Friday, May 30, 2008

Living In Bucket In Palm Tree...Wish You Were Here!

Can you stand to read one more post about birds? It’s what’s going on around here these days. You cannot step outside without hearing “Cheep, cheep, cheep” from every corner. The nests are so well camouflaged that, though I can clearly hear the babies, I cannot see them. Given the season that is in it and her own personal, feather-raising adventures, I invited my friend, Mme. Dove, to do a guest post today, in which she will recount for you the disastrous turn events took in her life, and the lives of her children this past weekend. Here she is………….

"We've been living in the trees out behind MB's house for a couple of years now, my mate and I. This spring we found the best location ever for our nest, between the fronds of a palm tree not far from the house. The fronds provided shade and privacy, and their sharp barbs ensured that Mrs.Hussy Squirrel, and her cheeky, unruly children wouldn't be poking their inquisitive noses into our nest. Not being a place easily slithered to, we also thought our eggs would be safe there from snakes. All in all an ideal location. Monsieur Dove and I got busy. We gathered twigs and Spanish moss from nearby trees, and soon had a cozy place in which to raise this year's nestlings. In due time I laid the eggs and we took turns sitting on them to keep them warm. We were so proud of our sweet babies when they finally hatched!

And THEN, just when they were within a week of starting their flight training, along came The Bean. The Bean, in case you were not aware, is MB's son. He pretty much single-handedly takes care of the garden, but this particular day he had help. His Dad, known in blogging circles as the OC, was home from the still-chilly north for a surprise weekend visit.It was a beautiful day and they had taken it into their heads to do some drastic pruning. Which was none of my business, of course..... Humans will do what humans feel moved to do..... At least not until The Bean approached my tree, brandishing some lethal-looking loppers. I tell you, I almost had a heart attack. My children are so quiet and well behaved, he had no way of knowing they were nearby. I fluttered close, but to no avail. Before I could blink, my precious babies and our lovingly constructed nest went crashing to the ground. The Bean spotted my lovelies immediately and bent in consternation to pick them up. He cradled them so gently, while my poor heart throbbed in my breast.

"Please don't hurt them," I silently pleaded.

He looked around and saw me sitting on the wall, watching helplessly.

He murmured something softly to me and reached for a little bucket on the ground nearby.

Ever so carefully he eased the remnants of our nest, along with my two bewildered babies into the bucket. They made me proud, they sat so still. As I watched anxiously from my perch on the wall, The Bean reached up into the palm tree and wedged the bucket securely in place.

Then he and the OC looked expectantly from it to me, talking softly to me all the while. Though I longed to go and comfort my little ones I thought it best to wait a while.....What will our neighbours think when they see me sitting in a white plastic bucket where our lovely comfy nest used to be? They might think it's the very latest in modern dove condos! Although it is a bit primitive. It doesn't look as nice as our traditional nest at all, but what do humans know about weaving twigs and fur and feathers together to form a safe and comfortable home for the likes of us? What they lacked in nest-building skill though, they made up for in trying to make amends for their clumsiness.....Most importantly,and to my great relief, junior and his little sister seem none the worse for the mishap, and I'm hoping we'll be right on schedule to start flight training in the next few days."

Afterword by Molly, [who always has the last word, at least around here.]
I wondered about Monsieur Dove. He was nowhere in evidence when Cyclone Bean descended on his family's nesting quarters. Was he some kind of absentee/deadbeat dad, the kind who stick around just long enough to donate their DNA, decide that the long hours and emotional drainage of child rearing is not for the debonair likes of them, and wander off in search of adventure and fulfillment elsewhere? Mama Dove certainly looked like she was coping with her disaster all alone.

But this morning, when I went outside early to check on the residents of the world's ugliest bird nest, I found, not only Mama Dove's head peeking up from the white plastic rim, but Papa Dove's too! Photographic evidence below.

So he's not a deadbeat dad! He has not absented himself! He's right here pulling his weight. Maybe he was away on family business? And now he's back to be the chief flight instructor? Although, when I was learning to drive, my dad, all breezy and confident, drove me down to the Dock Road for my first lesson. Half an hour later, chastened and trembling, he drove me home and handed the keys, mutely, to my mother......Which just goes to show that hair on your chest and a deep bass do not necessarily make you the best choice for driving/flight instructor. So now the whole Dove family is reunited. As we watch those fledglings learn to fly we'll be feeling a little parental pride ourselves.

Note to the worried: Do not fret. He-Who-Barfs-On-Quilts is on lockdown until all these babies are airborne!

Late breaking update: Out to have another peek around sundown tonight, ever-present camera in hand. Junior [below] did not like the flash and fluttered off like an old pro to another tree!

Little sister was not so brave. She needs more time. Maybe she'll take to the air tomorrow.....

Meanwhile, these older fledglings were spotted relaxing in the

bushes in front of the house.....And from the bathroom window this morning I spotted another patient dove mama sitting in another nest in another tree at the side of the house. As I mentioned earlier, you can't step outside these days without hearing a chorus of "Cheep, cheep, cheep!"

Friday, May 23, 2008

"Soft Day, Missus"

“Soft day, Missus,” farmers would greet my grandmother, lifting their caps, as we clopped along to the village in the pony and trap. A “soft day” in Ireland is a rainy one. The greeting is like a benediction though. There is no complaint in the words. They know the rain is necessary. Besides, how do you think they keep those forty shades of green in top shape for the tourists?

“Soft day my arse!” I can almost hear my sister snort.
“’Tis her head that’s gone soft on her. Romanticising this bloody weather that has my heart scalded, and her sitting like Lady Muck in the Florida sunshine!”

Snorting sisters aside, I know whereof I speak. Because…..drum roll please…..We had a lovely soft day HERE today!

The “gentle rain from heaven” has been caressing us all day. Welcome, not only because we’re parched for a drop of moisture, but also because we’re on the threshold of hurricane season and wondering what meteorological atrocities the Weatherman In The Sky has in store for us this summer.

When I returned from the Cave of the Ancients this evening I was loath to go inside, so went for a stroll among the trees out back. The air was soft and misty. At first it seemed quiet but then my ears tuned to the raucous ribbiting of rain-thirsty frogs. As I came back towards the house, a couple of birds started making an awful racket, screeching at me, and swooping close. If they’d just kept quiet I’d never have known they had babies nearby. They made the same racket last night when they saw our Great White Hunter [Casper, the recently disgraced-for-barfing-on-my-quilt cat] on lizard patrol [wonder if there was chewed up lizard in the ignominious puddle?]out around the pool. They couldn’t tell that he couldn’t get to them from there. All they knew was there was a four legged predator on the prowl. Between the flapping and the squawking it didn’t take a genius to understand their anxiety.

But I saw no sign of a nest. What I did see, as I strolled slowly by some bushes, was that little fellow up there, all by his lonesome. Might have been his first time out of the nest. Inexperienced enough to know no fear, he just cocked his head and looked up at me, seeming to listen intently as I crooned at him, while mom and dad had conniptions on the roof.

I ran inside to get my camera, almost expecting they’d have whisked him away when I came out again, but no. He was still there, waiting to have his picture taken! Given the soft day that was in it and the fast-fading light, I was lucky to get the shot. And then I scarpered so mom and dad could get on with it.

Here’s wishing you some “soft days” to soothe your soul.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Not Talking to the Cat

Most Likely Suspect

Washing cat barf out of the largest quilt I've ever made was not on my to-do list today. Digging a certain unfinished quilt project out of the closet in the spare room was. Imagine my chagrin then, when I went trotting in there and saw a crusty, dried up puddle of cat barf in the middle of the bed. And not JUST in the middle of the bed. In the middle of the QUILT that was covering the bed. A disgusting puddle of yellow cat-stomach liquid crowned with a hairball, surrounded by half-digested cat food.

I was not happy.

Some rules are no-brainers. If you want to experience Molly-love, it goes without saying that you should not barf on the quilts. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out. The OC is aware of this rule. At least I assume that he is since he has never, not even once, barfed on one of my quilts. The fact that he is, in fact, a rocket scientist probably gives him an edge over the cat. Come to think of it, I haven't seen him barf anywhere since the long-gone days of his exuberant youth. Speaking of which, we still have one exuberant youth in residence who has, on occasion, overestimated the tolerance of his stomach for certain liquid refreshments. But, mindful of the above-average need for Molly-love [and mollycoddling!] when one is feeling poorly, he has always managed to avoid voiding his stomach contents on a quilt. Wise move.

The cat is less wise. There are ample tiled surfaces around here on which one could, if so moved, barf. I will not be pleased one way or the other. Barf on tile is a minor annoyance. Easily mopped up. Barf on carpet is a pain in the petoot. But barfing on a quilt is a major infraction which will result in me giving the cold shoulder to the barfer for a prolonged period of time, equal to, or possibly longer than the time it takes me to clean up the mess.

That's why, today, I'm not talking to the cat.

Most days we are on cordial terms. If he's not happy with the amount and timeliness of his feedings, all he has to do is talk to me. And I take care of it. I'm agreeable like that.

And if his litter box is not cleared promptly of objectionable material, a word in my ear will set the world to fastidious rights. I'm agreeable like that too.

But barfing on a quilt moves you to the other side of the fence. To enemy territory. You become Felinus Barfus Non Grata. You might be made of stone for all the attention you get. Your most piteous yowling falls on deaf ears. Your efforts to ingratiate yourself are spurned. Doesn't she understand that when your stomach is in a knot you need the comfort of a quilt under your tail while you expel the cause of your discomfort from your interior? There's no comfort in a cold tiled floor.....And so she's been ignoring me all day. Oh sure, she fed me. But beyond that--- emotional starvation. No companionable chat. No sweet nothings in my ear, no crooning about what a great fellow I am and where would she be without me? None of that. Just grunting, and gnashing of teeth, and quilt hauling to bathtub, and splashing of water therein, and vigorous scrubbing and---could it be?? cat-cursing under her breath?? Not a blessed word thrown my way all day. Pray that her ire will run its course and we'll be on speaking terms tomorrow!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

"The Lady Who Runs The Vacuum Cleaner"

Mothers Day? What was that? When I was growing up, you didn't have to worry that you’d forget and she'd have her feelings hurt. There were other, more pressing things to worry about in the fifties. People were still adjusting to the upheavals caused by the war. It wasn’t ‘til I came to America that I learned there was a special day in May for remembering and honouring mothers. And even though life and relationships are fraught with complicated, not easily pigeonholed feelings, this day is all about flowers, and candy, cloying sentiment and warm fuzzies. But, as I see it, if you don’t love and honour your mother every day you live, one day in May will hardly compensate.

Reading my history notes last night, I came upon Garrison Keillor’s column. Which is one of the reasons I don’t just throw old newspapers in the recycling bin----I might miss one of his gems. How can you not love a man who could write something like this:

“Mothers were, at one time, young women with Possibilities who might have taken a different route and become glamorous and powerful figures in size two dresses and instead found themselves cleaning up excrement and jiggling colicky babies to get them to stop screaming. They hardly ever get to London anymore or have time to read James Joyce. They sit down to dinner with adults and feel brain-dead. A bouquet of flowers hardly seems compensation enough. How about a million dollars and a house in the south of France?"

Do we, in fact, stop being who we used to be as soon as we give birth? Do we become “just the lady who runs the vacuum cleaner?" I think that happened to me. I went through the motions, I cooked, I cleaned, I loved, I comforted, I consoled, I rejoiced, I burst with pride, I ached,I propped my eyes open with toothpicks, I laughed, I sobbed, but a part of me was somewhere up in the attic, wrapped in mothballs, covered in dust.

Or do we become someone better? I went up to the attic a few years ago and rummaged around ‘til I found that old self. I dusted her off and aired her out to get rid of that camphor smell. When I unfolded her and shook her out I found she still had the long legs---BUT---not a varicose vein in sight! Her hair was brown and wavy and her face smooth and unlined. Sigh. I found her a little naive, but I liked her a lot and thought she still had possibilities.

So, if you're finding your mum a little boring, slap yourself, and realise she used to be a real person before you came along and she devoted herself to teaching you how to fly instead of learning herself. She used to have dreams of her own, but now all her dreams are for you. She used to sleep at night, but now she can't close her eyes until she hears you opening the door at midnight so she knows you’re safe. She used to be able to kiss the hurts and make them better, but now, she has to stand aside and let you deal with the slings and arrows all by yourself. She would like to sweep you into her arms and make the world go away, but it would be undignified. She has to trust that all those flying lessons are about to click and you’ll soar off into the blue all by yourself.

Meanwhile, if she's still alive she'd probably get a big thrill if you called her, or, gasp, wrote her a letter. The postal service, world wide, is still one of the best bargains out there. Use it!
And if she has already gone to her hard earned reward, Plant a flower in your garden, or in a pot on the windowsill and call it by her name. She'll know.

Happy Mothers Day everyone!

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Where, Oh Where Has My Little Sis Gone?

"Oh Where, Oh Where Can She Be?"

When we were young, and still the centers of our own universes, my sister and I wrote letters. Dutiful, sisterly letters. It wasn’t that we fancied we had anything beyond parentage and nationality in common. We didn’t. The gaping chasm of six years between us blinded us to any common interests. But we did stay in touch. Especially after I got married and blithely betook myself to the other side of the world. Leaving her, at the tender age of sixteen, to cope with “situations” on the home front as best she could. Truth be told, it never occurred to me that problems in the grown-up world might be any of our concern……. She was young. She was brainy. She was gorgeous. If I thought about it at all, I figured she’d be fine. Besides, we came from stoic, taciturn types and if she wasn’t fine she’d keep it to herself. Not to mention that there was another tall, gangly, taciturn type-in-the-making lurking in the shadows who could be relied upon to take her away to the seaside with her bucket and shovel if things started to get out of hand.

Then along came the children, and the letters dwindled to a truly miserable, barely discernible trickle.

We were up to our oxthers in poopy diapers and runny noses, pink eye and ear infections, PTA meetings and doctor’s appointments, sneakers and wellies, schoolbags and lunchboxes, supervising homework and helping in classrooms, living and loving, laughing and lamenting------turning into grown-ups------on opposite sides of the world.

When we finally came up for air, the world had changed. We’d changed from girls into women who were mothers, the boys we’d married had turned into men who were fathers, the babies we’d borne were no longer darling extensions of ourselves but- gasp- individuals with ideas and aspirations of their own. We’d been over-worked and underpaid and seriously sleep deprived for so long, we didn’t know if we could survive in, and adjust to, this strange new order.

In between the great gaping gaps in communication, we’d been thrown together by the deaths of, first, our dad, and ten years later, our mum, may they rest in peace. And two overseas assignments which took us respectively to Germany and Belgium, which if you’ll look at your atlas, you’ll see are MUCH closer to Ireland than, say, California, or Montana! And I gradually came to realize that I had a treasure, right there, under my nose, masquerading as my no-account, bothersome kid sister.

So, you can see, e-mail and the internet came along at exactly the right time for us. After we overcame such technicalities as my distrust of new-fangled gadgets and anything electronic…….

And then, the icing on the cake, blogging! I was in heaven when she finally caved and started a blog of her own. Now I could tap in regularly to what she was thinking, not just the tailored-for-me content of her e-mails. It doesn’t get much better than last November’s NabloPoMo, when I was guaranteed a Rise fix every day for an entire month…..

And now all’s quiet on the Notimetodonothing front. Those old dinosaurs are turning into fossils. And one asks oneself

“Where did she go?” and

“Doesn’t she have anything more to say?” and

“Hey! Get back here---you’d just got me hooked!” and

“Don’t trifle with me---post something already!”

It’s all due, I am sad to report, to a death in the family. The sudden and unexpected demise of Rise’s computer. It was so young. Barely two years ago it came to live with her in it’s shiny new box; so promising…... so lovely…...and such a lemon. Those in the know opine that it must have been a Friday afternoon/Monday morning job.

The computer specialists have been to her house. They've examined the patient. They've poked. They've prodded. They've probed. They've stood around the sickbed, stroking their beards, and have sadly shaken their wise and grizzled heads and pronounced it well and truly a goner.

As you can imagine, Rise is distraught at her loss. She even succumbed for a while to a mysterious virus, and took to her bed. But, occasionally, her daughter’s computer was left unguarded, and she snuck on there and snooped around, and subsequently wailed to me that it’s DEADSVILLE in the blogosphere of late, and someone needs to do something about it! She has plans to procure a new machine and when she does, watch out! She’ll come roaring back, with knobs on.