papa’s got a whole new song
just in time. just in the sweet holy nick of time.
just when you think the sides of your ribs are going to cave in, what with the hollow feeling inside. just when the gray-upon-gray gets to be downright bleak and not just moody, you walk out the door, maybe for some innocent, nearly archaic little chore–say, plucking the newspaper from down by the curb; who knew how suddenly that would seem quaint, going the way of the milkman, the knife sharpener, the man who sold brushes right at your door?
so there you are, minding your mind, traipsing along, trying to steer the toe of your slipper out of the way of the crash-course of mush that once was snow but now is all crusty and dingy and rather the hue of a staid banker’s trousers.
it’s then, somewhere mid-step, when suddenly the bright morning light is utterly shattered.
it’s papa, the bright crimson cardinal, the savior of so many graces. he is on high, and he’s warbling, all right and almighty.
he is belting out his sweet hallelujah, letting the notes land and melt on your near-frozen heart.
what he’s doing, in fact, is yodeling for chicks. uh-huh, that’s just what it is. it’s high time for hormones out there in the bird world, and just the same as if he was down at a corner on chicago’s boul mich, or smack dab in the thick of new york’s times square, and instead of a placard, front and back, “calling all girls,” he struts out his stuff with the cords in his throat.
he sings, darn it.
he sings so loud and so clear, and so stunningly vernally, you can’t help but spin on your spongey old slippers, and turn your eyes to the highest of heights.
he’s up there somewhere you know. you can hear him, all right. he’s waking the dead, for heavenly sake. or surely the tired, the ones who like you are just about run out of steam, who think just as you did the winter before that the spring never will come.
heck, you’re starting to think even the daffodil is folly, the figment of some fictional mind, and this year perhaps it might not come true, might not break through the crust of the earth after all. merely the stuff of fairy tales and make believe and frogs that turn into princes.
but you hear that bird, darn it. he is speaking to you, as much if not more than to all of the girl birds up in the limbs.
he is shouting down from wherever he is: do not despair, lady. yo, you in the fuzzy, coffee-stained slippers, there is reason for hope. don’t abandon your life raft.
you, the one with the duly-splotched fuzzies, you stand there, not minding one bit that your knees are now knocking from cold, and your arms are covered in goosebumps so big and so juicy it looks like you just stepped out of the pluckery, the place where the feathers are plucked from the hens that would be.
you stand there, you do, letting each one of his high notes, his song of the launch of the season, sink into each of your over-plumped pores.
the cardinal, you know, answers to a much higher light. he’s tied to the slant of the sun, yes he is. and he knows, way before you do, that just beyond this snow-crusted horizon, there is hope rising.
hope in the form of grass that’ll turn easter-grass green again. bulbs underground that’ll shove through the mud, reach for the clouds. maybe even unfurl, spread their petals, for crying out loud.
papa knows all that.
so you, the one who needs once again to remember, you stand there, rapt, paying attention.
you drink up his high notes, his middle notes and any old note in between.
he’s up there–you’ve spotted him now, on the highest darn branch in the landscape–he’s up there announcing the news: all is not this. faith, be not abandoned. you can’t see it at all, but good news is pulling out of the shed, hitchin’ the wagon. any old week now, you might start to feel zippier.
it is these nearly-missed moments, the folded-up notes tucked and dropped on the way, the treasure hunt that is the living of life, gretel’s crumbs in the woods, these are the things that keep us on course.
if we pause. pay attention. drink in the cups that are offered.
we can live by the squawks from the box. or the words on the pages that land on our stoop.
or, if we choose, we can align our ships with a whole other north star.
we can live by sunlight streaming in at a particular angle, little shoots poking through the tired old earth. or papa belting it out from on high.
papa who tells us in so many words: fill your lungs with my song, folks. it’s the song of the season to come. it’s the song that’ll carry you home.
some dreary mornings, it’s a bird on a branch who makes all the difference.
some days writing comes in fits and starts. some days i think it’s time to throw in the towel, take up auto mechanic-ing, maybe. or maybe get a job swirling the foam in someone’s grande skim latte. but then, i wander over here, and roll up my sleeves, and play games on the keyboard. i don’t worry too much ‘bout spinning in circles or darting in and out of the point. if to write is to roll up your pant legs and splash in the puddles, well, then i just got all sloppy wet again. by the day i feel more and more obsolete. just yesterday i sat in a meeting where a very young someone extolled the virtues of a new form of “writing.” well, no one called it writing, and it’s not really. you’re only allowed 140 strokes of the keys. then time’s up. your twitter is done. this, we were told, is the future. and i sat there feeling quite old. obsolete. heck, whatever happened to whole sentences, remember those ones that we’d diagram, with all the chutes and the ladders? so maybe my hours are numbered. maybe the paragraph is a thing of the past. thank you then, if you’ve stopped for a visit, for going along with the future of obsolescence. thank you for reading the winding road of a soul who has always found words the surest cure for what ails me, the only way i know how to pray. thanks for stopping by, here on the day of the red bird’s new song.
have you felt the stirrings of hope on the horizon? do tell.
I have indeed felt the stirrings of hope on the horizon — so much so that I’ve signed up for a one day class at the botanic garden at the end of April. The class is American Kitchen Garden. I’m dreaming of a little herb garden plopped right where the old sandbox is currently – a garden filled with basil and chives and rosemary and lavender and tomatoes and strawberries and a few flowers too. Nothing fancy. Just something simple to connect me with the rhythm of nature.
140 strokes of a keyboard equals communication???? I don’t think so. There is no soul, no poetry in that kind of writing. I have been reading a book by Kent Nerburn called Make Me An Instrument of Your Peace. It is a beautiful simple book that has inspired me. Can’t imagine 140 strokes inspiring anyone.
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 – 05:23 PM
i want to take that class too! i love the title. it’s so evocative, so patriotic, even. maybe we should all start american kitchen gardens and collectively harvest hope, and some fine salads as well…..
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 – 05:27 PM
the class is Saturday, April 25th from 9:30 am to 11:30 am and is taught by Nina Koziel – a Tribune contributer if I’m not mistaken
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 – 08:10 PM
birds and more birds, especially the bright flashy kind. i do believe there is something to the cardinals being one of the first harbingers of spring, we who have had winter eyes accustomed to bleak grey need the wake up color of red with a song….here on the farm already the red winged black birds have arrived. i, the almost penniless foolish farmer, gather up extra change and buy extra bird seed so i can watch all the extras coming a bit early in my estimate. can’t let the little ones starve!
and i can announce here as i exclaimed yesterday out in the orchard where no one heard-“my lettuce has germinated!” and you too will make such exclamations with your city garden plots-love your class attendance hopes.
(that short stroke foolishness will not last-words of substance are what we all thirst for now-need now-not hollowed out stories, we want the pulp-no worries for you, dear. you’ve started the idea of a catalogue of kindness you astute reporter you…why not seek out and bring to page the stories? yes, you- publish the pulp the world aches to know! i can see it now-book signings with chairs gathered round you, not long lines but a place for folks to sit down-the pull up a chair brigade across this land…) just a thought. well, maybe a little shove….
Thursday, February 26, 2009 – 07:52 AM
I first read this yesterday afternoon when the sun was shining and the wind was bringing in some warmth. It inspired me enough to go out and take a look in the yard, closely examining some of that mud. And, yes, if you know where to look and you know what you’re looking for, there are some crocus shoots emerging. I can also say with absolute certainty that the day lilies are pushing out of the mud. . . And early this morning, I heard your bird! A friend reports seeing a robin yesterday. I do believe that all these signs of hope are there for us, and, yes, spring will come. Just not this weekend in the midwest. We need more patience. But, soon!
In some ways, the idea of 140 characters for some forms of communication intruiges me. I’d like to try it just to see if I could get to the point in such an abbreviated manner. But, it is my hope that our way of getting the news, that slightly wet roll on the driveway every morning, remains intact for some time. I can’t imagine leaning over my computer as I eat my breakfast. I refuse to entertain the thought that the paragraph will ever leave us.
Thursday, February 26, 2009 – 08:10 AM
okay, so maybe the next campaign will be the save-the-paragraph committee. yes, there is something of a linguistic challenge in seeing if you can say something important in 140 characters, but i’m not much inspired to try. maybe though some day we’ll pull up our chairs and attempt brevity. until then, i am your own personal dinosaur. long winding sentences anyone???? just call me the brontosaurus….
i’m with you true, savin’ my pennies to put out a little seed and see who i can entice to my back-plot…..how bout we bring up true, and have her teach the american kitchen garden, right here at chair central??????
Thursday, February 26, 2009 – 10:38 AM
i would most certainly take a class led by true, i’m saving my pennies for seeds too for my very own backyard (well the first one in my adult life that will be with me for a full harvest season and then some) Here’s to seeds of life, letting the roots go into the depths of the earth and red-winged prophets
Thursday, February 26, 2009 – 01:22 PM
Can you imagine visiting this table only to find 140 keystrokes? Who would want that?! As masterful a writer as you are bam … even you would be stifled by such restriction.
In my opinion, the only ‘twitter’ I’m interested in is the soulful sound of that glorious red bird pictured above!
Thursday, February 26, 2009 – 07:52 PM
bless your beautiful twittering heart, pjv.
hey that was only 36 characters
(but that was 26 more) time’s almost up, just counting characters. eeek. xoxx
just think: we’d have to limit our x’s and o’s
Friday, February 27, 2009 – 04:11 PM
I make it a policy to never limit the x’s & o’s!
Monday, March 2, 2009 – 06:04 PM
submit a story of JUST x’s and o’s……… after all that is what you do….. you send love through the words……. love of life, love of people, love of creation…. if it need be abbreviated then get right to the point……… yep, just x’s and o’s…….. 70 of each……..
for us here at the chair…….. don’t shorten a paragraph…. how else to relate the beauty and majesty of that glorious papa bird…… his intention to the female of his kind and his unintended inspiration to us, the sometimes very misguided humans who in their frailty have a hard time holding on until the rebirth of spring….
not too many cardinals down here in this part of the high desert and your
l-e-n-g-t-h-y paragraph about papa bird inspires… love it………….
ps the photo is amazing….what a beautiful harbinger of the coming season….
“God knows our frailty, and pities our weakness.” –Locke
Tuesday, March 3, 2009 – 04:14 PM