The doves scatter, twenty or more of them fanning out from the large tray feeder before me. I duck without meaning to, frantic flapping lives darting in all directions. I’m sitting in the courtyard answering questions from faculty in the Users Group on my laptop, feet propped up before me, misters cooling the air beneath the umbrella. And then the Cooper’s Hawk dips and banks before me, and I pull my knees up with a jerk. For one moment it looks like he will land on my footstool, and I’m breathless with his nearness. But he sees me, or maybe I gasp, and he veers toward our Palo Verde instead. He sits in Serena on a low green branch, and I strain to see him, to take in every bit of him with nearsighted eyes. I remember a friend of mine talking decades ago about how she was navigating a relationship with her new lover. “I keep reminding myself to just sit back and stay open,” she said. I do this now while the hawk studies me, beaming love while trying not to put too intense a focus on him. He stays for quite a while, making those wonderful quiet vocalizations I adore. If only I spoke hawk. I stay silent, not wanting to send him away. When he goes, I watch him dive between the fence and my neighbor’s carport and swoop north. A half dozen doves are startled out of a tree and fly east. I hear the water from the mister and the high-pitched sounds of dove wings flying away. I watch and listen, but I don’t see the hawk again.
I want to kiss a hummingbird. Yesterday morning after I put birdseed in the tray feeders I had my hand stretched out to reach for the hummingbird feeder (I like to shake the sugar water up each day) when a little one arrived to drink. My face was a foot away from her, no more. Or maybe her, maybe him. I think she was an adolescent. She drank again and again, tilting her head from time to time as though she was studying me, this large, looming presence. Or maybe I was only splashes of color to her. She wasn’t afraid. She stayed for a long time, resting on the rung of the feeder, sipping more pretend nectar now and again. I wanted to kiss her dear, soft little head. I wanted to stroke the edge of my index finger across her smooth back. Instead, I stood still, all admiration and awe. I kissed her in my mind.
It happened in the middle of the night. I was asleep, then half aware of too many sounds. Popping noises. Firecrackers? Drunks breaking bottles? I pulled myself out of sleep, turning in the room to orient myself, my ears and brain trying to make sense of things. The adrenaline rush left me trembling almost before I knew what I was looking at. There was a wall of fire to the east, trees gobbled up as I watched. There were snaps and pops and people, not voices I don’t think but the sense of movement, of activity, maybe a shout here and there without words. Now I wonder if really what I heard was mostly just the hiss of the fire, the roaring of the beast. I couldn’t tell how close it was, somehow managed to function in spite of the adrenaline flooding my brain with stupid. Passport, cat carriers, shoes. I cried when I found George, knew he and Bentley were okay. The fire department was fast. No one was hurt. Not physically. Emotions, minds, psyches must be a different story. I was at a distance, one short crow-flying block away, my home kept safe. But I can still see that tower of flame and smoke out the living room window. For days the image was painted inside me, a movie streaming across the horizon at an old drive-in theater, lighting up the sky.
My friend’s voice on the phone is quiet. “I wonder if you might be too hard on yourself?” she says. I’ve just admitted my recent sloth and debauchery, my recurring impossible transition from the end of the academic year to the summer. Her voice is all whispery and kind, as though I am a horse who might spook, the words an answer to prayer, I think later. (I have asked for gentle lessons.) I know I am too hard on myself. I gauge my efforts harshly, often fall short. But something in her voice makes me think my friend is talking instead about what I ask of myself, what gets put on the list to work toward to begin with. How do we decide where to aim? How do we know if we’re asking too much of ourselves? I plan to take it slow, this putting back on of my list of expectations. I want to let myself slip into it like a well worn sweater, or soft shoes, nicely broken in. But I am thinking I may not want to don the list again in its entirety. Maybe I will cut off the sleeves, wear new orange socks. Maybe I’ll just go to Stein Mart and poke around a bit.
Hi everyone. I just wanted to thank you for your patience with me. I can’t believe I fell so far behind again so early in this new year of blogging! I am hoping to get caught up soon, so I will thank you in advance for your patience as I (hopefully!) pepper you with posts. ;-)
When I was walking home along the creek path the other evening, I heard a mockingbird. I stopped to listen, arms limp at my sides, my back to the creek bed. I could hear him singing behind the row of houses there. I was surprised to hear another bird pick up when he stopped, singing now from a little further away, and then a third one, quieter yet. Last night I heard this happen nearer our home. I have always thought of one mockingbird, a lone voice in the middle of the night or in the early dawn. But these birds were in this together. Their songs sounded joyful, musicians playing, improvising, meeting in that place where music goes, where music takes us, each connecting in those spaces. I think of that unexpected bird symphony now when I get ready to head out into the early dusk hoping for a little more night music.
Hi everyone. I found out this morning I didn’t win the book contest. I am sad but okay. I have been telling myself whoever wins will be the one meant to win in this round. And looking at the winner’s photo on the New Rivers Press Facebook page, I felt good seeing her, knowing this was her time to win. Maybe one day it will be my time. :)