Friday, June 25, 2010

Bird Encounters

Shuffling around in the brush this morning, I annoyed a brown thrasher when I snapped a twig off a gargantuan heap of dead wild rose branches. Its severe golden-eyed countenance made me think better about the plans I had for that dead shrub and I ambled off to another corner of my property. I had seen that same thrasher briefly the day before on the opposite side of the cul-de-sac. It was a short glimpse as I drove by, but just long enough that I was hoping for another sighting to confirm its identity. My encounter this morning was brief again, only a few seconds, but very close--perhaps less than three feet. It was time enough to take in its solid, reddish brown back, creamy underside flecked with brown speckles, and that piercing eye. An odd clicking noise had brought the bird to my attention--it must have been its warning call--not particularly bird-like, but usual and loud enough to look up for it. Slightly larger than a robin, certainly not as big as a crow, but large enough to remember Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds", it demanded I surrender the space it claimed. I was glad to. It was a happy retreat.

At lunchtime today, I blended up some fresh strawberries into a smoothie. It looked refreshing in a red cup with a colorful straw piercing its creaminess. With the rest of my lunch I plopped into a chair on the deck and set my smoothie down on the little table next to me. Moments later I noticed a male ruby-throated hummingbird at the feeder. He sipped and then zipped off only to return again moments later. After another drink he whizzed over to me. Less than two feet away, he flew back and forth several times around my drink, hovering close to it. Had I not been so near, he would probably have dared an even closer look. The red color attracted it and perhaps the smell of the strawberries. In any case, after zigzagging a few times, he decided not to risk a closer inspection and zoomed off. I could almost hear the humming of his wings as he withdrew.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Arguing for the Sake of Peace

The more annoyed you are the harder it is to listen, and the more needful it is. There are people who, as soon as they open their mouths, you want to shut them up. We often forget that others besides ourselves think their ideas are good, worthy of attention, and right-headed. When they are people with whom we vehemently disagree, the temptation is to just blow them off with some shriveling words of dismissal and pat ourselves on the back for our self-perceived (or should I say self-deceived) intellectual prowess. This blowing-off accomplishes nothing good and often exacerbates any further productive communication.

It is amazing what can be accomplished when you do listen, ask questions, and respectfully counter-argue. Almost never do you change a mind, but you can change an attitude, which may be just as important. Our increasingly polarized culture is creating blow-off attitudes the size of Mt. Everest. Stepping back, clearing our hearts of antagonism, clearing our heads of fuzziness, and showing a sincere willingness to hear the other person out does more for building peace than digging in and taking snarky shots at our opponents.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life is Fragile

Yesterday I witnessed my best friend tumbling headfirst down concrete steps and found her out cold when she stopped. The number of thoughts that can race through your mind in an emergency is truly astounding, and somehow, if you keep your head, you can deal with the most urgent needs in the midst of crisis. 911 was summoned, family members were notified, ambulance staff questions were answered, and excited dogs were removed from the premises.

Fortunately for my friend, she didn't break any bones, but has a concussion, stitches, lots of bruises and is very sore. She is blessed to be so lucky. I know someone who fell on his head and died. I have hit concrete three times that I know of--twice on my head and needing stitches, once on my arm, which broke.

Our bodies are a miracle of engineering. Skin never ceases to amaze me at how it protects our insides, endures all kinds of abuse, and yet still heals itself quickly and often without leaving a trace of the injury. Even so, one false step can put all that miraculous organic machinery in jeopardy. Toughness and fragility in one astounding package.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poison Ivy and Lessons Unlearned

We all have our stubborn ways where we are so set in how we do things that changing is almost impossible. Poison ivy is teaching me this. I just don't like gardening with gloves on. Part of the enjoyment is the sensory pleasures of feeling the dirt crumble in your hands, knowing that you've grasped a weed well enough to get it up by the roots, and touching soft, cool living plants. Gloves diminish that enjoyment, sterilize the experience, and are cumbersome. It's like holding a newborn baby with rubber gloves on. You'd miss that incredibly soft skin.

So I've been dealing with a poison ivy rash for several weeks. There's no end in sight. And I'm still gardening without gloves on, encountering more poison ivy, and washing up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub whenever I know I've touched some. I don't have a problem with scratching the rash, and most of the time I can keep the itching down to a comfortable enough level. If the blisters weren't between my fingers I also think that they wouldn't burst.

My mother, who is in her eighties, told me recently that she gardens now with gloves on all the time. She could change. Maybe I can do this. But I think it is going to take a rash much worse than this one to change my mind.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Two Steps Forward

Life is a dance. Two steps forward, one step sideways, one step backwards, two steps forward. I don't know what that dance might be--perhaps the foxtrot. In any case, we rarely just go straight ahead, and who would want to. Life is more interesting with some twists and turns--even some that are unexpected and initially unwelcome. Almost anything we undertake is like this.

I'm in the midst of lesson planning. I picked some materials that I thought would be useful. Then I found some other stuff that was even better so I changed the plan.

I'm trying to pay off our mortgage. But other priorities have tapped into my earnings. They were all things that needed doing. The mortgage has gone down, just not as fast as I had envisioned.

I broke my arm. Then I sprained my thumb on the same arm. Now I have poison ivy on the sprained thumb/broken arm limb. The thumb problem and the rash have made doing therapy difficult, and some parts of it impossible, but my arm works again.

My hearing declined. I got surgery--then my hearing was worse until the swelling went down. Now little gifts of sound are returning. This morning I heard some birds chirping--not mourning doves, the only bird I'd heard up till now. I also heard the microwave beep from across the room.

We can be dismayed at the backward steps. I like to think that when we step back it is a preparation for a leap forward. Kind of like pulling back the bow string before releasing the arrow.

Life is a dance. You can't waltz unless you step both forward, backward and to the side. Start the music. I can hear it now!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

I Think, Therefore I Might Be

A problem needs solving. I puzzle out the possible solutions. It's sticky and messy and other people need to be considered. My imagination kicks in and now I'm picturing the discussion I'll have with the people involved. Sometimes I'm arguing.

It's funny how in these imaginary conversations I am always eloquent and convincing. It never works that way in real life. It is always so disappointing to actually have the discussion and find that people aren't sticking to the script. I had it all thought out, therefore I might be right.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Myrtle and the Way Things Are

Now that the growing season explodes upon us, I have been waging war in my yard daily. I define weeds as plants that are not where we want them. Thus, I allow milkweed to grow out by the cul-de-sac because it attracts monarch butterflies, and I rip out myrtle in dozens of spots because, although it is a lovely ground cover, it also tends to choke other things that are more desirable. It truly is a war. The myrtle advances and I attack with all my weapons.

Every day I find poison ivy, which I pull up gingerly, and then take great care to wash both arms up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub. This morning I detected a small rash between my pinkie and ring finger on my left hand. This isn't fair. I didn't pull it out with my gloved left hand! But a few rashy spots (most of them just pinhead size) are what I've come to accept as a normal part of a gardener's trials.

I often fight plants with plants. If you rip out what you don't want and replace it with a vigorous start of something else, it might be able to hold onto its turf and keep the undesirables at bay. Another option is mulching, but I have always struggled with limited time, energy and money. When it comes down to choosing priorities on what to spend my meager funds on, plant material and some good soil to get them started always wins. In the meantime, I pick up pine cones by the buckets and mulch around bushes with them. This year I may splurge on a bale of hay for the vegetable garden, and maybe even ask our lawn mower (the person, not the machine) to collect the clippings, now that we have a mower than can actually bag the stuff.

Progress is slow but steady. Every spring I wonder if I will just give up, and then I get started. Inspiration sprouts and then gets rooted. I reach for the hoe, the shovel and the poison ivy scrub and decide that I can't just let things stay the way they are.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

It's Been Even a Lot Longer...

I find I don't have much to say these days. It must still be burn-out from the last school year. However, there is also something to be said for listening instead of talking. I have good reasons for saying that these days, because there is so much more to hear. My ear surgery has proven successful and continues to open welcome sounds for my enjoyment again.

I am noticing...
lots of airplanes go over our house!
a mourning dove coos as I garden.
kitchen appliances are like rockets taking off.
subtitles on movies aren't always exactly what the people are saying.
that music is pleasant again.
that I am not lip reading much right now.
that you don't have to repeat yourself as much.
that I don't always have to use caption telephone in phone conversations.
the sound the turn signals make in the car.
the beep on the microwave... sometimes.
that I don't have to explain to people all the time that I am hearing impaired.
little squeaks and noises that my granddaughter makes.

Life is getting lovelier.