Sunday, August 28, 2016

sucking nectar from a clothespin

For my birthday, words of wisdom from my mother.

Go on being careful with your life.

I find 11¢ in the washer at the laundromat. One penny, one dime. Both I put in my pocket. If I forget they are there, one day they may return from whence they came.

It rains, it stops. Big soft grey and white clouds drift by. Lately a lot of rain. Frogs pop up in strange places.

Frog on day lily.

There was a day when goldfinches and blue jays were predominant, flashing yellow and blue all across the fields, and another day a hummingbird was trying to suck nectar out of a dirty old clothespin clipped to the clothesline. Hummingbirds often sit on the clothesline—it is near the feeder—and this little guy, after hanging in mid-air jabbing at the pin, sat down next to it, all nonchalant, dum-de-dum-de-dum, paying no attention, looking this way and that, but then, right before he picked up and spun away, he gave the clothespin one last jab, just to be sure, I suppose, and who knows, maybe there was something sweet and lovely in that dirty old clothespin, something I just couldn’t see.

Looks like an old dirty clothespin to me.

But back to my birthday, though I don’t know why, because 59 truly seems neither here nor there, though perhaps on the cusp of something, like in 11 years I could run for president. I pour some candles, like most days. I write a little, like most days. A hummingbird sits atop a clothespin, I suppose because the clothesline has been taken over by sheets and things. I wonder if it is the same bird as the other day. Then, there is a moment. I am pouring beeswax into a candle mold. The sky is overcast. A soft breeze weaves in through the windows. Sheets flap on the line. Josie, sleeping on the sofa, snores. Elliott, nearby in his bed, snores. And I think, jeepers, isn’t this pleasant.

Please don’t take my picture while I am sleeping.

A bird glanced off the kitchen window, knocked his noggin, we heard the thunk, and Josie didn’t care, but it attracted Elliott, and, eventually, me. A plain grey—perhaps “duff-breasted”—bird lay on its back on the gravel patio. It was breathing, quick little breaths, but I thought maybe not for long. Elliott sat on the windowsill watching, then returned to bed. On the window pane was a four-inch whitish streak and one tiny, downy grey feather. I decided to let the bird be, looking at it now and again, and it died—I saw no movement, it lay flat on its back—but the next time I looked it was on its feet, cocking its head this way and that. One eye looked dark, bright; the other I couldn’t see so well, but it seemed goofed up. The bird flew off.

One day I watched a hawk pull a snake from the wood pile. I was watching TV but had a clear view through the window of Wood Pile #1. This big bird, a hawk, swooped down, sat atop the wood, pecked at something while keeping a close eye all around. Eventually it started pulling up this long snake—surprisingly long, I thought—and then it began gulping it down. Pull and gulp. Pull and gulp. When it came to the tail end, it stopped. Just stood there for a minute looking around with those piercing hawk eyes, the snake’s tail flopped over its beak like a misplaced mustache. A curling one-handlebar mustache. Then, slurp. The snake was gone. The hawk flew off.

Summer drags on.

But—fall is in the air. An intoxicating hint wafts in on northwest breezes whispering faintly through rustling leaves; everything, everyone, is busy. Days close in. Autumn, that dramatic overture to winter, tunes up. Like musicians wandering into an orchestra pit, finding their seats, adjusting their music stands, shuffling, spitting, coughing, rosining bows, wetting reeds, testing drum heads, waiting for the maestro, please; from the cello, a low strum; from the oboe, a squawk; an errant clash of cymbals; a hush and soft murmur of ever-shorter days, brown withered flowers, cool breezes, pale asters, funky mushrooms—play on.

And please, listen to your mother: be careful with your life.


  1. Oh... I love your writing....

    That frog is something else! Looks like something you would see in a tropical rainforest.

    Thanks for the words!

    1. Thanks, Rachel. The frog was surprising -- I went through the usual frog vs. toad ID quandary so was googling around and discovered it's a treefrog of some sort, found in Michigan, as P has commented below ...

  2. Thanks for sharing the pleasant happenings of your week. Josie is a cutie-pie. Wondering if that is a frog or a toad? Has a bumpy body like a toad. Sure is a pretty fella. Would have loved to see that hawk meal go down! Oh, and Happy Birthday to you! ~ P

  3. You're right - it's a gray treefrog. They come in shades of green. ~ P

    1. Yes - I had to google it. I've seen more frogs/toads this year than any I can remember. One day I thought Josie was playing with a grasshopper in the yard -- turned out it was a tiny brown toad (or frog - I give up). It hopped like crazy. Josie was mighty excited. And it's possible he caught it and ate it. But I hope not.