Winter Supplies


I’ve gone on record as saying I believe that New Year’s resolutions are doomed to failure by their very nature.

Occasionally I launch projects in the new year, but I do think the pressure and the expectations make keeping the resolve more difficult. Besides, January often feels like a bad time to start stuff. The holidays are all over, so you feel kind of let down. The light and seasons may be turning around, but it’s still a dead time of year, with a ways to go until actual rebirth.

I’m more likely to start — and stick with — new projects in the Fall. This is probably because I’ve spent most of my life either part of, or living in a town shaped by, the academic calendar. I met David in January, which ended up being a very successful project. It might be a good time to start a new book, since there’s not much else to do. Otherwise?

For Christmas, David received a gift certificate to Wild Birds Unlimited, which really is a wonderful franchise, and our local store is particularly pleasant. They encouraged David to get one of these jay wreaths, which you fill with peanuts. Jays eat peanuts — who knew?? Plus it keeps them off the other feeders, so the smaller birds have a shot.

You wouldn’t believe the jay party that resulted here. You can see one jay below, waiting on the yucca, while another proudly brandishes his newly acquired peanut. They were returning so quickly, it didn’t seem possible that they were taking time to eat them.

They had the entire wreath emptied inside of an hour.

David refilled it and it’s partially full still this morning, though they’ve been working at it. Either they were seriously hungry and now are eating more slowly, or they’ve realized that the peanut supply is here to stay and they don’t have to pack it all off to wherever they put all those peanuts.

That’s the trick, I think, to sticking with new projects: finding a way to make them a part of your life, rather than a big New Thing. The way you treat the New Thing is not how you treat a daily habit. I think that’s why I’m reluctant to do things like writing challenges or fast drafts or what have you. Every writer has to find a way to make writing a part of her daily life. And by that I don’t necessarily mean writing every day, though some swear by it.

It’s more like knowing where the peanuts are when you need them.

Coincidences and Concatenations

Two things.

We have these big windows that reflect the sky. I’ve thought about putting those silhouette dealies on the glass, so birds won’t run into the glass. But so far, only a couple of birds have hit a window and then only glancingly.

One little sparrow decided to battle his image for part of an afternoon, but I figure he has his own issues.

But Halloween morning, I was sitting at my desk behind one of these big windows, when a bird flew straight at my face and slammed into the glass. I yelped at the shock, then sat stunned as the Cooper’s hawk that had clearly been on the bird’s tail drew up and landed on the bird feeder with a few hops to adjust. He assessed the situation, then flew off. Below me, the little bird twitched. I hoped it might recover, but the arrow of liquid where it’s bowels had released pointed to a different ending.

It had broken its neck instantly, panicked to escape the hawk.

The irony to me is that it died anyway. And the hawk didn’t get its meal either.

When we picked up our rental car in California, the week before last, I commented to my colleague that, since our car was in slot B-17, that now the song would be stuck in my head.

She, of course, had no idea what I was talking about.

So I had to sing it for her. “Please, Mr., please… don’t play B-17, it was our song, it was his song, now it’s oohhhhhh-ver.” She’d never heard it. I had no idea when I’d heard it last.

Then, tonight, on my third week of business travel in a row, I’m in the grocery store at 10 o’clock at night for a pit stop with my other colleague (okay, we were buying wine) in our journey from the Lansing airport to the Hampton Inn that will be our home for the week. Guess what song comes on the background music. And I knew what it was from the opening measures.

“I don’t ehhhh-vah want to hear that song again….”

It was just too bizarre.

What does it all mean? Nothing, no doubt. We flee one thing, only to crash into another. We remember an old song and it chases us to another place and finds us again.

So be it.

Birds in Reverse


We saw a robin yesterday. The first robin of Fall, as it were.

No, I know this isn’t a robin. I took the picture to show David this unusual bird that visited the feeder and so that we could identify it. We decided she’s a black-headed grosbeak.

It’s a funny thing, being on the southern end of the Front Range now, because the birds appear in reverse order.

When we arrived, it was all about the hummingbirds, thrashers, bluebirds, jays and towhees. Now the humingbirds have all gone, even the last couple of intrepid ones that stayed to milk the feeder and the butterfly bushes as long as possible.

Then the jerichoes arrived. They stayed a few days and moved along.

Now the robins.

I know it’s unlikely, but I feel like these are birds that have left Laramie when the first snows hit. They’ve migrated down the Front Range, just as we did. They stop here to fuel up on their way to Mexico or farther.

Hi and bye.

The Hilton Bosque

It’s lovely being here in Tucson.

So lovely, that I become lax on everything. I haven’t been posting to the blog (as you’ve undoubtedly noticed). I only answer some emails (a BIG stretch for me, compulsive email-checker that I am). I haven’t even been reading much.

I’ve been watching quail. Gambel’s quail, for those not in the know. At my folks’ place in Tucson, the quail come streaming along — they’ve got this amazing run where their legs move in a blur, but their bodies and heads remain still, so they move like ballerinas across the stage — spilling over the low wall into the patio. They drop like so many pieces of ripe fruit, cherry head-feathers bobbing. Lemon-drop finches cluster on the thistle-sock. A flicker sings a piercing whistle and hits the heavy seed feeder. The air is redolent with orange blossoms, which are in turn heavy with the hive-buzz of bees. They look identical to us, characteristic of commercial bees, and my stepfather threatens to have them followed, to exact his share of their product.

We visited Catalina State Park, and dutifully read the signs on the birding trail. Three habitats: riparian, desert scrub and mesquite bosque. The last is pronounced BOS-kay, from the Spanish for forest. We learned that our neighborhood flicker is an gila woodpecker (I linked it, just so you can see how pretty he is). The mesquite bosque surprised us with long, lush grass beneath the denuded shrubs. The sun heated my skin, welcome fire after the cold of winter.

This morning, we walked through the neighborhood. Past the patio homes surrounding Hilton’s El Conquistador resort. Here, off the roads, off the paved golf-cart paths and in my folks’ golf course-boardering patio home, we see all the birds and more. Vermillion flycatchers. A cactus wren or three. A roadrunner poised on a hillside fencepost. Bunnies and javelinas. David dubs it the fourth habitat: the Hilton bosque. Thoureau said travel was unnecessary; that everything could be witnessed in one’s own backyard.

So, I lie in the lounge chair on the patio. Watching the world come to me.