Tag Archives: birds

a sweet contradiction

The holiday season harbors a sweet contradiction.  We gather around full tables.  We feast until our stomachs protest, until we collapse on the couch in a food coma.  We eat and we drink and we enjoy the bounties of the year, the gifts of our family and friends.  It feels good, so very, very good.

And it is a simultaneously a season of longing. quiet moments masking an internal cacophony of regret and longing and grief and sadness.  We miss the ones who are far away, the ones we have lost.  The ones that are gone, the ones that were never here. We want things to be different, we want what we cannot have. 

This Thanksgiving I remembered my friend, who died 17 years ago in a car crash. She has now been dead as long as she was alive. I was mourning her absence, feeling the echoing hole that her departure left inside of me so many years ago, and in that moment of missing her a turkey vulture soared above me, the Great Purifier. Call it God, call it science, but there is a mysterious force around us and above us.  Something which takes the dead and decaying and turns it into life, into that which sustains us. And in a strange dance we can transform grief into merriment, our losses into the joy and essence of life

Life is an undulation, it is a gentle swaying between the dark and the light.  A step forward, a slide backward. So we gather for another holiday.  We hold each others hands while old songs play on the radio and we laugh about the days which live on in our memories and collective recollections. We are sad, but our grief allows us to feel more poignantly the joys of what we do have.  We can taste the sweetness of pie and the tartness of the cranberries and we can take it all in, every bite.  In this way we honor the ghosts that haunt the quiet moments, but embrace the living, embrace our life.

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Ozark butterfly, July 2013

coming of age

I used to believe I was ahead of the curve.  A precocious child, I was always a top student in class.  I was reading Madeleine L’Engle and Newsweek and Reader’s Digest at age 7. While I was shy with my peers, I enjoyed charming adults with my big vocabulary and savvy conversational skills.

I tried to grow up quickly. I was the first of my friends to have a serious boyfriend, and among the first to have my own apartment, to have a professional job.  I was the first to marry, the first to buy a house, and the first to divorce. I was naive and ambitious and hard-working and innocent, rushing through the passages of life with my hair wild behind me.

“Slow down, enjoy your youth,” I would hear my elders murmur. And I would flick my eyes to the horizon.  How could I go slow and savor when there was so much to attain, glittering like a heat mirage in the distance? Clearly, they had already forgotten the urgencies of their own youth, the siren song of dreams and plans and goals. And I felt misunderstood.

But the everyday sorts of tragedies that have unfolded over the past 7 years in my life have proven to derail that runaway train. I have failed those that I love, I have planned and plotted and sweat blood and despite my very best efforts, had it all turn to shit. My immaturity rank, and my foolishness laid bare. But the trials and tribulations and tremendous losses have been good for me. I live life differently now.  I don’t have everything I wanted and expected would come my way. But I enjoy every day given to me as the tenuous gift that it is. Perhaps the girl who thought she was ahead of everyone else is finally coming of age. Finally growing up.  It just feels so very different from how I thought it would.

I roll down the window, with the breeze whipping through my fingers as I drive.

Oh yes, life is good.

I squint my eyes into the crimson sunset from a mountain peak

Oh yes, life is good

I slurp the soup that I cooked in my tiny kitchen.

Oh yes, life is good

I spin circles on the dance floor in new boots, my skirt billowing around my legs

Oh yes, life is very, very good.

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Take off. Yellowstone, August 2013

I take pictures of birds because I can

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It might have been a little foolish. I lost my savings in the divorce, and I really had no business spending money on things I didn’t “need.”

But I wanted to take pictures of birds.

So I bought a camera, a nice one.  I don’t even really know how to use it yet- my high school photography class was in the previous millenium, long before digital SLRs. But I’m able to take pictures of birds.

So I do.

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where I lived

I used to live in a track home outside of town, on land freshly poached from the desert. Like a number of choices made at age 24, it isn’t a decision I would repeat; this was life in the country without the benefits of country life. There were the long commutes, the automotive expenses, the 15 miles to the grocery store. My bedroom window stared into my neighbors’.  I had a tiny yard that was mostly composed of a pile of rocks.  In a desperate move to beautify I tried to grow succulents on the rock pile, but the succulents would inevitably die off, exposing the truth that, no, there’s no rock garden here, only an eyesore.

I moved to that house having only lived in a very urban environment.  At first it seemed strange, but I grew to love both the silence and the sounds. The coyotes would sing at night over the howling wind. I would run in the darkness of the early morning with the milky way shining down upon me and hear owls flapping their wings as they hunted their prey. Hoo, hoo.  

I now live in a central part of the city, and the constant, bustling noise grates on my nerves.  I run on asphalt with no owls in sight, only pigeons. I appreciate being able to bike to work, to walk to a grocery store, but I seek out quiet corners of the city in which to recharge. I miss the roadrunners, the quail, the hawks soaring ahead.  I miss the forests of ocotillo, reaching towards looming mountains above. My happiest moments are when I’m outside of the city limits, on a hill overlooking the twinkling lights, or camping in a forest somewhere.

Turns out I’m a bit of a country girl, afterall.

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Sometimes in life, we receive gifts. Spontaneous, wonderful, generous gifts.

Today it was my turn. A beautiful quilt from Stephanie arrived in the mail. She is a woman who has inspired me with her words from the first moment I stumbled on to her blog. Her insights gained after losing her husband to pancreatic cancer speak directly to my heart. Not only did she boost my blog traffic after mentioning my post when she was featured on Freshly Pressed, she went another step further and created something beautiful for me.  I opened the package and felt a rush of ohmygoshIdon’tdeservethisbeautifulthing, but there it was, bringing sweetness and light, fresh from a cardboard box addressed with my name. No way to deny the gift, return to sender, push it back into the givers arms with an “oh, no, you SHOULDN’T have.”

I am learning to accept the blessings in life with humble gratitude.  Whether I deserve this quilt matters not; due to a surprising connection with a generous and thoughtful woman, its mine now.  I’ll learn to take the good in life with open arms and heart and a hearty THANKS.

Thank you, Stephanie. Thank you to all the others who have shared their light, their blessings, their talents with me.  Thank you, dear reader.

freedom

I have a tattoo of a birdcage on my calf.  Last night, I dreamed that the ink on the birdcage was fading away; it was becoming nearly inappreciable in spots.  I was disappointed and returned to the tattoo shop in order for her to redo her work.

“No” the artist said. “Its supposed to do that.”

I wish in life we could have what limits us fade away to nothing with minimal effort, the natural decomposition of walls and bars and ceilings.  Sometimes its more complicated than that. Sometimes we have to sweat and bleed and sob and pray before the flood gates fall, the doors spring open, and then suddenly, we are flying free.  Other times, it happens spontaneously and unexpectedly, and as we float along we suddenly pass through a channel into a different land than something we ever envisioned or dreamed of.

Regardless of how we get there, freedom is an exhilarating feeling.  The rustle of the wind through flight feathers, the fresh air blasting up the nose and into the lungs, soaring into a land of new beginnings.

 

my new tattoo

my tattoo

 

“Every bird that flies has the thread of the infinite in its claw” ~ Victor Hugo

Remember when I wrote a while back that I wanted a second tattoo?

I finally got it!

This testament on my body to my mother’s transformation is perfect perfect perfect. I really couldn’t be happier.  I know if she were alive she would think it was weird I memorialized her with a tattoo- but she’s not alive, and if her spirit has a shred of awareness about the fact that I inked an image of flight, of escaping and eclipsing the boundaries of life on my leg, I don’t think she minds at all.