I eat my Jumbo Jack cheeseburger in the driver’s seat of my mother’s red Kia. I am in the Descanso Gardens parking lot in the shade of a small big-leafead tree. I have no real illusions about going for a walk (much less a hike), but later I will be very glad I chose to park here. There are three glossy ravens poking around. I wonder if they are hoping for leftovers. I toss french fries out the open window. They surprise me—timid, wary. As I watch a braver gray squirrel shows them up, makes off with the first few fries, her warm brown eyes on me the whole time. When I finish eating, I read the latest book by my favorite author, All the Seas of the World. My exhaustion settles on me like a blanket, but there is ease in being used up, too, a kind of quiet by default inside me. The ravens grow a little bolder, make away with the rest of the french fries, one of them taking five of them at once in sharp, dramatic thrusts of his strong, curved beak. (I think greed in the moment, but later I wonder if it was really a desperate hunger.) I toss more fries, look up from my book now and then to watch them, see the squirrel bury hers a time or two (off in the distance). I do this for hours. There is a peace in me now I have been missing (desperate, too?). My book transports and feeds me, lulls me. There is a deep comfort in my connection to these wild creatures. And there is a deep sweetness in me and a surprising sorrow when I have to drive away and leave them behind.
Well, I’d hoped (planned?) to have posted my first post while being 64 about three weeks before today. And, of course, to have already posted at least three posts by now, to become marvelously consistent throughout this coming year of mine. (Sigh. Grin.) I told myself, per the About page here, that I would not “hold myself” to needing each post to be a postcard, but I love this idea so much, and I think I stalled myself because of this, because I didn’t want to let go of my first post being a postcard.
So today I decided I needed to say hello to you even though I don’t have my first postcard ready to go yet. And yes, I know, it would have been fairly easy to use one of the postcards I’ve bought in the past. I have a nice one from San Francisco and a couple from my desert home. But I began a sketch for a postcard I plan to send to my (dear) friends Marylou and Richard. I used the new watercolor pencils my (dear) friend Moses gave me for Christmas. I have started on a roadrunner, though he is a bit goofy and his tail is too short. (I looked up the maximum size for a postcard online, then cut a sheet of the watercolor paper Moses gave me, too. But then it was hard to fit him properly and proportionately onto the little rectangle. I may have to rethink my methods!)
Still, even just beginning to draw the bird was a big delight. It was one of the first clear impulses I’ve had toward hands-on art in ages, and a good sign, I think, that my “plan” of not making myself do anything I don’t have to do may be beginning to bear fruit. I hope so. I want to tell you, too, that in recent weeks I have not been stuck in anger for days at a time. I’ve noticed this with gratitude and relief and a little bit of gentle pride in the last couple of days, so of course this morning I found myself stuck in self-hatred and anger, and was afraid I had jinxed it, this long-running streak. But somehow I have found my way back to softness again, so maybe not stuck. (Oh please oh please.) I have been truly kind at least three times since my second tantrum this morning. Toco madera.
I hope whatever you are being challenged by softens for you, too, even as you read this. (If you are like me, it is the turning toward myself with a more tender heart that can do the trick. May you each have an ease in this turning toward that I am not always able to find!) Thank you for reading my blog and for waiting for me. I believe I still owe you a song, too. :)
Wishing you all good things, my dear readers. Happy Beltane. Happy May Day. Happy turning of our world.
Tonight my eyes are getting heavy and my heart lighter. It’s the first day of my month, the eve of my birthday, the ending of my year of blogging and this last week or so of crazed posting before I turn sixty-four. Like other important eves of the year, this one has me looking back. My last birthday was hard. It was harder to be connected to myself than it is now. And I was completely cut off from my own home, but now I am tethered to it again, and the song of my white-crowned sparrows and the young mama hummingbird taking a bath and the new generation of lizards there in my courtyard are all part of the fabric of me again even though I am still living away from them. Now I get to visit. I get to know they don’t all think I’ve abandoned them anymore. And now I have lizard friends here, too, and my red-tailed hawk family, my two ravens and the Cooper’s hawk. I even have my mother’s white-crowned sparrows here, though they never serenade in the same way. Tonight I feel a little silly for not being able to let go of it but so glad, too, that I did not abandon my blog after all. And I feel hopeful for the year to come. And grateful, always, for each of you, coming by to read my work—and caring.
I listen to my white-crowned sparrows singing for a long time. And I let some of the tension seep out of me. I remember I learned how to stay in bed here in the mornings because of my much-loved boy cat when he was dying, and I made small beds for him beside me on this bed, complete with heating pads that cold December. I think about his gift to me (best view of all) and about all I have weighing on me now. I think of my closest friends and all they have undergone, all they are holding now. I think about the people in Ukraine and all they carry. I think about how we all hold all these hard things and all this love and even joy in the midst of it all. I cry with the bigness of it all, good, clean tears, the white-crowned sparrows singing for me on the cinderblock wall across my little road this morning, all this tenderness for what dear creatures we all are, with our fleeting lives in this always changing worlds
Today I get to wake up in my own bed. I make tea, climb back into it, cozy in the cool morning, all the windows open, the San Jacinto mountains spread before me. I let myself drift and daydream, one of my favorite things. I hear a white-crowned sparrow begin to sing across my little road, and then a second one joins in, and another and another. Their music is balm and blessing for me, reaching sinew and bone. I didn’t know how many might have come this winter. I set one of the automatic feeders up for them beneath the bougainvillea in the courtyard, knowing it wouldn’t be as much as before when I was here to feed them, but if they came, it would be something, an offering, at least. This morning in bed I listen to call after call, my lips parted. I understand they’ve been here in numbers all along, hoped for but all unknown to me until this moment. And I understand this morning’s song is their gift to me.
(You can listen to them here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1R4_VdLj3TnoxbnpSKt4n8k7MJFTxXrAe/view?usp=sharing)
Oh, how funny. I was checking to confirm my latest post had indeed posted and happened to notice I had 21 posts last March (and “only” 19 this year in March). I must have been just as unable in 2021 to let go of meeting my posting commitment for the year (and just as swept away by the big changes and new demands in my life). I have to grin. Here I am feeling all funny about inundating my subscribers, and it’s not even the first time I have done this. I have zero memory of last year’s efforts. And, of course, I’m hopeful I can post my 64 posts while I’m 64 throughout the year, all nice and leisurely. But I bet I said that last year, too. Ha!
Thank you, as always, dear readers, for making room for me and all my foibles.
I am roiling—self-hatred, anger, a kind of despair, even simple exhaustion all swirling inside me. I close the front door, let the screen slam, collapse to my knees just outside. The red bricks are cold beneath my shins, against the tops of my feet. My back is hunched. I lie in a sobbing heap in the near dark. When my tears ease, I hear a bird call. I think it sounds like the Cooper’s hawk who talked to me for the first time this afternoon. I can’t believe it’s possible, but just the thought it might be him I hear, calling out to me in my pain, the idea he might be trying to comfort me, pierces all the way through my turmoil. I get up, walk to the side yard, look up into the bare branches of the liquid amber. There he is, sitting in the second tree, the one beside the tree he greeted me from earlier today. “Oh,” I whisper, fresh tears falling now, but different. I am no longer alone in this. “Oh,” I say again. “Thank you.”