I take off my necklace before yoga practice, lean forward to lay it on the glass tabletop in my courtyard. I’m not paying attention. I wake up partway through the act. There is something alive on the table. I make a little noise, wave my hands, knee-jerk startle, before I come to all the way and see who it is. It’s a small, scruffy male house finch, touched with orange-yellow. He is sitting in the shade of the umbrella facing away from me, his feathers unkempt. “Oh, I’m sorry,” I say. “You scared me.” I laugh because it is funny being scared by a bird. I bring seed in a sturdy metal dish, water in a red glass bowl. I move with care, but I push them close. He is missing one eye, partly blind in the other, I think. I murmur gentle sounds, gentle wishes. He turns toward my voice, moves his head as though maybe he can get a kind of read of my basic shape. He is not alarmed. I let him be, and he steps onto the edge of the metal bowl to eat. He is slow and steady. He eats for a long time while I do sun salutes beside him, careful not to swoop my arms up too swiftly each time I rise. I wonder if this is the most food he’s been able to have for a long time. I wonder if he’s nearing his end. After, I sit on my yoga mat and look up at him. He’s drinking the water, scooping up mouthful after mouthful. It is so dear to watch it brings tears to my eyes. He’s so beautiful, all delicate grace. I glance away, and then he’s gone. I bow forward, ask the bird gods for mercy. When I go to L.A., I leave the bowls on the table for him just in case.
Solar Christmas lights dance in the wind
Fat raindrops fall on trailer rooftops
New rain smell in the dark
Crickets loud in my courtyard
Can I savor even when I’m
still on edge?
My neighbor has fallen in love. Before, we were two hermits living next door to each other. Today his sweetheart moved in. I’ve been glad for him from day one, for both of them, for this unexpected love. But now they sit talking only two handfuls of feet away from my window. Sometimes they talk for hours. Mostly I am able to let go of it, again and again, and be okay. Tonight I can’t let go. I just keep feeling intruded upon. It isn’t as though I can get away from them. This is where I live. I become desperate. I wonder if I will have to wear earplugs to do my work, to do my writing. I remind myself how much worse this could be, this intrusion. It could be loud music that rattles the walls of my trailer, music that feels 100 times worse than nails on chalkboard. (Banish the thought. Poof! Poof!) I could be listening to racist conversations or staunch Trump devotees. (Banish the thought. Poof! Poof!) I remind myself how much I like the two of them, truly like them. I remind myself of the sweetness in this, hearing them navigate their new love. I don’t hear words, mostly, only the tenor of things. Thoughtful, honest, getting to know each other conversations, bearing souls. My heart becomes gladder. Now I hear big raindrops on the trailer rooftops through the open sliding glass door. Everything eases. I come back to my senses with the smell of the rain. Their voices murmur now. I take a deep, full breath. I remember how lucky I am.
I type, my legs stretched out before me, computer on my lap, afternoon sun beside me on the couch. I am revising a piece I wrote in our Monday group, an hour left before the contest deadline, midnight in the UK. I read my work out loud, like I teach my students. I find tiny things to change. I am deep in the writing when I hear a hummingbird, look up to see her in the living room, the female guardian of the feeder outside the open louvers. In the corner of my eye I think there is another flash, but surely not, not two of them inside at one time. My familiar female hovers near me, then visits the red glass star hanging in the window. When she flies out I hear her friend, still in the room with me, not my imagination. She peers out the kitchen window to the courtyard, then rests on one of the open louvers before leaving me alone, the flutter of hummingbird wings reverberating in the room.
I peek out the front door to the courtyard. “I’m sorry,” I say. “I have to come back out.” The finch fly off, quiet and light. I’ve already disturbed them once this morning, filling the feeders, rinsing the big terra cotta saucer I use for the bird water bowl. “I forgot to get the paper,” I tell them. I swing the door wide and the doves take off before I see them, one crazy-loud whoosh of wings. “Too many!” I call after them. Too many of them for my little courtyard. I walk to the gate, pick up my paper from the top of the wooden fence where my kind neighbor places it for me. I dawdle without meaning to, find myself stroking the native plant in the pot beside the sliding glass door, the one that makes tiny yellow flowers in the spring. A hummingbird perches on a bougainvillea branch, chittering. I think she’s the one who’s taken over the feeder outside my living room window. I cross back to the front door, and a familiar sweetness settles in me. The feeders are all filled, ready for my birds. The eight palm volunteers are spruced up in their blue pot, the Mexican petunia trimmed, the mullein happy. I climb the steps to my trailer, scanning the courtyard. There’s nothing more I could want, I think. Then lightning swift comes the next thought, nothing except for my two cats to be alive and here with me. I feel my loss, three years old now, and lift my eyes. The waning crescent moon hangs just above the open door, greeting me. I stand on the steps, and I know I can keep my deep, quiet contentment, can hold my joy, my loss, my longing. I can hold it all.
Home from a trip, evidence of visitors in my courtyard. First sight through the gate, swinging open, two big bags of bird seed, one big bag of Meyer lemons. My friend Bob, kind and generous. I phone. “My birthday isn’t until April,” I tell him. Teasing, trying to be witty. Grateful. The other visitor is loved, too, but the evidence less welcome. Feathers carpet the cement. A whole mourning dove, at least. My hawk was here, successful, maybe more than once. I grieve for who died. But I can’t be sorry the hawk didn’t go hungry. It lingers in me when he visits again. I shouldn’t want him here. But he is exquisite. There are fewer white crowned sparrows, fewer house finch since I’ve been home again. Little by little it sinks in, why they are scarce. But how can I wish the hawk away? I say metta instead. May my little ones be safe. May my hawk fill his belly somewhere else.
The young Cooper’s hawk is perched on the rim of my chartreuse pot, the one I broke when I moved the fig tree with the dolly. I buried it partway in the dirt, and lush oregano sheltered in its arc until the desert summer ended it. I guess he is a juvenile because he seems smaller, fresher and more twitchy somehow. And because he hides inside the bougainvillea, hoping to catch a sparrow. Yesterday he swooped across the courtyard and dove straight into the thorny branches. I think his parents have “given” this young one my yard with all its feeders so he’ll have more chance to practice. Today he seems less anxious. His head is not darting around as often as before. He keeps looking around, but his movements are slower, as if he is a little more relaxed. Just as I think this, I watch him slowly raise his right leg and tuck it under him, poofing out the white fluff at the base of his torso. I read about this just two weeks ago in H Is for Hawk, this resting pose. Seeing that leg slowly disappear thrills me. There is the blending of observation and learning, watching him do something I’ve read to be true, but it’s more than that. I think it may be the idea that he feels safe enough to rest right now, poised on one leg in the corner of my courtyard. And having this exquisite, young, eager bird at ease in my home awakes a tenderness in me, and a kind of longing. I want to run a finger across one bumpy yellow foot, brush the back of my hand across his white and brown-streaked breast. I yearn to be his friend.