Sunday, April 27, 2014


I have a way, it seems, of loving those things no one else finds particularly useful. Take for instance the darlings of my spirit, the Russian Olive trees which I have written so profusely about in the past, and will no doubt write about again in the coming weeks. To most they are weeds, terrible, stubborn thorny pests that plague the landscape, not beautiful to look at but so sweet to hold in the tender embrace of my nose. I do not always look with my eyes, and love is bigger than the box of my heart.

And that is why I have fallen in love with the Grackle, the most common and ordinary and seemingly unspectacular of birds. An iridescent black with a piercing yellow gaze, and a call that is not melodious or sweet, but grating and metallic, this unloved bird with an unkind name has somehow found a spot in my heart because it plays to my memories of childhood and takes me to places long forgotten.

When I hear the grackle call, its body fluffing up, expanding like a blackened marshmallow over a campfire, I recall the swing-set in my grandparents backyard, and the hours I spent there with my sister or my cousins, our little legs pumping forward and back, forward and back, in that endless drive to climb higher and higher and to perhaps leave the ground behind forever, the scrape of the chains rubbing back and forth, metal on metal, forward and back, forward and back, an anchor to the earth. I can see the vague shape of Grandma through the screen in the window in the kitchen, her eyes sometimes catching mine, her smile big, her lipstick impossibly red.

I miss her, but when Duncan and I venture down the trail past the pond, to the place where the willows are thick and yellow and the Russian Olives are only just beginning to don their grey green spring coat, where the rush and whoosh of the nearby roads fade away and the delights of our sound garden can come to life, the grackles appear, perched on the thick fat ends of the willows or in the branches above us, and sing the rusty chain song that takes me home to my grandparents immaculately trimmed yard in the 70s, when all the world was before me, when I never had reason to doubt, when Grandma promised I'd never be alone.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Everything matters, as I was reminded once again on our evening walk around the lake. From the green halo which is slowly--too slowly--overtaking the trees on the edges of the park, especially the willows, which are sobbing for the inevitable but tedious arrival of another Rocky Mountain spring, to the throngs of people that had overrun the trail, most of them--myself included--in shorts and t-shirts. They jogged and biked and walked, leisurely and without any sense of time, while others struggled with their puppies, gangly yellow labs, hounds with ears nearly dragging the greening ground, Pomeranians that jogged along the edge of the path looking like dusty cotton balls caught in the playful, warm afternoon breeze. They were pleasant, these people, smiling as we passed, some offering hellos and passing pats to Dunc's head as he hurried past, his nose low, his eyes trained on the shrubs where the rabbits roost. The smells was there, too, that rich, moist, dark-earth fragrance of spring, thick as the flavor of copper but as light as the few cloud wisps that drifted overhead. It mattered that families had gathered with loaves of bread to feed the geese and ducks in the same way that I had fed them when I was a child and my grandparents had taken me down to the river or to Tautphus Park in Idaho Falls. The ducks crowded the shore, mindful of the eggs they'd just planted in their new nests, but unwilling to ignore a free hand-out from the visitors. It mattered that I pause in our walk to visit with the elderly man who'd stopped to sit on a bench and stare out at the sun playing on the water, a look on his face that reminded me of my grandfather after Grandma passed away. When Dunc sniffed his freckled hands and allowed him to scritch his ears and mumble incomprehensible words to him I wondered if some kind soul had stopped for Grandpa on those long, lonely afternoons and if the moment had meant anything to him, enough to bring a smile to his face. It mattered that the sky was finally gold and blue and warm enough to smile into and that there was no hurry to head home, only to enjoy the sound of Roo's feet on the path and his tail as high as a flag, flapping and wagging with each step he took.

It has been a difficult month for me but afternoons such as this one remind me that even when I think nothing matters, it all does, and there is an infinite world for which to be grateful.