Saturday, May 22, 2004

Another day...or something like it.

I stood outside with my hands out near the feeder on the deck last evening and six hummingbirds hovered, flittered, fluttered, and dive bombed me, coming so close I could almost feel their wings brushing against me. I figure they will get used to me eventually, although this morning they were a little perturbed at me. I took down their feeder. The greedy little things drank up all the syrup. So I took it down and inside the house to wash it and make more syrup for them. The syrup was still a bit warm when I took it outside so I set it down on the bench and tended to my seedlings and plants. One of the little beggars was so bold he hovered right in front of me, not more than two or three inches from my chest, as if telling me I shouldn't be fooling around with the plants when I should be hanging the feeder. When I put it up, I stood there for a while, hand on the deck railing, while they came slowly back to feed. I used organic sugar in the mix this time and they seemed to love it because mere seconds later they were fighting over who got to sit on the perch and guzzle in peace. They're still out there buzzing, flitting, dive bombing and quarreling.

Last night was the time for news apparently. My youngest sister called and told me Mom had to stay in the hospital for more tests and that she had indeed had a stroke. When I talked to her earlier today, the numbness and near paralysis had moved from her left hand up her left arm. I am a bit worried. Her mother had several strokes over a period of two years, so many, in fact, half her brain died. Mom is about the same age.

Mom has to stay in the hospital until Monday because they don't have access to the sonography machinery to check out her heart and carotids. I am ready for the worst, especially since Mom and I have finally come to terms and quit chewing over the past like a dog with a raggedy old bone. At least I'll know that when she dies she know how much I love and appreciate her and there is no more anger or recrimination between us. I'm not looking forward to her death, but we all have to go some time. I pray she goes peaceful and without pain. She couldn't stand a protracted death...and neither could we. It would be nice to see her one more time, have her here to spend a week or two in the mountains, but only time and the gods can tell if that is possible.

A raven landed on the deck railing last night, scaring the hummingbirds away momentarily. He was as big as a full grown cat, a really big full grown cat at that. Black and majestic, he swooped off the deck down to the ground and disappeared. The hummingbirds didn't wait for him to leave before they were back. All I can say is that must be some sugar syrup for them to be so greedy as to ignore the presence of a predator.

IT snowed briefly here this morning, but only because it was raining everywhere else and the altitude here and the cool breezes do not give the snow a chance to melt and become rain before it reaches me. It didn't last long, but more squalls are on the way. I can feel it by the sinus pressure. Not a big storm (not enough pressure), but enough to make things interesting. I'm hoping for lightning and thunder and lots of rain, but I doubt that will least not here.

Just another beautiful day in the Rocky Mountains in my secluded little cabin away from the troubles and noise and pollution of the city.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Hummingbird thoughts

Writing is like catching a hummingbird in your hand or on film sometimes, but if you stand still for a moment the ideas and the hummingbirds come.

I took my tea out onto the deck just to feel the sunshine on my face and heard the wind rushing thru the trees. It was a little chilly at first, but soon the sun warmed me while I drank and read and wrote. I probably should have been editing (no, I know I should have been editing), but I needed the fresh air untainted by frustration and every day stuff and I wanted to see the hummingbirds feed without a window between us.

I didn't think the hummingbirds would come, but their greed for sugar syrup obviously outweighs their fear. While I read and drank and wrote in my journal, they buzzed in, their wings chirr-whirring, the locust buzz of their flight punctuated by chirps. I've seen them in books and on television, but never really up close. They are tiny marvels of feather and flight and perfection. Their needle thin beaks are nearly half as long as their bodies. I wanted to reach out and have them land on my hand so I could see them up close, marvel at their petite feathery perfection, but I knew they wouldn't come that close.

Mom suggested getting pictures, especially since I got four hummingbirds at the feeder at the same time last night. The numbers are growing and I can't wait until my seedlings are flowering and I can watch them buzz among the brilliant flowers.

Not knowing whether they would come back if I stood close enough to the feeder to catch them on film, I decided to give it a try anyway. What's the worst that could happen? I stand out there and soak up the sun while mountain breezes shushed thru the trees? Not such a bad way to spend a few moments out of time.

When I stepped back onto the deck, camera in hand, two hummingbirds were whirring about the feeder. They darted off like tiny emerald elf arrows and I moved closer to the feeder, barely three inches away. I didn't have to wait long before they came back, their hunger outweighing their fear. I snapped some pictures and with each click they arrowed away. I waited. They came back. I snapped some more pictures until my camera gave a slow whine and began to rewind.

If it worked once, it could work again.

I went inside, put more film in the camera, and ventured back onto the deck inches from the feeder. They came back, one at a time at first, and then by twos. I'm sure some of the shots are blurry since the hummingbirds flit away every time the shutter clicks, but eventually they stayed and drank while I took more pictures. I should have about 25 or so and I hope they come out.

It all made me think about writing, about how ideas flutter close enough to see the individual letters and words and just as you reach out to catch them they're gone. Hummingbird thoughts. That's what I'll call them. But they can be caught. They will land if you stand still long enough and wait.

Just like the idea of a chapbook or a collection of vignettes and essays and poems with pictures of animals, insects, plants, and birds to go along with them: Cabin Dreams.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

On the deck...

Today has been a beautiful day full of clouds of all varieties, shapes, and sizes and now they're turning gray overhead and the sky, once a brilliant blue, is now white. More storms on the way or maybe just threatening intrepid beings daring to set out lawn furniture on their decks and enjoy the sunshine and the breezes. Me? I'm sitting at my desk finalizing web designs for Rose & Thorn, writing book reviews, cruising markets that include dollar amounts, browsing thru the virtual world of cyberspace, and taking more guff from my least favorite editor in chief who is determined to ruin my sunny and productive disposition. But she shall not win--not today. I feel like giving her the rough edge of my tongue and telling her to go find a large pointy object and insert it brutally and deeply into a nether region, but for now I'll refrain and keep my announcement of retirement from being her scapegoat and favorite whipping toy until a more opportune moment. Right now I have other things to think about.

Like the hummingbird feeder my father sent me.

I got the feeder a couple days ago and unpacked it yesterday. It had been hanging on one of the many trees in his sanctuary for many, many years. The ruby balloon-shaped dome was full of black smears that turned out to be flares of fungus, but I cleaned it out with soap and hot water (making sure to rinse out all the soap) while I boiled the sugar with some of my own well water to make syrup to pour inside. With everything done and reassembled, I hung the feeder on the deck and within minutes the hummingbird who dive bombs me when I eat or read outside came buzzing by.

Did you know hummingbirds sound like locust when they fly? They do. Surprised me, too, especially since I thought a locust was dive bombing the deck that first morning I ate lunch outside while I read a new book. I was shocked to find the buzzing at my ear was not a locust but a blue and green hummingbird about two inches away, hovering motionless in the air.

The hummingbird came back several times to sip the syrup, but after four visits he perched on one of the little plastic perches and drank deeply, reminding me of Norm guzzling beer at the end of the bar in Cheers. I didn't know hummingbirds ever stopped fluttering their wings except in their nests.

Not long afterwards, the hummingbird brought a friend and they sipped and stopped and guzzled and flitted off like emerald streaks. I think they're ruby throated hummingbirds and I seem to remember seeing a picture of them in some book by Audobon or someone. They are beautiful and interesting and so much fun to watch as they zip and hover and dive bomb each other and the deck every time they appear. Today was different.

While eating a belated lunch, after sowing 24 peat pellets with seeds, three hummingbirds appeared at the feeder, flitting, floating, zipping and zagging all over the place. They seem to love the fare here at Rocky Mountain Cabin and keep drinking until the sun dips below the horizon in a splash of blood. My landlords told me they haven't seen hummingbirds up here for years, in spite of putting out a feeder, so I wasn't expecting them. But I'm glad they came.

It's the little things, like seedlings poking green and yellow stems out of the dirt, magpies drinking from melting snow on the deck, and hummingbirds dog fighting over sugar water, that make life so enjoyable and interesting.

And another hoax unveiled

While reading a friend's journal, I was momentarily stunned by the news that Andy Kaufman had returned. Somewhere in the dark recesses of my brain I seemed to remember something about cancer and death and lots and lots of mourners, tributes, and even a movie about Kaufman's life and comedy. Evidently, he resurfaced on the 20th anniversary of faking his death as some sort of performance art cum stab at immortality. Interesting, but not earth shattering. He is not the first nor will he be the last to perpetrate this particular hoax.

People have dropped off the edge of the world since the beginning of civilization. Of course it was much easier before records, writing, and social security numbers, but not impossible. People fake their deaths to avoid taxes, paying bills, spouses they can't or won't divorce, and they disappear so they can enjoy dissipation, drugs, booze, sex, crime, and the endless adventure of a life without property, family, friends, relatives, or responsibilities. They don't call it performance art; they call it disappearing.

In the 50s & 60s L. Ron Hubbard and a group of his literary cronies hatched a plot to create a religion, makes lots of money, fake their deaths and retire to someplace sunny and warm with hot and cold running water, sex, and booze. Scientology is the religion and L. Ron Hubbard is dead. The only question Kaufman's return brings to my mind is whether or not Hubbard is out there enjoying the proceeds of his performance art and the thousands of famous, near famous, and wannabe famous people he has brought into the fold to fund his retirement.

Kaufman says he faked his death to make a statement and to become immortal. Will he become immortal? Will people remember his statement for more than an extra 15 minutes of fleeting fame as he tours the Wal-Marts, truck stops, and Starbucks around the world, or will he once again become The Man on the Moon and be remembered forever?

I say 15 more minutes, maybe 30, but I doubt immortality. I think his marker has been called.