The swallows

In a corner
of a window
sheltered by
the carport
at my son’s home

a pair of swallows
built a nest

not well

as my son realized
one morning
when he found
a hatchling
naked, new
and dead
on the concrete
floor

the others
seemed safe
in the faulty nest

until the next day
when my boy
found all
the swallow babies
naked, new
so tiny
so dinosauresque
splayed across
the concrete
floor

some still living

and their mother
fluttering over by
the recycling bin
in the corner
crying
trying
to gather
her broken babies

they couldn’t be saved
my boy told me
with a breaking
in his voice

so I buried them
around
the oak
tree

I cannot think
about the ring
of baby birds
there in the ground
among the roots
of the old live oak

instead I stand
under the carport
noting the stillness
of the air

the silence
naked, new
in the absence
of swallows

somewhere out there
a mama
knows how much
she’s lost

like a child
I wonder
if she grieves

I grieve
for her


Baby swallows singing to their mother. Brookhaven National LaboratoryCC BY-NC-ND 2.0.


Patch of earth

Sunny afternoon
visiting my son

my granddaughter
walks me out
to a patch
of dusty gray soil
shadowed by
the old live oak
not far from
the swingset

here, she says,
is where
we saw the turtle
laying eggs
then she
went away
into the woods

that is the way
of turtles, I say
she will not
come back

my granddaughter nods
and I recall
that her first word
was turtle

my son has placed
fluorescent stake flags
around this patch
of incubating earth

for the benefit
of his expectant
child

Not sure how many eggs are hidden here in this patch of earth so near my granddaughter’s playground.

Empty box turtle shell discovered by my son’s basement. The turtle died some time ago. Not the mother, but apparently she was also an eastern box turtle. Under good conditions, the eastern box turtle can live over a hundred years. It’s a symbol for patience and is also the state reptile of North Carolina.

Blue season

Today I am not driving along the backroads and byways to work, for that work is over and done for a season. There are a number of things I will and won’t miss but this morning I am thinking only of the drive. It has taught me much about noticing. And composition. Twenty minutes of travel in the countryside imprints images in my mind; I study them over and over.

For one thing, as I watched the verdant lushness of grass and trees deepen and the crops in the field bursting forth in their furrows, I thought about spring being the season of green. But not only green. Besides the blossoming and blooming of pinks, yellows, and whites, there’s the flash of fiery cardinal red, the dusting of robin-breast orange, the electric pop of the bluebird, the soft, quivering brown of Rabbit. It’s all poetry to me. Stirring a nameless longing. Maybe just for life itself.

Robert Frost comes to mind:

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

And then I contemplate how green is really a combination of two colors, yellow and blue. If nothing gold can stay, that leaves…blue.

Which is so utterly fitting, as nearly every morning on my drive to work this spring I’ve been awed by the sight of a great blue heron in a pond. I pass three ponds, actually, and in two there’ve been herons. I have learned to look for them and there they are. Standing tall, serene, peaceful, almost elegiac. Once a pair of them flew across the road ahead of me. Dazzling. Somewhere in the brush I know there’s a nest with baby blue herons. In all my life, I cannot recall even glimpsing great blue herons. This is the birdiest spring I have ever known.

The herons are part of me now, and I think on the layers of meaning. Typically self-reliance, self-determination, progress… these seem surface level, like the color green. There’s more than meets the eye. There’s blue, a color I don’t usually associate with this season. Now I do. As I play with blue in my mind, it carries me to shadows, a time of day when the golden hours are transitioning to evening, and a fleeting memory of youth. A time of preparation, maybe going to dinner, gathering with friends, celebrating… all this, flickering and cool like tree-shadows when the day is nearly done and the blue hour descends. Again, a nameless longing. A heron in a pond.

I have had a hard time writing during these last weeks of school. Partly due to demands on my time. And physical limitations. And my psyche. But none of these are the blue longing.

Nature knows infinitely more than I about creating…and that is the pull, for nothing gold can stay.

Here’s to the blue season.

“Creativity is the Blue Heron within us waiting to fly; through her imagination, all things become possible.”

—Nadia Janice Brown

Photo: Great Blue Heron on the Coast of Texas, McFaddin Beach. Texas State Library and Archives Commission. CC BY 2.0

A turn of turtles

My son texts to say
today
the girls and I
watched a turtle
laying eggs
in the yard

which I am sure
my six-year-old
backseat prophet
slash nurture scientist
loved witnessing

here’s hoping
she’ll keep the memory
for her little sister
living her first June

and that
they get to see
a turn of baby turtles
just before summer’s end

Snapping Turtle Laying Eggs Eno River Durham NC 095938-001. bobistraveling. CC BY 2.0.

“Turn” is one of the collective nouns for turtles.

And then there were more

Dear House Finches With The Nest Atop The Magnolia Wreath On My Front Door:

I wondered why you’ve been lingering so long.

The four babies you hatched at Easter surely took to the wild blue yonder weeks ago.

I haven’t checked the nest because I feared your fledglings might be reluctant to go; after all, there’s no place like home… not to mention that in a previous season I think I may have accidentally force-fledged babies who could fly but were still cramming themselves into the nest. They gave me quite a turn, flying out that day when I came to investigate. So little. I worried if they were really ready to make it on their own. It would be my fault if they were not…

So, Finches, I have left you to come and go as you please, without interference, and I confess that the whole reason is purely selfish: your music. I savor your beautiful song. So bright and pure…sunlight is woven through it even on the dreariest day. Your song gets under a corner of my sometimes-heavy spirit and lifts it, floods it with peace and a longing I cannot quite explain. I know the day is coming when you won’t be gracing my porch any more and then I will be bereft of these joyful little interludes… so I haven’t questioned your lingering. I’ve only treasured my extended finch fantasia with a grateful heart.

Yesterday my husband asked: “Can’t we use the front door now? Those babies are gone, right?”

Bless him for his great patience with my bird sanctuary. He is a minister, after all…

I said, “Probably. Let me go check the nest to be sure.”

And then.

Then then then.

Oh, it’s going be a while yet before we can open the door.

Now I know what you’ve been up to, my beloved Finches.

Encore.

Big brown rabbit

I am coming home late
if you are meeting me at the gate
unintentionally, but still
at the end of a long day
I shall go my own way
and leave you to play
sweet clover for you
sweet dreams for me
lettuce savor the evening
dear Big Brown Rabbit

Easter exultation

In honor of the day, an excerpt of “Jesus Makes Sin Forgivable” by Anne Graham Lotz in Just Give Me Jesus (2000):

The Pharisees couldn’t stand Him
but found they couldn’t stop Him
Satan tried to tempt Him
but found he couldn’t trip Him
Pilate examined Him on trial
but found he couldn’t fault Him
The Romans crucified Him
but found they couldn’t take His life
Death couldn’t handle Him
and the grave couldn’t hold Him.

*******

And a happy Easter haiku for you:

I have no more eggs.
As of this morning, new life.
Dawn exultation.

4×4 poem

Here is a variation of my previous post, Eggsultation, in the 4×4 poem form shared by Denise Krebs on Ethical ELA for VerseLove: Four stanzas of four lines, any topic. Note how the lead line moves in the stanzas.

Eggsultation

Exultation:
Finches return
to make a nest
atop the wreath

on my front door
Exultation:
grass artistry
made without hands.

Speckled blue eggs
—one, two, three, four.
Exultation:
tiny new life

incubating.
Morning birdsong
rises skyward:
Eggsultation.

House Finch PairBirdman of Beaverton. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Only one

Every March, house finches build a nest on top of my front door wreath.

The mother usually lays three or four pale blue eggs. The babies fledge and fly away all too soon.

In 2020, when COVID-19 struck the face of the Earth, the finches built their nest but laid no eggs. I don’t know why; it was one more thing to mourn.

Last year, the finches returned and laid five eggs—a record! Making up for the previous year? I wondered.

And so it is March again, and again there’s a finch nest on my front door. These seem to appear overnight, as magically as mushrooms in the lawn.

And on Sunday, there was an egg:

My soul rejoiced.

The birds are a marvel; their songs are a marvel. They lift my spirits immeasurably. Every nest is different; this one has lovely down and fiber running through it. So soft. Last year’s was very green. One nest in years past was trimmed in tiny flowers. Finch dads are mixed media artisans; they collect the materials. This papa seems especially considerate and nurturing.

So, as an annual bird Franna, I check on my grand-eggs daily until my tiny pink grand-finches appear. The eggs hatch one day at a time, for they are laid one day at a time, usually in the mornings between 7:00-9:00.

Here, Friends, is where the plot thickens…

As of today (I am writing this on Monday afternoon), there remains just the one little blue egg.

I am concerned.

I know, go ahead and tell me all the things about birds and Nature knowing how to manage perfectly well, but… it’s so cold and windy here… I think I’ve heard the finches, but I haven’t seen the mother on the nest incubating her egg yet. Or laying any more. Why? Will there even BE a baby bird, or…

I know, sometimes things happen. Sometimes we get to know the what and the why; sometimes we don’t.

Meanwhile… I keep thinking of you, Little Blue Egg, all cold and alone…which drives me to look things up; I have learned that an egg can be viable for maybe two weeks before a mother incubates it.

Blessed reassurance…

probably absurd
this obsession with a bird
—this one egg, really—

wish I could do more than wait
for Nature to rule its fate

—sigh

—Stay tuned, y’all.

*******



with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March

A curious balance

There’s a curious balance in life. Maybe the same can be said of death.

Once upon a time I watched a day-old kitten die in my mother’s hands. I wept that it didn’t have a chance to bloom and grow. I named it Edelweiss (who among you will catch that musical allusion?).

Not so many years ago I watched a sixteen-year-old dachshund draw his last breath after two needles from the vet. I wept. Profusely. So did my boy, standing by my side. He’s the one who said it had to be done. This was his beloved childhood pet from the age of four to twenty. When we left the vet’s office, my boy carried the little limp body in his arms. The lights had been dimmed and a candle had been lit. Tears rolled down the receptionist’s face.

The boy now makes his living in the death industry. After having obtained a worship ministry degree, he’s returned to school for mortuary science. A funeral director’s apprentice. His hours are long. He gets called out in the middle of the night, in the wee hours of the morning, to pick up a body.

He’s carried the old, the young, the sudden, the long-suffering.

Even a baby.

I worried, at first, about the toll it might take.

But he’s a born comforter, stalwart, as solid as mountain, as placid as a morning pond in the countryside, smooth as glass. In taking care of others, he is taking care of himself.

He is as happy as I’ve ever known him to be.

He meets people. He connects with them. He learns from them. He hears their stories, knows about their lives.

Not just the families of the deceased.

A couple of times a week, he picks up the funeral home groundskeeper and drives him to work. This man tends a farm, among other things. Occasionally he puts something in the back of my son’s car. At some point along the way he has my boy stop so he can get the thing out of the back. A cage, of sorts. The groundskeeper will set it by the woods and release whatever’s inside… a big ol’ possum, a raccoon… creatures he traps on the farm to keep them away from his chickens and eggs (I suspect he’s trying to catch a fox. Maybe he has. Maybe my boy just hasn’t said).

What strikes me is the preservation of life. That of the wild creatures as well as the domestic ones. It’s especially fascinating to me in light of the context, occurring en route to work at the funeral home. A curious balance…

Earlier this week, when the boy dropped the groundskeeper off at the farm at the end of the day, the man pointed to the goat pen:

Looka new baby goat. It’s maybe thirty minutes old.

He pointed again:

That one, maybe fifteen minutes old.

My son marveled. I could hear it in his voice when he told me the story: Fifteen minutes old, Mom. So tiny. I could see the afterbirth still hanging from the mother.

He sees death every single day. How fitting that his work should also lead him to witness life preserved and the miracle of its fresh arrival.

Such a curious balance.

Baby Goatkendrick. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March