Any “birdie” home?

The hum of my early morning barn chores is temporarily paused to listen to the prayerful song of returning migratory birds. With each passing day a growing variety has been calling our home theirs. From the woods, I hear the unmistakable throaty flute-like song of the Wood Thrush. Not to be out sung an Eastern Phoebe, perched on its favorite Maple tree, joins in with a two-parted song that it is named for; “fee-bee, fee-bee”. The Phoebe family has been returning to the mud and grass nest they constructed under our eave for the past ten or so years. It’s the warbling, musical whistle coming from the direction of our prairie that turns my ear away from all the other melodies. The expressive song is soft and gentle. As I make my way to a good viewing position of the nest box mounted in the prairie, I see a glint of azure blue flicker on the ground. The most heavenly blue I know.  Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, the bluebirds are back!

In the mid-20th century, the Eastern Bluebird numbers plummeted, mostly due to the depletion of nesting habitat. Due to the efforts of many organizations and nature loving people, the Bluebird population has rebounded. Gardeners are richly repaid for attracting Bluebirds to their yards as their diet consists almost entirely of insects. Long before backyard gardeners, farmers cultivated this beneficial friendship. In the beginning of the conservation work, farmers lead the way by creating “Bluebird Trails” on their land. Open fields near wooded areas are a favorite habitat. People once understood the importance of these interspecies relationships. Unfortunately, it seems to be something we have to relearn. My experience with the Bluebirds gives me hope.

Thanks to an environmentally conscious Uncle and his gift of a bluebird nest box, I became part of the efforts to bring their population back from the brink of extinction in the 1980’s. We banded fledglings, counted pairs and kept records on brood batches. I am eternally grateful for my early introduction to “Blue Birding”. I still have the gifted nest box. It’s nearly 30 years old and usually one of the first nest boxes of the dozen or more around our property to be claimed by a mated pair.

The delightful gentle greeting of the Bluebird’s song each spring reminds me of the worthiness in friendships. Relationships forged and fortified over time.  How together, each one saves the other. We must be vigilant of the fragile friendships we have with the natural world. I believe in the undeniable strength of our interrelatedness. It’s much better to think of ourselves as a part of the whole together than it is a piece apart. We are all living one life.

All I can say about my prayers for the Bluebird is that sometimes they are sturdy, built of wood and mounted on a high post with a predator guard.

Note: As the feature image above shows it’s always a good idea to attach entrance predator guards to help limit predation of the nest box.  Sassy kitty’s can put their paws in but they can’t reach down and get at the young birds. Remember to clean out the box after each brood has fledged. The bluebirds will build a new nest on top of the old nest material with each hatching (1-4 each season), raising the nest dangerously close to the entrance hole.

Earth’s Breath

On the cusp of this new season, Mother Earth’s breath smells of tender grass, sunlight and infinite possibility. Oh, the ambitious garden projects spring pushes us to complete in the light of one day! I’ve learned much about gardening over the years. All that collective wisdom can be summed up in one sentence. Garden chores may stiffen my bones but they soften the soreness in the world.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~ Margaret Atwood

Saint and Angels

At the time little did I expect a slight deviation from my usual route home would have me wrestling with a Saint and hitching a ride with two angels!

The distant horizon sizzles with hues of orange and yellow as the sun burns down for the day. My five-dollar sunglasses do nothing to relieve the discomfort so I resort to looking through the slits of my lowered eyelids. Further on, I vaguely make out a four-legged animal crisscrossing the road. As the distance diminishes, I see a large St. Bernard dog. Oblivious to the angry honks and near misses of passing cars, the Saint seems to have a guardian angel sitting on his shoulder. I decide that taking the Saint out of harm’s way will be worth the slight interruption to my commute home.

I pull onto the gravel shoulder. Half my car still protrudes into the lane of traffic. In the dwindling light, the glow of my car’s yellow hazard lights provides intermittent protection as other cars zip by.

His nose hovering just a fraction of an inch above the earth inhaling the sweet essence of virgin ground. The Saint doesn’t even notice me. I pat my hands on both knees and, in a high pitched, soft mothering tone, I call out, “Come here boy! Come here! Aren’t you a handsome fellow.” Not even a glimpse my way. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was no match for the sights and smells of the impending adventure of unfettered canine freedom. Hmm. What to do? I return to my car and take the ten-minute old sub out and, like magic, I have the Saint’s attention!

The Saint lumbers over to me. Grabbing his collar is the easy part, reading his tag proved to be as infuriating as the buzz of a mosquito when you’re trying to fall asleep. A phone number is printed on the tab. Sub devoured, he wants to go where he wants to go. There’s my dog, Wally’s, leash. With a Houdini like maneuver, I manage to get the leash snapped onto his collar. I take out my phone and call the vet. The secretary has no luck contacting the owner so she gives me the Saint’s home address. I decide the easiest option is to simply take him home.

After several long minutes of trying to coerce the stubborn Saint into the back of my car, it’s obvious he’s doesn’t want to get in a vehicle, much less ride in one. OK, I say under my breath. I’ll just walk you home. By my best guesstimate, I figure his rural route address is East of our present location.

After a few steps I realize our fate is sealed. The adventure begins. His familiarity of being lead on leash is even less than that of his time riding in a vehicle. He proceeds to drag me in and out of the ditch at will. I get soaked on the first ditch detour but I’m not letting go. Stiff dry weed stalks are cutting my arms. At points he lies down and refuses to move. After catching his breath he’s off and running. I brace myself against mailboxes to hold us back from heading into traffic. I am as determined to hang on as he is to make me let go! My breath is heavy and hot, the salty taste of sweat on my lips. We tangle and untangle in the cord tethering us together like a choreographed dance between capture and escape.

Finally, as the glow of the sun’s dying embers burns out I find his house. My guesstimate was terribly wrong. After heading ¼ East we had to double back and go another ¼ West. Of course nobody is home so I confine him to the garage. Satisfied my punishing ordeal is over, I give myself a once over. Mud covers my numb arms and the constant jerking motion has given me a sore shoulder. Beneath the cool mud balm the sting of tiny cuts and scrapes works its way through the dried blood.

I am a hot mess. I mean that literally not figuratively. As I shake my head in disbelieve, a giggle wiggles its way out of my belly. The giggle quickly turns to hysterical laughter. I tuck knotted strands of hair riddled with weeds behind my ear. As I struggle to regain my composure, far in the distance, I see the faint pulsing glow of yellow hazard lights. The good laugh seems to have cured all my wounds, seen and unseen. Satisfied my Saintly mission is accomplished, I head out carrying its good medicine in my memory—laughter.

Exhaustion is setting in and each step is heavy and slow.  The smile still stretched across my face, I ask my guardian angels for protection and strength as I walk down the silent country road. The gleam of headlights gone. With a chuckle, I say out loud. I guess you never know where a good deed will lead… you…Angie.

Then out of nowhere, a car appears! The arm of its passenger frantically waving me over. I can’t believe it! Two wonderful women offer me a ride back to my car. As we drive, I recount the St. Bernard story to rousing laughter. Laughter has a way of  lifting the weight of our humanness off our spirits. As we depart I had an amusing thought. Not all Saints are angels and not all angels have wings.

“Every time you do a good deed you shine the light a little farther into the dark. And the thing is, when you’re gone that light is going to keep shining on, pushing the shadows back.” ~Charles de Lint

 

 

Heaven’s Home

Our bodies houses of God adorned and worshiped.

Behind walls of flesh lies the heart of heaven’s home.

Pure love like nature’s nakedness feels beauty.

Let love live inside.

Go to the soul’s open window.

See what the heart feels.

Of all loves, the greatest is of self.

Beauty is created within the “I” of the beholder.

Unknown Territory

Here in Northeast Wisconsin, warmer weather is arriving painfully slow. Spring makes an appearance then disappears, taking her green magic with her. This time of year we experience what I call Old Man Winter’s dark white. The extended transition time weighs heavy on the spirit of many folks. As each dark white day passes, the anticipation of spring  grows green in our hearts. We know spring will come but we worry about how long it’s taking to get here. It’s precisely this “knowing” that stirs up the crazy in people.

I watched a pair of robin’s, hopping through the snow, stopping occasionally on a grassy patch to cock their heads sideways and listen for worms. Later, they were bouncing through the branches of our crab apple tree gobbling down shriveled up fruit from last season. They don’t “know” when or where their next meal will come from, yet they survive on the unknown, living life in complete acceptance of what is.

Weather, a master at teaching non-judgment and surrender, gives us daily lessons on how to release control and follow the flow. The robin’s made it look easy. Following the flow is all about the awareness of whether you are flailing or floating through this fleeting moment.  To arrive at this place of complete surrender, give up the narrow mindedness of knowing and widen your mindfulness of the unknown—explore the great unknowns.

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”~ Mark Twain

Put Your Lips Together and Blow

You don’t hear much whistling anymore. Dad whistled his song of life, a gift that unbeknownst to him brought happiness to many over his lifetime. There is playfulness to a sound made through puckered lips, the air tongue-tickled as the breath’s bellows pump, making music on the inhale and exhale, the breath of life’s soul music.

His favorite tune was merry and light, the chorus at the forefront of my memory. I don’t think a day went by that I didn’t hear that tune when I worked alongside him. He loved to whistle during milking time on our dairy farm. The melody danced between the clang of cow chains against iron stalls and through the persistent chug of the vacuum pump. The sound relaxed and eased the cattle. When we worked outside the sound of his whistle was clear and free, traveling far to spread the cheer of his spirit. For some reason even the faint sound of his whistle drew your attention. It had a way of calling you home—calling your heart. At Dad’s funeral, I became aware of the distance his whistle traveled into the hearts of our neighbors, far and near, and how missed it was going to be.

I have memory moments when I expect to hear his whistle. As if I could will it to travel through the dimensions of space and time. My ear searching for the sound only my heart can now hear. Every now-and-again, usually when I’m working on a problem alone, I start to whistle Dad’s song and I am called home. I’m called to listen to my heart and the answer comes.

Dad passed in spring, when the spirit of a new season is ushered in with the songbird’s whistle and the nightly chorus of Peepers, those tiny frogs with the loud chirp, echoing over fields of hope and promise. He left at a time when everything held a song in their heart. Dad had a simple pure-noted purpose in his lifetime. He was a fixer— he worked at fixing life—for his family, friends and neighbors, the earth, his animals and crops. His life was alive with the sound of his own music. What a gift to give yourself. Whistling kept him in tune with his heart, his life a living song.

I can whistle, not as well as Dad, but it’s not stopping me from living to the beat of my own heart like Dad and occasionally I put my lips together and blow.

In memory of Edward Galkowski, Sr.

Deep Softness

All winter under a white shawl of snow and cold Mother Earth’s dreams kept her buried in warmth below the frost line. The line is gradually melting away and I feel her stir beneath my feet. Her deep softness rising. All of Mother Earth’s children are opening. Our brothers and sisters living in nature remember the gift of opening is to let light and warmth out as much, maybe even more, as it is to let it in.  Spring, the season for our deep softness to rise and shine.