Yesterday morning, just as the kettle began to rattle and sing for coffee, a bird came into the house. A little sparrow, a melodia, a song-sparrow, the kind with the delicately tiger striped tail feathers, the kind that came in the house last time when we had the downstairs window open all day to run the wire for the new antenna on the roof facing into the mountain shadow so Sweetheart and I could watch Jacques Pépin on the free PBS channel whose mascot is a dancing paper bag (oh the thrill of our bear muffin lives!), the same kind that Nipsey the cat caught in his mouth in 2.5 seconds like a jungle beast, the kind that Sweetheart liberated from the cat’s mouth while I squeezed shut my eyes and hopped in a circle almost crying saying “please fix it, please fix it” (and he did, the kind of bird that lived), you know, that kind of bird. In the house. He made a few mad circuits of the dining room and kitchen as I wildly shut the cat out and opened all the windows and doors and gently and firmly intoned “Bird, Bird, this way, this way”. The bird does not answer to Bird. The bird landed on the windowsill of the last closed window, sat there, and let. me. pick. him. up. I held the bird, with no birdlike tremor, just a tiny and soft warm little parcel, how brave, in my gentle paw for only as long as it took me to open the window, the screen, and set him on the porch in a patch of shade. I did not take his picture, for he was very real. He sat there, very still for a very long worrisome moment, and then took a deep breath and swooped off into the hedge. They are singing right now outside, the song sparrows, their wonderful looping and cascading trill, call-and-response. Is one of them him? The bird who I held in my hand? I do hope so.
Snow Day, Snow Birds
Six inches of snow yesterday in our quiet little farmhouse world, Mama and Daddy got “stuck” here in the name of icy road safety, so we spent the afternoon holed up at the kitchen table nestled by the woodstove watching the songbirds have a total freakout at the bird-feeders (which D and I had judiciously refilled on Sunday when it was 65 degrees out and the bees were flying). Flurries of sparrows, titmice, gold finches cloaked in brown for winter, blazing red cardinals and their dun lady friends, (Robert) downey (jr.) woodpeckers, red winged blackbirds, and the occasional bad grackle and squirrel are all swooping down and around, 30 at a time (!), a serious all-you-can-eat buffet. And this morning, Mama found the tracks of a solitary wanderer among the ice diamonds on the front porch. It’s probably safe out there in the world, but we’re going to keep it quiet, snuggled in, and snowbound for as long as we can. Time to go refill the feeders.
Oh, bonjour ma petit oiseaus, what’s that, you say? You are completely and absolutely enamored with this ridiculously awesome plumed image with its many and exotically lovely birdies all over it like Portlandia was unleashed inside John Derian and polar vortexed into an ancient Parisienne apothecary? Why, yes, me too. Oiseau aussi. And, yes, ma petite mésange enrobés de sucre, these (and a host of other awesome vintage birdie images) are available here, fo free. I’m just dreaming up what strange wallpaper-large-scale-print-paper-teepee project I might tackle next with these lovelies. In the meantime, I’ll just change my desktop background. Infinies grâce à la meilleure Maman for le link.
These two little birds are me and sweetheart today. Finally just the two of us for one precious night of quiet and maybe listening to records but not wanting to get up to change to the b-side so just the space of breathing and measuring the distance of contented silence and then… BAM it will begin again! Overnight guests and big boozy dinners and road trips and champagne toasts… but for now, just us two little birds.
The Catbird Seat
It must be getting on fall… the dogwood started sporting red leaves back in late July, we hear the geese in chevron flying overhead every twilight, and Jeff says the wooly bears started coming out last week (the fuzzies are apparently an ancient harbinger of winter). And the birds are back. After a summer of desolation at the bird feeders, the suet melting in the heat, the millet moldering behind its squirrel proof cage, the birds are swooping in again. Chit chattering all morning through to cocktail hour, fattening up their glossy summer plumage before it’s time to brown down. Dr. Russell the Cat Scientist is constantly taking data measurements and consulting his reference tomes watching them at the window, from the catbird seat.
Oh, hello and good morning! This is the view from my bed today. A little less than a foot, it seems, and the world is beautiful. We made sure to stock the birdfeeders before it all started so today we are being treated to a swooping ballet of snowbirds coming in for a breakfast. I simply can’t get over the Cardinal and the Jay.
Nipsey Russell agrees, it makes for quite a show. We are the only people we know that have power and it may go off (never fear for us! we have the woodstove and a passel of food chosen for the exact purpose of cooking it on the woodstove) but alas, it might mean a few days of card games and playing music instead of being in this online space. That seems ok.
So, if you couldn’t tell over here at Feather by Feather we have a serious thing for birds. A certain type of person might blame my Brooklyn tenure, where you can’t swing a taxidermied cat at the Brooklyn Flea without hitting something someone’s put a bird on (watch it again, it’s amazing). But that type of person would be wrong. When I was growing up we had a big bay window in our living room and my Mama kept birdfeeders out there and I’d sit in the window seat and watch them. Tiny delicate songbirds and dun lady Cardinals and big bully Jays. I got to pick out the birdbath at the Pottery Factory (a ruffly concrete number) and when it was time to get more seed, Mama would take me with her to Southern States, a small regional farmers co-op which, in addition to fodder, seed, tractors, and tools ALSO sold Breyer model horses, another ob.session of 8 year old me. I digress. The birdseed was stored there in large self-serve half barrels, black oil sunflower seeds for the Cardinals, millet for the Nuthatches and Tufted Titmice, thistle for the noble and special Goldfinch, and cobbed corn for any lame fool addled enough to want to feed a squirrel. I remember so well running the seeds through my hands, the smell of the thistle, the dust floating in the sunshafts streaming in the windows by the big checkerboard Purina logo. So. Now that I have a window seat of my own, my Mama passed along her birdfeeders to me. Hung on shepherd’s crooks and complete with baffles to keep those fat, oil-furred country squire squirrels at bay, the birds love them, and I watch them come and go and talk and pick and dance and swoop all day (below photo taken after I chased them all away with my camera, of course).
Fine Feathered Tree
We put our little city Christmas tree up late last week, and it’s been a source of constant joy to me since. The night we put it up, I had the girls over for Christmas Crafts (more on that later), and after a long boozy vegetarian dinner (for Smills the yogi) followed by the cracking open of the bottle of grappa I brought back from Italy, we sat in the glow of the tree through the wee hours and talked of the future and the past and of our little and not so little dreams. It was all so very wonderful. My absolute favorite part of the tree are all of the little birds, coming from all over my history to nest in the tree, feather by feather.
Thanks to Meags for the first picture of my tree, lovingly taken during her visit this weekend (we hugged each other with six of our friendship-octopus legs to make sure that we had two legs each free for champagne, of course).