Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Hyperbole

January 27, 2015
(Note: I don't consider myself a weather(wo)man basher. I know that forecasting is an inexact science. This link (http://thevane.gawker.com/why-nycs-historic-blizzard-didnt-live-up-to-the-hype-1681962448) offers a good explanation of the difficulty in making precise predictions. This sentence stands out howeverMeteorologists and weather outlets need to do a better job communicating all possibilities and not just the worst case scenario. My main complaint here is that the hype fosters the "oh my God!" aspects of our behavior.)


It's not the Blizzard of the Century here in southwestern Massachusetts but snow is falling in a curtain as I type, casting a gauzy veil between my cottage and the house next door. The trees look as though they've been penciled in against the horizon. Only the wee birds at the feeder just outside the window - the gray and white juncoes, the finches with their purple breasts or cranberry head caps or mustard yellow feathers, the black and white chickadees, the brilliant ruby red cardinal, the needle-beaked nuthatch - are clearly defined. A much stronger band of the storm batters the east coast. Already it's dumped snow in some towns that is measured in feet rather than mere inches and the entire island of Nantucket went off grid about 8 a.m. 

Because of predicted snowfall amounts and wind velocity, the entire state of Massachusetts was put under a state of emergency while the storm was still hours away. As it turned out, the storm made a "wobble," and the western third of the state was spared. But not before store shelves were emptied, schools and businesses were closed, and a statewide travel ban was imposed.

Snowstorms here in New England are a common occurrence. When I was growing up, the weatherman on the one TV station we got would warn us of impending snow and remind us to bundle up. Now terms like massive, historic, and unparalleled are bandied about. There are few maybes in the forecast and frightening scenarios accompany many weather reports. What used to be considered common sense precautions are reiterated a thousand times over. I can't recall a snowstorm where my parents panicked and fled to the supermarket to stock up. We often lost power in bad storms, winter and summer, so our flashlights always had charged batteries, we had a good supply of candles and matches, we were never short of bread or milk or toilet paper. If the heat went off we had a fireplace with a ready supply of wood and plenty of extra blankets. We wore sweaters and two pairs of socks if we were cold. We had a gas stove that we had to light with a match so we were always able to make a hot meal. If we knew a storm was coming, my mother would fill the canning pot with water for washing and several glass milk bottles for drinking. 

For a number of years in the 70s and 80s, I homesteaded in Northern Vermont with my now ex-husband and our four young children. For the first couple of years we had no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing. Winters in northern VT are predictably cold and snowy. With no radio or TV, we relied on our windows, our bones (and sometimes our neighbors), to let us know what the weather was doing. Though there were a number of snowstorms that left over two feet of snow at once and the temperature could plunge to -40, we weren't paralyzed as people seem to be now. School was seldom called off. If the bus driver couldn't navigate the roads, he called the superintendent who called the firehouse and 3 blasts of the siren let us know school was cancelled for the day. Now schools are closed before a single flake falls.

I never thought I'd feel old fashioned but I do. Perhaps it's common at this age to look back at what one's life was like 50, 30, even 10 years ago and make comparisons. And the weather will always remain relatively unpredictable. What I object to is the rhetoric. That, and the assumption that people don't know how to take care of themselves. All the drama of the weathercasters' language makes me squirm. Something isn't historic until it takes place. Why don't they just warn us that heavy snow is possible, remind us to look out the window before we head out the door, tell us to take common sense precautions and always be ready for an emergency?






Thursday, January 22, 2015

More Birds



I wish the world's problems could be solved as easily as I solved my squirrel problem. I like squirrels. I do. I just don't like to feed them at the expense of the small birds that winter over. Squirrels are perpetually hungry and their appetites are voracious. Fond of seeds and nuts, they consider the food I set out for the birds theirs for the taking. So this week I hied myself over to the local Agway to replenish my seed supply and while I was there I bought two "squirrel proof" feeders. Designed to bear the weight of small songbirds, the cage has a spring loaded feeder tube that drops down to close the open feed ports when anything as heavy as a blue jay or a squirrel climbs aboard. So far, they're working. The squirrels give up after a minute or two of fruitless gnawing and drop back to the ground to eat the little seed spilled there by the birds.

I am not without heart. I spread a tray of peanuts for the squirrels and jays at a distance from the cottage. It's a noisy place. I've seen a jay swoop down and snatch a peanut from the paws of a squirrel, who then chatters loudly, flicking its tail and spewing squirrel curses at the errant bird. I've also seen the silly squirrels bury the nuts in the snow where watchful jays locate them moments later.

Last week I posted a photo of a chickadee being hand fed and though I posted due credit below my own words, some readers thought I'd taken the picture. I wish I was that kind of photographer! The pictures of the feeders here are my own. As you can see, it would take a far more skilled eye (and hand) than mine to photograph myself feeding a bird. I've done that, though, fed a bird in my hand. The chickadees that come to my feeders are quite bold. If I sit on the stoop at feeding time with seed in my palm and I am patient and quiet, one or two of the little creatures will perch on my fingers and look at me with their bright little eyes. I don't have a photo to prove it, though.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Coping With the World Right Now




photo credit: http://www.wunderground.com/wximage/Jayne/1723


While the world elsewhere
is carrying on its drama

I extend my hand
and feed a chickadee





Sunday, January 04, 2015

Not Quite Haiku



This Sunday’s writing prompt was to compose pithy phrases, not necessarily sticking to the 17 syllables of American haiku but with enough rhythm to give the illusion of poetry. It took me a while to loosen up and let go of the form. Writing like this is such fun and very freeing.



Cold winter rain falls.
Birds seek shelter. So do I.
Flowers sleep on, undisturbed.

Darkness is not bleak
when one remembers the moon.
Hang your own sky light.

Early morning birds,
Apples saucing in the pan;
small things delight me.

The tea kettle boils.
Silence shatters on a whistle.
The sun never appears.

Snow makes a dim light
garnered from the night bright stars
laid on the bare ground.

snowsleethailrainice
each one winter’s warrior

Yard, roof, sky
wrapped in impenetrable
white.

Tracks in the snow
lead to everywhere.
I cannot follow.

Birds whisper in winter
the songs they sing in spring.

Gray weathered fence
Supports a weary rose.
I bend my own head down.

One shuddering leaf
speaks for all of winter.


Saturday, January 03, 2015

inclement weather



birds flit and dance in the wind
hovering round the feeders
jousting for position at the tray
feasting on seed and suet

cold clamps its hands around us all
holds us out to the buffeting wind
warmth is a clouded memory
light a pale gray shroud

snow is a promise held at bay
until evening; when the sky opens
flakes will tumble down
only to melt in the path of warmer air

that overnight will turn the snow to ice.
on the morrow ice will turn to rain-
on the weather map a ragged patch of
deep blue hovers northward

its fingers reaching, reaching
turning rain back to ice
and ice back to snow.
the weather favors winter just now.


Monday, December 15, 2014

The Gift

http://www.birdforum.net

The reason I’m looking out the window
Is because dawn brings hungry birds to the feeder,
whole flocks of rosy finches,
a pair of ruby cardinals,
sky colored jays and red capped flickers,
an upside down nuthatch in its gray-blue cape,
chickadees with their black caps
pulled down around their ears.

And this morning, ten days before Christmas,
a gift – an albino finch, white as the grounded snow,
white as the shy ermine down by the pond,
white as a feathered angel,
its wings fluffed against the cold - 

stayed just long enough for me to see it,
to say Oh! and cast about for my camera.
Then something – caution, fright, a need to fly,
lifted its wings and flung it back into the sky

where white clouds waited to enfold it.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Another Sunday Prompt



This Sunday's prompt was to find a poem and respond to it line by line. I fell in love with this poem at first reading and hesitated to barge in with my own thoughts. Still, it might make you want to try the prompt, too. At the very least, enjoy the words.


And the Cantilevered Inference Shall Hold the Day





Things are not as they seem: the innuendo of everything makes
itself felt and trembles towards meanings we never intuited
or dreamed. (My mother used to say that- nothing is as it seems – and I would look around me with my child’s eyes and wonder what she was trying to tell me, for to a child of four or seven or even ten, the whole world is magic.)  


Take, for example, how the warbler, perched on a
mere branch, can kidnap the day from its tediums and send us
heavenwards, or how, held up by nothing we really see, our
spirits soar and then, in a mysterious series of twists and turns,

come to a safe landing in a field, encircled by greenery. (Happy moments, I’ve come to call them, those times when happiness descends, surrounds, unbidden but not unrecognized, when all that is is understandable, even when you can’t understand what it is you know. You just know and that knowing is enough.) 


Nothing I can say to you here can possibly convince you that a man
as unreliable as I have been can smuggle in truths between tercets

and quatrains on scraps of paper, but the world as we know it
is full of surprises, and the likelihood that here, in the shape
of this very bird, redemption awaits us should not be dismissed

so easily. (Redemption – reclamation, restoration – the same old us looking through new eyes. We find we don’t know the world at all and so begin anew to describe it, and ourselves, to ourselves.)  Each year, days swivel and diminish along their inscrutable
axes, then lengthen again until we are bathed in light we were not
prepared for. (How easy it is to get lost in the winter darkness and forget that spring will come.) Last night, lying in bed with nothing to hold onto

but myself, I gazed at the emptiness beside me and saw there, in the
shape of absence, something so sweet and deliberate I called it darling. (The shape of absence – a place where we come in with our crayons, our brushes, our words, and create…)
No one who encrusticates (I made that up!) his silliness in a bowl,

waiting for sanctity, can ever know how lovely playfulness can be,
and, that said, let me wish you a Merry One (or Chanukah if you
prefer), and may whatever holds you up stay forever beneath you,

and may the robin find many a worm, and our cruelties abate,
and may you be well and happy and full of mischief as I am,
and may all your nothings, too, hold something up and sing. (Amen)