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.