Sunday, June 25, 2023

The birds don't know

we are watching them. They just come for the food. It's funny, though, how some of them seem to pose for the camera. A pause in their eating to ponder themselves on the screen. Why do I think they are thinking? 

And if they are thinking, what thoughts are they--

Wait, is that a cardinal? How absurd and serious he is with his beady eyes. Another bird caught mid-flight, wings raised like medieval monster. And the squirrels... As my friend Deb likes to say, What a hoot! 

I mean, 




That last one was a squirrel. 

We think. There's also a possibility of a possum. One of those popped up at three o'clock in the morning. How it all works is my husband gets a notification on his phone whenever motion is detected. This whole birdfeeder/video thing was a Father's Day present, which means he's only had it out in the backyard for a week. 

But already, I am addicted to it. Checking every movement. Screen-shotting the funny ones, the cute ones, the weirdos. A perfect distraction for me this week because I had my surgery. Did I tell you about my surgery? Well, it was nothing. Just one of those doublecheck-it/in-and-out things. Hardly even any pain. But still,

enough that I was happy for the distraction. When I was waiting to go under, I just wanted it to be over with, and when it was over with, I was so glad it was behind me, is behind me. And now, back to the birds.

How did I come to be a person who delights in watching birds? Does this mean I am old?

Did you ever read the poem "Letters from a Father" by Mona Van Duyn? Here it is. I'll wait, if you want to read it. I read it now myself and got a lump in my throat, exactly how I did when I first read it a million years ago when I was in graduate school. Of course back then I identified with the daughter. 

And I admit, I was skeptical. Could she really woo her old crochety parents back to life so easily, simply by sending them a birdfeeder? 

Hahaha, absolutely. Yes. 


Sunday, June 18, 2023

I can't stop smiling

I think it's the bubbles blasting out of leaf-blower-style bubble machines or the feathery frothy angel wings some people are wearing. The rainbow signs. The balloon-festooned floats blaring party music. And the dancers and the strutters and the flag wavers. 

Maybe all of the over-the-top things you expect to see at a Pride Parade. And maybe all of the things you don’t expect? 

Like, the moms and dads pushing babies in strollers. The grandparents offering free hugs. The children sporting face paint and plastic Mardi gras beads.  

Church group marching after church group. The preachers wearing colorful vestments. The elderly women carrying banners. We love you. You are welcome here. It shouldn’t have to be said, but let's say it. 



Something I’ve noticed lately, every shop I walk into, a clerk smiling and chirping out: Welcome in! I don’t know when this became a Thing or why it surprises me every time, but every time, I love it.  

People are kind. Nearly all of them. Even the ones who are strangers. 

The others-- can we offer them grace? Hope that one day they’ll come around. Okay, maybe not so far around that they’ll be joining the 700,000 people at the Pride Parade in Columbus Ohio, but around enough that when they catch a glimpse of a bubble whirling past, the flick of a colorful flag, a happy dog trotting by,

they will do like the rest of us

and smile. 

Sunday, June 11, 2023


Down in the youth department at the library it is joy-chaos. 

Our summer reading program has kicked off, and everyone and their mother is here to pick up their prizes. “What’s your name?” a little boy asks me. 

I don't answer for a moment. (I’ve never been asked this at the desk, and the kid is maybe eight? nine? and children this age, especially now, post-ish pandemic-ish, are, in my experience, shy. So, the question throws me off.) “Jody,” I say, after another beat. And then, a smile. “What's your name?”

“H-,” he says, smiling too. 

“Nice to meet you, H-!”

“Nice to meet you too, Jody!” He is over-the-top smiling when he leans forward and whispers, “My dad told me I should I introduce myself to people.” 

“That's a good idea.” I try to freeze his little face in my mind. I want to remember this child. I want to remember his name.

A few days later, at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood, I don’t ask people their names, but I chat with them during the transactions. The guy who sells the gorgeous peonies who gives me tips on transplanting. The lady who bakes rosemary bread and luscious Everything Bagel rolls. The woman who sells us our eggs. 

I've been buying eggs from her for four years, and I just now learn that she’s a teacher. The farmer’s market is her summer job.

I stroll home, past the feminist gift store and the breakfast taco place. The coffee shop where they have live bands on Friday nights. Chalk scrawled on the sidewalk in front of the used bookstore: I hope you heal from the things you don't talk about. 

Who wrote this and how did they know it was me? 

At the library H- introduces me to his little brother and their grandmother. They’re regular patrons here and finally we are properly introduced. The boys pick out their summer reading prizes. Their grandmother chats with me about books. 

A mom, another regular, must have been watching our interaction. When it’s her turn at the desk, she calls me by name. She tells me hers, and we greet each other like old friends. 

Sunday, June 4, 2023

Half of the seeds I planted never grew

Squirrels dug up and tossed one of the purple basil plants. And slugs ate the kale. A deer lost from the herd wanders up and down the sidewalk in front of our house, threatening the hostas, barely even blinking when the dog shriek-barks. The weather turns sweltry. I have so many plans for the week,

but in the end, I do nothing, momentarily sideswiped by unexpected health news, which turns out to be a bit of a bummer, but I'm trying to roll with it. 

In the meantime, I laze on the porch swing, escaping into a good book. There is always that. Did I tell you how books saved my life? And how lucky I am now. Surrounded by them. Speaking of

the good book I'm reading. Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver. From the very first sentence I am hooked and marveling. The voice. The story. A darkness at the core about how this country treats its unwanted children, and even though I know this and wish I could forget it, I can't stop reading. Let me tell you a story.

A harried grandmother comes into the library, three little kids scrambling off in three different directions the moment they all spill through the door. A girl and her two little brothers. The littlest one breaks my heart with his droopy eyes, how he's old enough to talk, but doesn't. How he goes stiff with a tantrum when he doesn't get the plastic train car he wants. How he disappears into the stacks the second the grandmother turns her back. 

The grandparents who visit the library fall into two categories: 

the doting, swooping, gushing, proud

and the worried, rigid, impatient. These are the ones who forgot what it was like to have children of their own or are glad to be through with it, and how greatly relieved they'll be when this visit is over and the grandkids can be handed back off to the parents. 

But there's also a third category. The grandparents who thought their parenting days were over, but now, here they go again, for whatever reason, with these children in their custody. 

The harried grandmother wears a look of continual surprise as she mutters weary reminders to say thank you, to share, to clean up after yourselves. I want to tell her she's doing a good job and it will all turn out okay, but how could I ever know that. 

Instead, I offer the kids stickers. The next time they come in the littlest one remembers and makes a beeline for my desk. He garbles out the word Sticker, and I want to hug him, hug the two other little ones, hug the grandmother. 

I've let go of any hard feelings for the lost deer who will any day now chew my plants down to the dirt. Because, why not. 

The things that seem to matter so very much, in the end, don't. The things you can’t imagine will ever matter, do. 

A reminder to myself: half of the seeds I planted grew.