In search of story


The spa

I’ve heard it said that birds do not visit bird baths that are low to the ground. Not so. I have two ground-level facilities which have been featured on the cover of “Bird Word,” that trendy magazine for and by birds.SANYO DIGITAL CAMERA My back yard, with its all-you-can-eat buffet of worms and marigolds, double bath, cool mulch and untreated grass, gourmet bugs and the shade of a burgeoning River Birch, has become a destination for the discriminating to take the waters.

Like the stately cardinal. Chanticleer amid the bobbing squall of little birds, who are of a more playful spirit, he tries the crowded circular bath and finds it distressingly plebeian. So he withdraws to the gracefully heart-shaped bath, donated by a local philanthropist, and on its rolled edge, aloof in crimson majesty, he surveys my back yard. The splashers keep a respectful distance.

I have seen six splashers at once. Like popping corn, they bounce back and forth between the two baths and splash with sloppy exuberance, untroubled by disapproving looks from more reserved guests, like the mourning doves, who have learned to come after the rollicking lunch bunch. The doves drink meditatively, bathe with decorum, then adjourn to the wet mulch under the River Birch, where they tummy down and doze, apparently blissful in the quiet.

I have seen a belligerent robin peck away all comers, until, alone, he closes his eyes and sleeps, standing dopily in the middle of the water like some ruined fountain.

I have seen hummingbirds sip and zip, chickadees with their tidy berets, finches of neon yellow and subtle reds, unknowns with azure under their wings. They check in and check out with chirpy abandon.

In some southern clime now, they reminisce and say they’ll be back.


Writer in winter

If the fog comes on little cat feet, this snow is coming on a whirligig. I watch it from my kitchen window. Is the wind from the north, south, east or west? Yes. Some of the snow is falling up. The whole of it wants order.

This is not last week’s wall of white but rather gravity-resistant polkadots cavorting mid-air. I can see some clearly enough to imagine feathers; they are the ones that rock lazily back and forth on their vagrant way.

Some fall to rooftops, where they gather in the shingle edges and slowly build a giant grid, neatly right-angled. They gather also in my neighbor’s precise mowing lines, like so many tiny landing strips. In the street, the snow is fingerpaint to an Ansel Adams wind, swirling the white in curls and flourishes, not covering the blacktop but reveling in the contrasts.

A few days ago, the temperature hovered at 50. Robins! Phlox! How embarrassed they must be now: that was not the coming of spring; it was just cruel scam. The green of the emergent phlox was as welcome as the robin red in the bony crabapple tree, but neither belonged.

This is, as the song says, “the bleak mid-winter.” A world of buff and dun, huddled, withdrawn. I like it. It is still my preferred half of the year. Unenthusiastic about dark and cold, I nonetheless love the enforced quiet of this season, its inwardness, its pledge to sustain unseen life. Snow insulates, I am told, so growth can resume.

Gladly slowed, I hold tight to winter’s cloak and mitten-fumble for words.

like words. pushing up no matter the season

like feelings, pushing up no matter the season