is like realizing alternatives. Or. Or. Four. Or. And it IS rhythmic. Four. Foot. Four footed forging forward, fording oh fording river floors, forging onward.

Can you find the cardinal?

Twenty twenty! Now that is another look another sound. Plenty of birds, come to think of it, start their songs or their calls with “twe”. Short e twe or long e twe. It is audible overhead as in treetops, on rooftops, atop utility poles and antennas the mockingbird, the redwing blackbird, the cardinal, the titmouse, the robin, the rose breasted grosbeak, the carolina wren, the yellow warbler,the other warbler, and the other warbler, the song sparrow, even the house sparrow.

Daimyo Oak in Lonfon. How is that for a shock of twigs?!

I will leave the numbers and marvel over twigs. The variety of size I have watched enter the shrub I see from my desk is amusing. The robins prevailed and they are building their nest in this shrub. (I pray that they continue to spot and chase the blue jays when they try to poke their noses into the construction site, and the house sparrows as well.) Twice I have seen dangling from the beak of a robin, when he or she pauses on the porch rail before diving into the shrub an 18 or 24 (!!!) inch strand of some kind of grass. The first one was brought in and partly woven into the forming nest, with about eight inches left streaming outside. The second one seems to have been fully woven, no tail from it. And in between these and other slightly less dramatic grasses, the robins carry in small clumps of probably desiccated leaves or shorter grasses encased in dirt. I believe these must be for daubing the nest, securing it. I keep hoping to take a picture, but they do not rest long on the railing and so my phone-camera is always too late to make the picture. At a later time, if I can without calling forth the lurking predators, I will try to get a photograph of the built nest from closer up, and without the visual disruption of the screen in my window. It will illustrate a future blog post. Meanwhile, I will add here a photograph of the cherry-plum tree out front. I love that its saplings are growing around the now fully dead original trunk, and its saplings for the past two years have provided small, edible plums (cherry-plums) that I, neighborhood kids, and, notably, diverse birds have enjoyed eating in the summer. Right now I offer their buds for your viewing.

Cherry-plum tree, budding saplings, its flowering twigs, some pink some white, from same tree of origin, whose remnant is seen here too.

The wind outside right now is a howler. I can only trust that those robins have anchored their nest effectively. I wonder how many other nests are within my sight if only I knew the angle from which to look. Does that happen to you? You look for something, see nothing, turn a twelve degree angle, a four degree angle, and whoosh! There it is. You move another couple of degrees and it disappears. The wonder of optics.

Just because, another picture of an aging tulip poplar that I love

One final sentence: I titled this 4 14 2020 because I thought that to be today’s date, but it is not, it is tomorrow’s date. This goof adds a whole new level of questions about the source of my penchant for 4.

April from inside our windows and walls

I sit at my desk watching the still bare but just begun-budding weeping birch branches waving, blowing. I am listening to the blue jays and sparrows muttering in the trees’ higher branches, and in the shrubs out front. Beginning at 6:45 AM, when I opened wider the blind, and nearly nonstop until about an hour ago a pair of robins were sharing trilling time with anyone who would listen. I would, and did. It’s been a song-filled day today, even though I have not set one foot beyond the edges of the back and front porches. In fact, except to bring in the mail (front porch–mail basket hangs on the front door handle) and deposit in their bin the recyclable cat food cans (back porch–bin reachable by merely leaning over the side railing), I have not trod beyond the sills of the doors. The weather is most conducive to this internality of my day today.

I hope this finds you holding your own amidst this pandemic. I know for many of us it is easier than for others of us and for others we have not met. A friend has just lost a nephew. My friend cannot go to her sister’s to comfort her in the loss of her son. Her sister cannot go to her son-who-was-but-is-no-longer. My sister is experiencing her own new loss alone in her newly single-resident house. My friend’s brother fell prey to the virus, and recovered, but alone in his apartment, and continues solitary and, for all his life a waiter, currently unemployed and uncompensated, with bills due to arrive.

And yet the nests are being constructed in trees and shrubs around here everywhere. And yet, in fact, two days ago I watched an adult mourning dove caring for a juvenile mourning dove, poking food into the young one’s mouth, keeping close. And this morning three juvenile turkeys strolled down the sidewalk in front of our house, took a left into the driveway and strode into first our neighbor’s backyard, and then, cutting through the stand of arbor vitae, into ours. Cringe if you need to, but I, I was delighted.

The straggling third jake or jenny (depending on if a young male or female) poking through the neighbor’s forsythia bush behind the other two
There are two of the three jakes or jennys here. Sorry for the porch slats, I was standing at the kitchen window so not to go out and disturb them.

Now I am warned time and again about how anywhere, be it my back yard or Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square, with turkeys, they hold court. In other words, mind them, kind of like my parents told me to do as a child, mind them my parents. Sometimes I did, sometimes… However, this time, yes, I will. I mind them, the turkeys, as to obey and I mind them as be attentive watch my back and in fact be still. Maria, the tuxedo cat here at home, was less cautious and growled low and treacherously through the bedroom window overlooking the backyard, which was open just a bit. Her growl remained low and private, and they ignored her. They pecked among the dropped seeds under the stand of bird feeders, convened very briefly (I was reminded “stand up” meetings at work. For me, a distant past, for some of you a month or so ago, and likely again in a month or so) and cut back through the arbor vitae to our neighbors’ backyard and to horizons east.

How the absence of us has freed the neighbors whose homes are, of necessity, single tree tops, pockets of thickets, small stands of woods, and utility corridors. I would like that they could hold fast to some of the new spaces they’ve had a chance to explore.

I know I have nay-sayers among my readers, so I will not rave on. I’ll leave you with a fragment of Percy Bysshe Shelley’s:

“To a Skylark”

Better than all measures
Of delightful sound,
Better than all treasures
That in books are found,
Thy skill to poet were, thou scorner of the ground!

Teach me half the gladness
That thy brain must know,
Such harmonious madness
From my lips would flow
The world should listen then, as I am listening now

More of March, Everyday New, Odd, Present

Today, in the midst, was, nevertheless, utterly beautiful. Sun light clear, a winter clear bouncing off white snow here in Massachusetts, white snow that is melting rather quickly in the sun/40+ degree temperatures, but not disappearing under the tread of multiple feet, multiple vehicles, because they are few, few. I walked from my house to downtown to return two books to the library (into the outside box, of course, untouched for awhile by human hands–gloved or ungloved), and to a coffee shop that I like to sit in, but of course cannot right now, but I could and did buy a dark roast and a freshly baked oatmeal chocolate chip cookie. I walked in the middle of usually busy streets just because I could. I also walked along a couple of the multiple canals that define the city of Lowell, Massachusetts. Spring has begun here.

Red maple budding over the cloud reflecting Hamilton Canal in downtown Lowell.

And like March’s coincident budding trees and melting snow, the waters, too, continue their patterns (and thank God they do!), flowing a steady wash over dams and obstructions. Two days ago I saw a pair of very effective beaver dams making small rapids along the local rail trail, today it was the Western Canal and Upper Pawtucket Street Canal pouring into the Hamilton Canal. I love that you can hear water flow even before you see it, including that of a lazy river, even that — the sound in that case, I find, is an absence of sound, as if the air above the water body holds its breath until it reaches the next shore.

Water rushes whenever it has need. Here at the Pawtucket Locks House. It is good to see it to hear it run. Sometimes it is too good, it floods. But today it is something to enjoy.
And the basin resulting from this three canal confluence, reflecting a brilliant sun and sky as well as a corner of a newly constructed courthouse complex that I must say I find a very attractive building. Maybe I’ll show the building at another time.

And now I am home typing this out at my desk, and might note that the shrub out front that had so far been cased out by cardinals and robins (and glanced at sidelong by hopeful bluejays), has also been checked out by a pair of house finches, while the cardinals and robins still flit in and around and out. Such an important decision, the infants’ nest. Oh boy! Who will choose it? Will any? I watch daily, holding my breath.

Once again, I offer no profundity, and am soon to close and send this out. But may I just share along with my hopes that this posting finds you healthy, learning new and wonderful ways to be inside your homes, and happy to know that in fact we are alive and the earth, created, I believe, by God as, I believe, was all else, runs without us, and can only delight if we only care; may I just share two more photos.

A Gingko tree, a tree recorded from prehistoric times, beginning it budding, yet again, yet again.
A budding branch of my beloved Tulip Poplar, persisting yet another year.

Thank you for reading this reportage of a day in my life. May you find reason to celebrate in yours. May you have cause to celebrate.

One more thing, here is a poem:
Counting-out Rhyme by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Silver bark of beech, and sallow
Bark of yellow birch and yellow
Twig of willow.

Stripe of green in moosewood maple,
Colour seen in leaf of apple
Bark of popple*.

Wood of popple pale as moonbeam,
Wood of oak for yoke and barn-beam,
Wood of hornbeam.

Silver bark of beech, and hollow
Stem of elder, tall and yellow
Twig of willow.

*she uses popple here in an archaic sense, as poplar
Edna St. Vincent Millay’s poetry, in my mind, runs the gamut from elegant and heart stopping to a bit overwrought. But I think she actually felt language and enables me to as well.

Marching to a New Drummer and It’s Hard to Keep in Step

We’re in odd times. Not unprecedented. Nor good.

It is a beautiful day outside today, March 15th, 2020. For some reason, I have not found a reason to wander in it. Yesterday I did. Yesterday I walked 8 miles. Today, I sit; I read; I drink coffee; I notice that I had better trim the front shrubs soon, very soon, because as I sat here at my desk looking out, I observed a cardinal pair exploring the evergreen shrub in which they had nested last year. In case they choose it again, I want to have finished trimming and its neighbor before they begin to build and so not scare them away from the home they were making. Today would be a good day to do it. It is currently 2:37 PM. There is time.

And I did, it is 4:47 and I trimmed one of two shrubs I thought I would accomplish today. I use hand loppers. I don’t like the electric thing that screams as it slices. As a result, there is not defined shape on our shrubs. It waves in the manner of my lopping focus and strength. I dare not share a picture of the shrub. It is not shapeless, but neither shapely. I’m ashamed to admit, I also have a blister on the base of my left index finger. Oh the places we can antagonize on our bodies. Just hope the cardinals will wait another day or two.

And now it is Friday March 20th, and the warnings to stay physically apart from others grow more urgent each day, and so since Tuesday I am obeying. I bicycled on Wednesday, but trying for remoteness not on the rail trail, which would have been beautiful. And, true to these times, while most of this week the temperatures were in the 40s, today it is supposed to reach 70, and tomorrow 40s again. I want to note the temperature progression so far today — I woke and it was 70, that was at 7:00. Half an hour later it was down to 38. But by 10:30 it was 43. And now, at noon it is 49. The patterns are intriguing to watch if only they weren’t so portentous.

What are you doing? What were you doing five minutes ago? Where? What will you do for the rest of this day? Tomorrow?

I feel at a remove. I am safe, and well, and not likely to be personally reached by the virus as long as I take care. But how many people who I or you know, and how many who we don’t know, but who exist nonetheless, are standing at the fore are breathing infested air just by being where they unavoidably are, or just by being where they choose to be in order to help. May we never forget to care, may we never deny the imbalance of life from community to community on this earth. May this bring out the best in us.

This is all I have to say today. It does not engender any relevant pictures, so I am attaching two disparate recent sunny day photographs. A duck I spied on the Merrimack River, and the shadows of my sister and me as we walked up the Kosciusko Bridge just last week.

I believe this is a female snow goose
A most uncomplimentary look, but it was cold, and we had on many layers to walk this high open bridge

By the way, now robins are inspecting the shrub directly in front of my window. They have nested there as well as have cardinals. We will see which choose the site, if either. A bluejay streaks by occasionally, which is a concern for any nesting birds of smaller or equal physical aspect to them. I will follow this saga, and report in the future. Final note, as I was typing the previous sentence, the cardinals stopped by again. Perhaps there will be two nests in the one shrub? One can only hope.

The Extra Last Day of February

Having not written in awhile, I was coming home from breakfast with my friend, Eunice, and remembered it is February still, even though we have passed by February 28th. It is that once every four years anomaly (except if the year is not divisible by 4, like 1700), February 29th. Once upon a time I had a boyfriend whose birthday was February 29th. Would he age more slowly than I, I wondered at the time, lo those many decades ago, when I was 18 and he 19? I guess I can keep wondering, because last I saw him I was 23 and he 24 (or 8?) On February 29th, 1912 La Piedra Movediza (“moving or shifting stone”), a balancing rock high above Tandil, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina fell from where it had perched. It had weighed about 300 tons, and not only did it balance on the face of a high hill, but also, it rocked from morning to evening slowly enough to be imperceptible to the eye, but if one placed a breakable object, say a bottle, under the bottom of the rock, it would be found smashed later in the day. Oh, the facts we can yank from the ether these days of e- everything.

That is me in dark blue jacket in front
watching winter solstice sunrise.
Carolina Wren

Earlier this week, I was pedaling my orange Fuji Absolute hybrid bicycle. It was gorgeous out, warm, windless, sunny. But it was February! I am disturbed by these many warm days that have stippled the 2020 calendar already. So when the cold winds blew in Tuesday or Wednesday, I smiled as I shivered and re-donned my center-of-winter heavy wool jacket (see said me and said jacket in photo left). There is so much troubling going on, I need seasonableness. But this is my relationship to seasons, thus, my sense of seasonableness. In two decades, as the shift we have been experiencing for many decades already, but generally noticing for four decades, as it becomes entrenched in its trending toward extremes of all weather systems, all storm types, a person aware of weather may believe that a plethora Carolina Wrens in December in northern Massachusetts are as it should be, and the absence of Juncos is not an absence because they have not been seen, cold weather birds as they are, and barely cold as Massachusetts may be on February 29th, 2040. But, as it goes, if the earth still goes, I, based on genetics, may still be here to feel this, old though I already am. I may no longer need my center-of-winter wool jacket; I may no longer even need my end-of-winter lighter weight wool jacket. I fear this. You?

Back to the bicycle. It is serving me well. We talk, it is not my Bianchi my ride of 22 years, but it is my Fuji. We talk so that we can become more comfortable with each other. The other day I nearly head over heeled over a fire hydrant that the Fuji balked at, and I know the Bianchi would have readily sidled by. But, hmm, I am assessing blame on an aluminum and other light minerals product, and, I was just going to say, that is anthropomorphizing. And on most levels it is. BUT! But, also are not these same minerals within the body the hands of which are typing these words? Not to worry, I will not be writing a sequel to Toy Story(ies). Because I know the balker was the rider, seeing she was about to descend a short (maybe 10 feet), steep dirt and asphalt decline (at least 5%) that ended in (1) a bright red fire hydrant and (2) a curved granite curb and (3) an immediately potholed street, and choosing to descend before taking her physical bearings. So the Fuji was only wheels responding to feet on pedals, and hands gripping grips and not brakes. Split seconds! Feet leapt to dirt/asphalt, and mineral rich fingers to brake lever! Skidded to a sloppy stop short of the hydrant, and short of a header.

How is your 2020? So far I have low hopes. So far Eunice has high hopes. You?

Here is a poem by Linda Pastan. Its title is something I never experienced, but is something I was once:

To a Daughter Leaving Home

When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
beside you
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of a park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
with distance,
pumping, pumping
for your life, screaming
with laughter,
the hair flapping
behind you like a
handkerchief waving

Linda Pastan (1932-)

You know, I was going to end with Linda Pastan’s poem above. But then, I was looking through some books on my bookshelf and found in a book called Poetry in Motion, comprising 100 poems that graced the walls and trains of the NYC MTA, this poem by Robert Frost, which if you think about it, kind of speaks to the other end of the life of the girl that Linda Pastan watched grow up and away, to the end I find myself in now:

The Armful

For every parcel I stoop down to seize
I lose some other off my arms and knees,
And the whole pile is slipping, bottles, buns–
Extremes too hard to comprehend at once,
Yet nothing I should care to leave behind.
With all I have told with, hand and mind
And heart, if need be, I will do my best
To keep their building balanced at my breast.
I crouch down to prevent them as they fall;
Then sit down in the middle of them all.
I had to drop the armful in the road.
And try to stack them in a better load.

Robert Frost (1874-1963)