Musings over Grosbeaks
Winter crept into spring this year. One consequence of a long winter is that as snow fell and temperatures dropped below 20o, large numbers of birds depended on birdfeeders for food. Even though black sunflower seeds have nearly tripled in price the past two years, I surrendered to the extravagance of purchasing 40-pound bags, filling four feeders, but maybe not so full as other years. Aside from the bald eagles and the mourning doves, the most exotic birds are the Evening Grosbeaks with their glossy gold, black and white plumage and their thick beaks (hence, “gros-beaks,” get it?) . They travel in tight little flocks: there’s either a flock of 20-30 present, or none at all. Ten or fifteen cluster on a feeder at once, gabbing and crowding each other out. Once I was about to lift the lid of a glass-fronted birdfeeder to pour in more seed when I realized a single grosbeak was patiently looking out at me from inside! A squirrel or raccoon had lifted the lid and the grosbeak had taken advantage of the moment and got himself trapped. I watched a flock the other morning when the trees were whipped by high winds and stinging rain. The chickadees, robins and junkos huddled and pecked beneath the shrubbery, but the grosbeaks sat in the very tip top of a bare cottonwood tree, exotic splashes of color, appearing quite content. When I lived in town, my birdfeeder was a favorite haunt of grosbeaks and every spring I eagerly awaited their appearance. But one year, I found a dead grosbeak in the yard, then one in the sidewalk, and spotted a few other huddled on tree branches, obviously ill. One died on the front steps, two beneath the birdbath. No one knew of any bird disease, and finally I had to accept the idea that somewhere in their travels, the grosbeaks had been exposed to a chemical – a weed or insect spray - that sickened them. That was the end of the huge flocks that visited my feeder. The following springs brought only a few of the beautiful birds to our feeder.
There’s no moral or message in these musings, just a sharing of one of the real pleasures in the world around us. Pay attention!
Happy Spring, jo
On my home page, I mentioned the Literary Lions Gala. One of the most delicious aspects was the authors’ get-together prior to the event, when I reconnected with old friends and met some of the 32 attending authors. Writing is a solitary endeavor and honest, authors rarely do get together. It’s a hazard of the career: you spend months sequestered away, creating a book, maybe getting a little nutty, and then suddenly you’re in the company of people who do the same thing, maybe even getting a little nuttier. When authors do gather, it feels like there’s never enough time to get it all said! I came away revitalized and ready to slip back into my writing den.
Fabulous Newspaper website
Sadly, it seems we’re losing print newspapers daily. This is an interesting website sent to me by my cousin Ricky, I mean, Roger(!). Newseum As you move your cursor across the world map, the front pages of local newspapers pop up on the right side of your screen.. It’s good fun. Try it.
One last word about the demise of local print newspapers. As we become more connected through the internet, we’re in danger of becoming more disconnected from our local surroundings. I live in the country and my only access to the internet is through dial-up – or outrageously expensive and unreliable satellite. Since online newspapers are financed by ads, connecting by dial-up takes FOREVER to load and I rarely look at my financially troubled local newspaper online. “But you miss so much,” a friend warned me. Exactly.
The Lost Art of Chewing
Now, as you know, authors are shameless eavesdroppers. I was in a restaurant recently and overheard a woman complaining about stomach problems. I couldn't help noticing how she bolted her food, and suddenly I recalled Aunt Louise Zukas (yes, Helma’s named after her, but Aunt Louise was more Ruth-ish than Helma-ish) admonishing the children’s table at Thanksgiving, “Chew your food or you’ll ruin your stomach.” Even now I wonder, can it really be that simple, just by chewing?
Someone stated that two words can sum up every military loss, every mistake and most romantic disasters. Those words: “Too Late.” Since then I’ve been applying those words to the darker sides of life, and a lot of truth exists there!
After being told for years that she should read Alexander McCall Smith, Helma, always wary of advice that includes the word "should," began THE SUNDAY PHILOSOPHY CLUB, and is thoroughly enjoying herself. Ruth, hearing an appropriately grizzled but handsome man refer to himself as "a mountain man," - and relentlessly curious about the habits of men - is deep in Richard S. Wheeler's Barnaby Skye series of mountain man tales.
Again, I cannot express how much your emails and letters have meant to me, especially during these troubling times in publishing and the retirement of Miss Zukas. I read and answer every one and print several so I can re-read them later. You are generous and funny and a treasure. Thank you.
Thanks to Karen, a reader who wrote: "I know you can't stop writing any more than I can stop reading."