bottom of the barrel

by bam

the morning, it seemed, was unraveling in the same way as the dinner hour that preceded it.

the night, those long dark hours that sometimes steady the unsteady, alas, had not shaken off the sorry sense that somehow i was scrambling in a way that isn’t good for any one, and certainly not for me.

the eve before, it had been one of those full-scale collisions on the calendar. when mama works all day, and barely makes it home in time for the calculus that awaits. when child A needs to be decked out in full baseball regalia, fed and on the field at hour X. and child B, for reasons that don’t wholly compute, had to be fed, in tux (that would be tuxedo, mind you, for 14-year-old, complete with cummerbund and cufflinks and how-on-earth-do-these-things-wiggle-through-the-little-holes-on-daddy’s-wrinkled-fancy-shirt studs) and on stage at hour X+30 minutes.

in order for all this to unfold according to flawless mathematical equation, the lowly chicken roasting in the oven had to be cranked to overdrive which was setting off bells and whistles at increasing frequency and velocity. the father of said children had missed his train. and the grandmother, attempting to keep peace in roiling frothing seas, kept mostly quiet except to roll her eyes and mutter something about how in the old days such nonsense would never have unfolded on a school night.

to beat the odds, and keep my flagellating to myself, i just kept driving. child A from here to there, on time, and left in care of what i took to be someone’s trusty grownup. back to train to fetch the missing father. home to scoop up child B, still fumbling with those studs, and off to stage where he stumbled to the music stand in the very nick of time.

upon ditching out of concert, at so-called half-time, to retrieve long-abandoned child A, i discovered tear-streaked little person with aching throbbing head, and no bat, which, i discovered even later, his train-missing father had purchased just the week before for close to what i spend for groceries in a week. okay, make that two days’ groceries. but that’s only because food these days ain’t cheap.

much soothing later (and i mean of the throbbing-headed child, although i myself could’ve used some soothe if there’d been any left to spare), i plopped in bed, at weary last. and, promptly, heaved a sorry sigh.

awoke to grizzly bear stalking kitchen. was told i’d need to do X, Y and Z before the day was done.

and that’s when i looked out the window. caught the flight of many wings. flapping. diving. ruffling feathers in the branches of a bush i could nearly touch.

that’s when i felt the calm set in. or what passed as calm in a passage best described as bumpy.

and that is when i thought: i know, i’ll feed the birds.

for a make-believe farm girl like me, there is a soothing that comes in slopping for the herd. now, my herd might not moo, or oink. and, dang, there is not yet a clucking in my yard. no cock-a-doodle-nothin’. but i do make believe my wild things depend on me. and i’ve come to understand that i depend on them.

the cord between my heart and soul and the scrambling things outside is short, and getting shorter.

my ties to the world of nature, i do believe, are thick and thicker. part medicine, part religion, i step outside to heal what ails me. these warming days, i can’t stop walking. it’s as if the air itself is a masseuse’s fingers, and it rubs away the winter’s ache.

i am sure to stumble soon because i never look where i am walking. i look up, in trees. i catch mama bird resting her big belly on a branch that bends to hold her and her many belly-popping eggs. i see squirrels entwined, and i do not think they are merely dancing the watusi. i look way away from where my feet fall, into where the tender beauties of the spring are unfurling by the hour. i catch the light play tag with leaves, and watch the shadows try their darnedest to keep up with where it’s out-of-bounds.

it might at last be spring (although i heard that summer’s coming by the weekend), and the birds might find their fill with all the tiny buds and worms that have awakened.

but i am stingy. i want my birds to stay nearby. i don’t care to share them with the woods, not all day anyway.

so i thought i’d lure them back to where i need them on the days when all the world is yanking on my sleeve. that’s why i opened up the bird seed barrel. and that’s when i saw just the scantest bit of bird lure.

i saw that empty bin. i knew just how it felt. to be without the stuff that fills you.

so now i’m heading off, to buy some sacks of seed to soothe my soul. and keep my birds, as close as they can be.
until i fetch a cow to keep me company.

what soothes you on days when all forces conspire to bring you down at every turn?

i should mention that today is a day to mark for all who live for words and prose and poetry. today’s the day the bard was born. and here’s a bit about wm shakespeare that came to me from good ol’ garrison keillor, who every morning, like a kindly neighbor, sends me a snippet of poetry and wordly wisdom for the day. sayeth the one from wobegon…

“Today is believed to be the birthday of William Shakespeare, born in Stratford-on-Avon, England (1564). He was a playwright and poet, and is considered to be the most influential and perhaps the greatest writer in the English language. He gave us many beloved plays, including Romeo and Juliet (1594), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595), Hamlet (1600), Othello (1604), King Lear (1605), and Macbeth (1605).
Only a few scattered facts are known about his life. He was born and raised in the picturesque market town of Stratford-on-Avon, surrounded by woodlands. His father was a glover and a leather merchant; he and his wife had eight children including William, but three of them died in childbirth. William probably left grammar school when he was 13 years old, but continued to study on his own.
He went to London around 1588 to pursue his career in drama and by 1592 he was a well-known actor. He joined an acting troupe in 1594 and wrote many plays for the group while continuing to act. Scholars believe that he usually played the part of the first character that came on stage, but that in Hamlet, he played the ghost.
Some scholars have suggested that Shakespeare couldn’t have written the plays attributed to him because he had no formal education. A group of scientists recently plugged all his plays into a computer and tried to compare his work to other writers of his day, such as Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, and the Earl of Oxford. The only writer they found who frequently used words and phrases similar to Shakespeare’s was Queen Elizabeth I, and she was eventually ruled out as well.
Shakespeare used one of the largest vocabularies of any English writer, almost 30,000 words, and he was the first writer to invent or record many of our most common turns of phrase, including “foul play,” “as luck would have it,” “your own flesh and blood,” “too much of a good thing,” “good riddance,” “in one fell swoop,” “cruel to be kind,” “play fast and loose,” “vanish into thin air,” “the game is up,” “truth will out” and “in the twinkling of an eye.”
Shakespeare has always been popular in America, and many colonists kept copies of his complete works along with their Bibles. Pioneers performed his work out West. Many of the mines and canyons across the West are named after Shakespeare or one of his characters. Three mines in Colorado are called Ophelia, Cordelia, and Desdemona.”
–from “the writer’s almanac,” (2008)