Top of Piedmont: To Watch, Listen and Ponder — Then Write!

January 2015Monthly Archives

Feed the Birds

I am not sure if there are any “Mary Poppins” fans reading this, but those of you who remember the movie starring Julie Andrews might remember the song “Feed the Birds”. It feels dated and a little cheezy for this era, but birds still need food. They want to chow down no matter what time of year.

You can spend big bucks on bird feeders. Ours is a post with a big flat board on top of it. The board is weather warped so it has a bit of bow in it. The Pine Siskins, Chickadees and other smaller winged wonders get to pick their elevations. When it ices up after a snow fall, they kinda slide downhill.

Since the feeder was built late in the fall, the chipmunks haven’t had a chance to climb the post to gorge on sunflower and thistle seeds. They are sleeping right now, just waiting to come out in the spring and stuff their fat cheeks. The pole will need some modification to keep them from overeating. One trip to the coop a month is enough, not every week. I am on a fixed income after all.

Bigger birds clear out the feeder when they show up. Blue Jays are particularly aggressive. You don’t mess with those boys. But even they leave in a hurry when the Pileated Woodpeckers show up.

We feed ducks when they come back after the lagoon opens in the spring. Of course they pair up, the males preening and possessive, hoping to spread their genes. We feed them and give them names, but who can tell one Mallard from another? Every year it’s Darrell and Desi. They fly in for the whole corn I broadcast on the lawn. Desi was a bit bold this year, following me into the garage looking for a handout. Wood ducks are shyer than the Mallards. They still like the meals, but have to be observed from a distance.

Canada Geese are always lurking around near the edge of the lake. I made the mistake one day of broadcasting corn while they were browsing on the neighbor’s lawn. Not a good idea. It took several days of harassment with a BB gun and a broom to extinguish their foraging behaviors. I had to sneak out in the dead of night to spread corn on the lawn. They can see lunch from a distance.

So, we feed the birds, not the geese. Tough bounce dudes.


No fear stops divers
Batman and Easter Bunny
“Catch me daddy!”

Time Machine

Memory persists; ones we cherish, other occasions we wish we could relive, and others still we’d just as soon forget. Depending on our general emotional state, a soft, warm glow surrounds our thoughts of life events, or a haze of sadness and regret. We have the present, we anticipate the future, and memory is a time machine.

Sense is the key to turn when engaging memory. Smell and sight spark memory. Other senses have their place, but these two have an immediacy that envelops us.

Photos stimulate recollection. While I don’t remember much about my first day of grade school at St. Adalberts in Gilman, Minnesota, I do remember the picture my mother took of me walking down a dirt road, wearing a shiny brown jacket and a baseball cap.

Other iconic photos have emotional tags. A young president’s wife stands next to Lyndon Johnson as he takes the oath of office. Joe Namath’s pass against the Oilers in 1966. The twin towers of New York City spew smoke into a crystal blue sky.

Smells are potent gateways too. Just ask my kids about the “delightful” tater tot casserole I prepared for Wednesday night meals. You won’t get many takers for that! Or the smell of lutefisk after midnight mass on Christmas. Polish sausage and scrambled eggs were a better option.

Then there are other aromas. The perfumes of youth adrift on the air in a crowded mall transport us to a time and place when we were fresh and untrammeled by life experience. Scents out of fashion randomly encountered again, help us recall the gentle pressure of a head on a shoulder and the brush of a first kiss.

If one cultivates memory as a gift to be explored from the perspective of age and experience, the things we initially learned are deepened. The events remain the same, but our take on their significance changes.

Sometimes revisiting old haunts keeps those places fresh. It may not help in remembering the third thing you were supposed to get at the grocery store, but it provides a sense of continuity and support.

I have lived in and remodeled three homes. Sometimes I walk through them in the middle of the night, when sleep is hard to come by, and recall how they looked and what I did to refashion them to suit our needs. When I think about my thinking, the amount of detail in those memories is stunning. Sometimes I wonder if there is much left between my ears and then I find out there is. Even here, sense is the key. Seeing, smelling and touching have locked those experiences away in the strongbox of recollection.

Memory is selective. Seen in the rear view mirror of time passed, we choose those elements from experience that are benign or comforting, ignoring aspects of life that are inconvenient or aversive. But memory persists. We time travel.


A gray thread dangles from a frayed sweater over a dishpan,
the sleeve unraveling, soaked, victim of domestic imperatives.

Tug it, roll it to cuff and forget the fine strand lacks integrity.
Is this the one that holds all, that binds warp and weave into a fabric that serves?

Fibers bind, shape and capture, stitch by stitch, purl through filament,
give contour to the nebulous, utility to the just pretty,
sculpting a dream dancing in the head.

Libertine colors in dissolute revelry are beguiled into pattern,
seamed and woven, hemmed, tucked here and puckered there.

Wools envelop absconding heat when ice rims frosted windows,
our private radiances captured in more elegant fashion beneath Irish,
Alpaca and Cashmere.

Soft silks, sleek satins and Egyptian cotton coddle and cool,
caressing skin in weightless luxury.

Electronic threads in glass and wire beget mutuality, desired or not,
where conflict and reconciliation are bound in an unruly choreography,
one move displacing another’s tenuous hold.

Threads order the random, impulsive act
as duty binds judgment at the service of hollow conceits,
where war has its senseless way.
The sleeve unrolled,
household obligations done,
a sigh,
a thread falls to hang.

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