Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Egg Came First

The day began with a gift from Leigh: an abandoned turkey egg she found near the top of the driveway. It’s larger than a chicken egg, and is dappled brown. Very pretty, and I have no idea what to do with it. Normally it’s the kind of thing I’d save, but apparently a mother turkey can abandon an egg for a while and then return. I guess I’ll put it back in the grass, although I’m worried one of the crows might make a nice breakfast of it.

Other things or creatures I saw in the yard today:

Our snake, Rocky. Rocky is probably a series of snakes who live in the rock walls in the yard, but I call all of them Rocky and jump every time I see him/them. Post-jump, I just want to pick him up and talk to him, but I don’t. I just watch the S of him slither through the grass or take in a little sun on a flat stone.

The first dragonflies of the season. When they rest up against a rock and the sun hits them just right, it looks like they have about ten wings.

Hummingbirds. Lots of ‘em. Refilled the feeders and they couldn’t be happier. Or, who knows… maybe they could be way happier. But I can’t get much happier every time I see or hear one. The other day one buzzed right past my ear – I felt it as much as I heard it. I keep wearing my pink t-shirt in the yard hoping one will come right up to me. It’s possible… I’ve seen it.

Big bumblebees nosing in the impatiens and exploring the nooks and crannies of the rock walls. God they’re fat.

An indigo bunting. This is noteworthy because I've never seen one in our yard before. Other blue birds, especially blue jays, whom I love, but never an indigo bunting. This one was eating a dandelion (the white parachute version, not the yellow kids-favorite-flower version). Then it disappeared under some hostas. Its mate was nearby, poking about in the grass. They both seemed very low-key, as far as birds go.

While digging in the dirt, many earthworms. I tried not to hit any of them with the trowel, fearing I’d slice them in half. Every time I saw one I remembered my brother, as a little boy, picking one up and holding it over his head, which he tipped toward the sky and said “dare me?” I said “yes.” He dropped the worm into his mouth. We continued playing.

A young cardinal, thrashing about in a low cluster of leaves. No idea what he was up to, but he wasn’t subtle.

A blue jay, in an adjacent tree. Making less of a fuss than usual – it was like the jay and the cardinal had reversed roles. Every once in a while the jay would dive straight down from his branch to the ground, eat some seed, and return. It’s not much of a flight, but he takes it head first and fast, like some kind of daredevil stunt pilot.

And Leigh, who helped me plant my flower garden. Last week, while roaming about the yard, I’d noticed a spot that wasn’t being put to any use at all, said “some flowers would look nice there.” I’d have left it at that – I’m not a gardener, don’t like dirt and mosquitoes and backbreaking labor. But Leigh decided not only that we’d put in a flower garden, but that I’d pick out the flowers and do the arranging. I agreed, mindlessly assuming Leigh’s method of gardening would be similar to mine – the yes-that’d-be-nice-someday-maybe-especially-if-someone-else-did-it version. Leigh’s approach to just about everything, however, is to do it. DO it. I mean, DO IT NOW. And so that’s how I ended up at Ontario Orchards, my favorite store in the world, picking out flowers. And that’s how we ended up paying almost $200 for said flowers. And that’s how I ended up digging rocks out of the dirt, which seemed, for a time, more like moving dirt out of the way of the rocks. Many rocks. And eventually, much dirt. And, a few hours after that, lots of flowers.

And now, for years to come, when I go out in the yard I’ll see, among all the other wonders, the geraniums and pansies and Jacob’s ladder, and the one we call the chive flower and the one we call the amazing climbing flower and the one we call the-one-that-will-be-amazing-when-it-blooms.

I'm going to put the turkey egg back where it was found... I'm hoping the mother will return. I keep thinking -- forgive me, those of you who can't stand this kind of thing -- that maybe that turkey will grow up to be the equivalent of the turkey-world president. If I kept the egg, I'd be altering the course of turkey history forever.

My birthday's not til next week, but today felt like it was full of gifts. I'm only returning one.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Suddenness of Spring

I possess only the most rudimentary understanding of what it means for time to pass. I see the sun cross the sky, the tides shift. I watch closely as the seasons change; I witness the wrinkles that appear around my eyes and mouth; I notice how my mother’s gait has slowed and realize my younger siblings are and have been full-fledged adults for decades now. My current students, many of whom have taken classes with me several times over their college careers, entered as socially awkward freshmen and are about to leave, four years later, with new depths of confidence. They have grown up before my eyes, and it has clearly been a process, but it also seems to have happened overnight.

Here, on the shore of Lake Ontario, winter is suddenly spring. The season seems to have staggered through its changes in a one-step-forward/two-steps-back kind of way. The crocuses bloomed, it snowed; the robins arrived; the temperatures dipped back into the teens; the daffodils began to appear, more snow; the mourning doves established themselves, an ice storm hit. And then one day in April snow fell in the morning and had already melted by afternoon. That was a sign that the ground had warmed, a sign that the snow was gone, at least – we hope – for half the year. Days that teased us by lingering in the 30’s suddenly leapfrogged into the 50’s, skewed twice in succession into summer 80’s. Lawns turned green, the forsythia exploded into a yellow cascade, the lines at Rudy’s and Bev’s started to lengthen as everyone began craving ice cream cones and French fries eaten lakeside.

In a few weeks, late spring, I’ll turn 50. That has been a puzzling and staggered process, too. Often I feel like I’m as carefree as I was in my 20’s, or as happy as I was in my 30’s. If I stare into the mirror, I’ll concede that I look 40-something. It’s only in glimpses, only in moments, that I realize: fifty. I feel it in my bones, in my heart. The disappointments and regrets I harbor are those of a 50-year old. My hopes and dreams are now tempered by decades of experience. The phases of my life feel as though they overlap: I can easily locate the girl of 8 who loved to read, the teenager who couldn’t imagine a better afternoon than one spent making out with a boy, the college drop-out, the young lesbian falling in love and buying a house, the writer crossing the country to study her art, the teacher, the woman with aching bones, the woman who has come to understand that failure is inevitable, enduring, necessary. These memories are like a deck of illustrated playing cards – I can shuffle through them and smile, I have no trouble recalling those girls, being those girls, those young women. It is a private comfort to be able to drift back into those years, the adventures and heartbreaks. Shuffle the deck, and I’m 30 years younger. I’m six. I’m nineteen. Shuffle again, and I’m smack in the middle of middle age.

It seems that just last week there was snow on the ground. It seems that just last week I was a girl. Today, the sun is shining. But hold on: there’s a chill in the air that can’t be denied.