Friday, January 29, 2016

January 29: The Mockingbird, Tireless, Sandra Beasley, "The Experiment"

The birds have started singing in the valley.  Their February squawks and naked chirps are fully fledged now, and long lyrics fly in the air.  Birdsong catches in the mountains' rim and pools in the valley; it threads through forests, it slides down creeks.  At the house a wonderful thing happens.  The mockingbird that nests each year in the front-yard spruce strikes up his chant in high places, and one of those high places in my chimney.  When he sings there, the hollow chimney acts as a soundbox, like the careful emptiness inside a cello or violin, and the notes of the song gather fullness and reverberate through the house.  He sings a phrase and repeats it exactly; then he sings another and repeats that, then another.  The mockingbird's invention is limitless; he strews newness about as casually as a god.  He is tireless, too; toward June he will begin his daily marathon at two in the morning and scarcely pause for breath until eleven at night.  I don't know when he sleeps.

I love this paragraph about birds and birdsong.  I think it appeals to me right now because it is about the coming of spring.  A thaw in the air.  The return of boisterous life.  Whistles.  Chirps.  Squawks.  And the mockingbird, this creature that copies and repeats, invents and reinvents, over and over, from before daybreak until after nightfall.  A tireless harbinger of newness.

I sometimes feel like that mockingbird.  Not the prophet-of-spring bird.  No, I associate myself more with the up-before-dawn-and-work-until-midnight bird.  Dillard says that she doesn't know when the mockingbird sleeps.  I get that.  This morning, I got up at 4:45 to shovel snow.  Then I worked all day and took care of my kids most of the evening and night.  It is 10 p.m. now, and I just got back home a little less than an hour ago.  Probably won't get to bed until around midnight.  Are you seeing what I'm saying?  I AM that mockingbird.

I'm used to being near exhaustion around this time.  Some nights, I can barely keep my eyes open.  I sit on the couch and fall asleep during the ten o'clock news.  I simply don't have time to slow down or be tired during the day.  If I were a mockingbird, my call would go something like this:  "Too much to do!  Too much to do!  Too much to do!"

I am not complaining.  I am just bone tired of this week of snow and shoveling.  Tomorrow (Saturday) I get to sleep in until 7 a.m.  That might not sound like a big deal, but, for a person who usually rises between 4:30 and five every morning, it's a very big deal.  Those extra two hours of slumber are Rip Van Winkle hours.  Deep and long.

That's the extent of my wisdom tonight--naps are good.  I am going to leave the inspiration to Poet of the Week Sandra Beasley.

Time for Saint Marty to close his eyes, at least until Jimmy Fallon starts or I wake up twenty years in the future.

The Experiment

by:  Sandra Beasley

My mother mixed sugar and water in a jar.

I laid the thin sheet of cotton down on garden stone.

Her brush trailed islands across the paper--

one, two, a Fiji, a Hokkaido,

coastlines she'd seen only in magazines--

while I caught eight caterpillars and hunkered down,

cupping their fuzzy, blind blue, and as she lifted her brush

I fed them onto the edge of the page.

Then, a bath.  A card game.  Sandwiches.  Braiding.

Years later, she'll say she had never wanted children.

When we checked again the caterpillars were gone,

sugared spots chewed away.  Our map of hunger,

she said, holding the latticed sheet up to the sun--

light casting an archipelago across her face.

Just because it makes me laugh...

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