Monday, January 31, 2011

An occasional visit

This bird showed up at my bird feeder last week. I wasn't familiar with it: a Carolina wren. We live at the northernmost reaches of its habitat. When I looked it up in my bird field guide book, I noticed a penciled in comment: 12/24/2007 at suet feeder. So it had been three years since I last saw him.

To Carolina wren: you are most welcome to come more often, but discovering you was such a treat!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Modern Cow Pies

I was shoveling my sidewalks yesterday. I like doing that. Fresh air. Some exercise. I usually shovel part of the driveway while I'm at it. I also shovel out of the garage those lumpy piles of half-frozen slush that fall off the car. I like to think of them as modern cow pies.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round

Kind deeds are very powerful. Sometimes we can do something for someone that to us is so insignificant, but to the recipient it will never be forgotten. I have a memory from my childhood that I still cry about whenever I think of it. I cried about it typing this post. I'm sure the person who helped me has no idea what an impact her kindness had.

When I was in second grade our family moved from in town to out in the country. My school changed. I no longer walked to school, but had to ride a bus AND transfer half-way home to another school bus. For a painfully shy second-grader it felt like I was going to China for school, although it was only seven miles. Not only did I have to travel so far, but my sister and I were the only ones on the buses we rode that had to go through this transfer. It was all because the closer school was over-crowded.

On the first day our mother took us to school, but we had to do the ride home. The buses were big, noisy, and smelly. They were full of kids--lots of them bigger than I, and most definitely noisier. We were reassured that we would be helped, and we were. However, it was hard to get shuffled around by strangers, so when I got aboard the second bus, bus 16 driven by "Ma Whelan", I was terrified and near to tears. We meekly boarded this strange monstrosity, and crept down the aisle, hoping to find a seat to ourselves. Kids were staring at us. They weren't particularly making room or being friendly either. Ma saw our terror, however, and in no time she cleared out the seat right behind her and whisked us into it. Her kind smile and assurances of getting us home safely helped me from completely melting down right then and there.

I rode Ma Whelan's bus for the next ten years--although "Sweet 16" was retired and she got a new bus before I graduated from high school. Everyone loved her. We'd always take up a collection for her birthday and buy her a new sweater to wear while driving the bus. She was our mother on the bus, and her firmness, kindness and protection earned her a place of love and respect in most bus-riders hearts. But that first day, her thoughtfulness quelled the wheels of panic going round and round in my head as I rode the bus home for the first of thousands of times.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Shedding Some Light

A few years ago I repainted one of our bedrooms. As part of the prep for repainting, two holes had to be repaired in the dry wall. One was on a wall, the other in the ceiling. I opted to repair the dry wall myself. How hard could it be? The results were mixed.

The hole in the wall was quite large, having accommodated a teenager's rear end while wrestling with a sibling. When slammed against the wall, the dry wall, not the buttock, caved in. I had to cut the hole square, insert some wood to brace the patch, and then cut a square to fit the hole. Then came the mudding around the edges and smoothing it out. I'm sure there were frustrating moments, but the overall result was quite professional. You can't see the patch--the wall is smooth.

The hole in the ceiling was a different matter. It was caused by some paper wasps who got into our attic and built their nest there, eating away the dry wall, I suppose, for their own building materials. My son recalls being able to hear the buzzing above his head and praying to God they wouldn't break through.

Well, the wasps were dead now, but before they expired, the dry wall was eaten down to paper-thinness in a circle about six inches in diameter. I nervously removed that area and scooped out bit by bit all of the nest. Then I followed the same steps I did with the hole in the wall.

It is much more difficult to do repairs when your head is bent backwards working on a horizontal, but upside-down surface. This hole is also positioned by a window. Light pours in there, exposing everything. That naked patch is so bad--lumpy, bumpy and all the seams showing. How could have I failed so badly there?

That bad patch is like the face of many embarrassments. As long as nothing draws attention to our errors, faults, and lack of giftedness, we get along just fine. But as soon as a particular area comes under scrutiny, nothing can hide. The spotlight shows all the zits, moles and wrinkles in the complexions of our faults.

I look at that bad patch and realize my limitations. True, I could take it all out and re-do it, but I know the extent of my time, energy and patience. Perfection can wait when it comes to dry wall. Besides, half in embarrassment, half in humility, I point out the bad patch to people who come in the room. See this? I did that. Yeah, I know. It's really bad. I feel relieved to be less than super-human.

The patch is also a good reminder about other areas of my life. There are things that we should not allow to remain unchanged. I lost my patience with that patch. I am not willing to remain impatient with people. Grace is needed--and a willingness to cut out, patch, and smooth over my failings. My dark corners could use a light shed on them now and again.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Dead, Not Alive, part three

It occurred to me that there needs to be some explanation about my mouse-baiting.

It all came to a crisis a couple of years ago when I saw my first live owl. It was on my deck, just sitting there in a corner. At first I thought it was a fuzzy ball, and went out to investigate. But when I came close the fuzzy ball opened its eyes!

A baby owl! Or so I thought since it did not fly off, until I did some research in my bird field guide. It was a saw-whet owl--no bigger than a baseball if fully fluffed up. It totally changed how I felt about owls. So small, light and beautiful. The feathers were soft and the color of a grey winter forest--flecks of brown, rust and charcoal. Bright yellow eyes bore into my bird-loving heart, blessing it with wonder.

It sat there all day, and I concluded that it was sick. Finally it fell over and dropped off the deck. I retrieved it, put it comfortably in a lined box and called up the local bird rescue. They explained that it had probably eaten a mouse that was in its last death throes after eating D-con, or some other mouse poison. The mouse was an easy catch, but it was also the demise of the owl. I was mortified as I thought of the D-con in my own attic, and vowed I would never use that stuff again. The little owl died shortly thereafter. It grieved me deeply.

So now comes the problem--if the mice would stay outside I wouldn't care how many there were. But when they come inside, eat up package after package of Ramen noodles--even when I lock them in a plastic bin--and leave behind nasty little pellet droppings, then something must be done. Even all that would not raise my ire--but when I found them nesting in my quilt fabric boxes it became all out war!

Recently I called in a pest control expert. He wanted to use poison. I said no. So he set some traps that would catch them alive. I would have to deal with them after that. Let's just say that it cost too much money, did not catch them alive, and caused considerable pain, distress and agony for the dying mouse, and considerable pain, distress and agony for me when I saw the results.

So it's back to Jif and pop-eyed dead rodents--if only they would not take the bait and run.