What would you say to grief-torn birds,
anguished by life’s broken bonds?
Could you turn away, unmoved,
dismiss their cries as habit,
a bit of empty noise?
I saw it once, there on the spring grass–
not hidden in the human way
but public, painful as a slashing wound
that leaves the heart exposed.
The frantic male’s flapping,
his heav’n-tipped beak and sharp-edged trill
I thought no more than courtship
until I saw his mate, keening
near their babe —
its helpless form feathered but inert,
its life-song drained and pooling.
It was a kindness, I supposed,
to pluck the nestling, hold it close, and carry it away —
to claim the fallen home and end the desperate cries.
Nest in hand, I caught the signs
of growing resignation —
the folded wings, the fallen heads,
the shared and tender glances
more intimate than death.
Soothed at last, unfurling wings,
they lifted to the sky —
flying in silence against gathering clouds,
absorbed by the swift-rising sun.
As a child, I never slept through a story by Hans Christian Andersen. Whether the tale was light and playful (“The Princess and the Pea”) or darker, more complex, and just a little disturbing (“The Tinderbox” or “The Child in the Grave”) I loved them all. Sometimes I longed to live in such magical worlds. Just as often, I laughed at the silliness they contained. Occasionally, I responded to the poverty, rejection, illness and death woven into the stories with puzzlement and fear.
Eventually, the darkness lurking around the edges of Andersen’s tales became more understandable. His own life had been difficult. Born to poverty, he was ridiculed in school, and experienced terrible unhappiness there.
Even after he achieved success and a degree of fame later in life, he remained socially awkward, often irritating those who wished to serve him as benefactors. Invited to stay at the home of Charles Dickens for two weeks, he stayed five, even after some gentle and not-so-gentle attempts to dislodge him. Eventually, he was sent packing by his out-of-sorts host. Dickens never replied to another of Andersen’s letters, and by all accounts, Andersen never understood why.
No one seemed to know how Dirty Dale got his name, and Dale wasn’t telling.
Gladys, who came in off the rigs to put her cooking talents to work in the cafe she purchased after years in the oil patch, had plenty of opportunity to watch the locals in action and she watched Dale a lot. She insisted his nickname came from his good-natured willingness to pursue every female in sight. It was a reasonable assumption. No matter how oblivious, uninterested or irritated the woman might be, Dale’s confidence was absolute as he slid into the seat next to her or leaned against her car. “Hey, darlin’,” he’d say. “I’m here to improve your life.” Lord knows he tried. Continue reading
Gary Myers is an artist whose work I admire and whose blog I’ve followed for several years. He lives just north of Elmira, New York, in the memorably-named town of Horseheads. His paintings, recognizable, unique and strangely stirring, have hung in such galleries as the West End in Corning, New York, the Principle in Alexandria, Virginia and the The Haen in Asheville, North Carolina.
A museum exhibition titled Internal Landscapes: The Paintings of GC Myers, officially opened at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York on August 18. Continuing through December 31, the show groups together larger paintings from the last few years with a few very early small pieces that represent the beginnings of his work. A highlight at the Fenimore is the first public showing of The Internal Landscape, a painting whose progress readers of Gary’s blog were able to follow. Continue reading
Given a choice, my mother preferred not to travel. She enjoyed being in new places, visiting family members and taking in the occasional entertainment, but she despised the process of getting from point A to point B. Packing for a trip was agony – so many decisions needed to be made! Even getting the house cleaned and put in order before leaving created high anxiety, but it had to be done. What if you died on the road? Certainly you wouldn’t want strangers roaming through your bedroom, running their fingers over a dusty night stand and telling one another you were slovenly.
As for those hours in the car, there weren’t enough magazines, knitting projects or books in the world to overcome her impatience. Sometimes she seemed to be thinking, “If only I could close my eyes and discover when I opened them this misery had passed.” Other times, she put her feelings into words: “If I’d known it was going to take this long to get there, I would have stayed home.”
Now and then someone with an inclination to tease would call her “Dorothy”, and everyone understood the reference. She’d just laugh and say, “If someone gave me a pair of ruby slippers, I’d be out of Oz in a minute. Being able to click my heels and go would make life a whole lot easier.” Continue reading
This post has been revised and re-written, and can be found here.
Slender and freckle-faced, as plain as his name, my first true love preferred Western shirts with mother-of-pearl buttons and fancy piping, even though he mostly wore soft, plaid flannels or, in warmer weather, crisp cotton with just a hint of his mother’s starch. On the first day of fourth grade, when alphabetical luck decreed we sit next to one another in Library Class, he happened to be wearing a blue-and-white check with a single pocket and short sleeves. Forever after, it was my favorite.
As so often happens, proximity bred friendship. When the librarian told us it was time to share books and read to one another, I read with Tim. Encouraged to search for shelved books by Dewey decimal number, we searched together. Entrusted with the responsibility of choosing our own book report partners, we chose each other. Continue reading