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.

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.

Finch fantasia

fantasia
noun

Music.

1. a composition in fanciful or irregular form or style.
2. a potpourri of well-known airs arranged with interludes and florid embellishments.

—Dictionary.com

They’re still here,
the finches
with the nest
in the magnolia wreath
on my front door

four weeks after
their Easter-egg hatching
I feel certain
these babies can fly

yet they linger
every little singer
adding its glory
to each new day

how I wish
this gold
could stay

Short recording of the finch fantasia

A day in May

It is the season
of newness
of flowering
of fresh color
of cloudless sky
so blue it hurts

it is the season
of grass
of earth
of birth
of birds
of Eastertide hatchlings
leaving nests
to wing their way
through the world

it is the season
of contemplation
of existence
of life
of purpose
of time
not standing still
and therefore being
infinitely
piercingly
precious

Micah contemplates pink sorrel and a piece of pine straw

More birdspiration

Finch eggs in a nest
on my front door wreath
captivated me
to such a degree
that I failed to see
what was happening
outside the back door:
a bright flash of blue
disappearing in
the little bird church
-bluebird occupants
brought Easter eggs, too.

On my back deck, Easter afternoon: a male bluebird is either bringing food to his mate or helping to feed babies. He entered and exited multiple times; once I was sure he was flying off with a bright blue piece of eggshell. These are the first-ever occupants of the little bird church, which has just been sitting on the deck as decor. I’ve seen the female as well. So hoping to get photos of bluebird babies soon (I need a better camera…this was taken with my phone through the kitchen window and screen).

My soul rejoices in this proliferation of feathered life, that songbirds have chosen my home for their own.

How lovely is your dwelling place,
    O Lord of hosts!
My soul longs, yes, faints
    for the courts of the Lord;
my heart and flesh sing for joy
    to the living God.

 Even the sparrow finds a home,
    and the swallow a nest for herself,
    where she may lay her young,
at your altars, O Lord of hosts,
    my King and my God.

Psalm 84: 1-3

Eggsultation

-The continuing saga of Little Blue Egg

Dear Little Blue Egg,

In all the generations of finches
hatched in wreaths on my front door
I have never known
a mother to lay just one egg
and leave

but that is what your mother did
last Sunday.

Here you’ve been ever since
resting in your nest,
forlorn in the freezing cold

day after day after day

one blue egg
one blue door
one long blue silence
one blue human
(that would be me, Franna,
sad self-appointed custodian
checking on you every morning)

until Friday

when, out of the blue,
there were TWO
of you!

On Saturday, three!

On Sunday, no more…
although I heard
the most beautiful singing
at my door

then on Monday… FOUR.

Little Blue Eggs galore.

I do not know
where your parents were
during those five days
of your cold blue lonesomeness
or how your mother could withhold
her charming clutch
for so long

but I know this thing:
your father and mother sing
every morning
like tiny angels
in eggsultation

and so
do I.

Little Blue Egg gets a sibling five days later

A quartet of Little Blue Eggs… joy!

A short clip of the parents’ music… it echoes throughout the house.
No wonder that finches symbolize joy or that their collective noun is a “charm.”

Some sources say only males sing; others say females sing in spring.
Listening to their bright morningsong, I am reminded
of these lyrics from O Come, All Ye Faithful:
Sing, choirs of angels,
sing in exultation…

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

note:
the letter to Little Blue Egg (alone no more!) is an epistolary poem
for Day Five of National Poetry Month


Dear Little Blue Egg

I still do not know where your parents are at present.

I am just your surrogate human grandmother figure who lives behind the blue door where you lie resting in your beautiful downy nest in the magnolia wreath.

Quite alone since your Sunday debut.

Three days now.

You ought to have had at least couple of sibling eggs, but…

Here is what I have learned, since learning is the only thing I can do in this situation of waiting to see how Nature acts on your behalf:

  1. Sometimes a mother bird’s egg-laying gets interrupted. Your mother may resume. I haven’t known this to happen before with our house finch families, but let’s not dwell on that right now.
  2. Sometimes a mother finch lays just one egg. Again, I haven’t known this to happen before, but… maybe you’re all she has. Which means you are very precious, indeed.
  3. Sometimes a mother finch will lay eggs and wait for some time before returning to incubate them, as a means of diverting attention from the nest. It’s a ploy to keep you safe. I could have sworn I heard your parents chatting at the nest late yesterday afternoon. I so expected another egg…
  4. Because a mother may wait a rather long time to return, overly interested humans (ahem) should wait a month (a MONTH!) before assuming a nest and egg are abandoned. There is hope for you yet, Little Blue Egg…

Meanwhile, I’ve done all I can for my front porch bird sanctuary… or should I say egg sanctuary? As always, I put up a sign warning visitors of your nest with instructions to use another door. My family knows to leave the front door bolted (just in case, I put a reminder sign inside: STOP! -birds-).

Meanwhile, with temperatures dipping into the twenties overnight, I cannot help thinking about your cold blue lonesomeness. I am making myself take heart that there can be a pretty good span of time before incubation begins…that you still have a window for survival…

Meanwhile, there are PLENTY of other things with which to concern myself. In the whole of the universe, you are but one little blue egg; yet your tiny solitary presence affects me. Maybe it has something to do with all the work your parents put into creating this beautiful nest and the expense of egg production is to your mother. Very costly, that. Should you, her current one and only, not hatch…it seems, in the scheme of things, a grievous loss.

Granted, grievous losses happen in the world every single day, and my species is not the best (by far) at fathoming (or preventing) them.

For the record: I love birds. Something about you gives wings to something in my soul. House finch songs are particularly joyful; indeed, you’re a bona fide omen of joy (I looked it up long ago). Early in the morning, doxology of joy; in the blue hour, evensong of joy.

This present silence, dear Little Blue Egg, feels immense.

Know that I am pulling for you while watching from a distance.

Your hopeful resident human-guardian-grandmother,
Franna

*******

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

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

The call

In a poetry class with Highlights Foundation, I recently wrote an Edenic or Fall of Man/Woman poem in which I touched on the idea that animals once had free communication with humans. Maybe we once understood all the lyrics in birdsong. Maybe that’s why I have such a pang when the Carolina wren on my back deck sings, with its whole being, with what sounds like unbridled joy; it fills me with unspeakable longing for something I cannot name. Maybe this lost dialogue is why dogs’ loving eyes so pierce the human soul…begging the question of who’s the purer creature…

One morning this week I heard a sound that I haven’t heard in years. I hadn’t even realized it was missing: the distinctive call of Bobwhite quail. A quick online search told me that their numbers have diminished in my area. Surely some of this is due to habitat loss as more subdivisions are being built. As is often the case with one simple search, I now have more research to do…

And then one afternoon, pulling into my driveway, I saw four tiny brown birds running from the roadside to safety in the grass. A new covey of these quail, forging their life together. Got me thinking about how challenging it is to survive, being a ground bird, considering the neighbor’s prowling cat and any number of things in the snatches of surrounding woods… it is a line of thinking I can’t let myself follow very far. Leads me back to the poem, the idea of Eden, the true unity of all living things, before the loss of it all. Before the first bloodshed.

But today, I will simply savor the sound. And the living. And the message, as much as I can understand it.

Bob-white, bob-bob-white
onomatopoeic call
of little ground birds
skittering through the grasses
looking out for each other

Lead photo: Northern Bobwhite quail. Steve Maslowski/USFWS. CC BY

End photo: Northern Bobwhite. Don Faulkner. CC BY-SA