Sunday, April 29, 2012

Update From Florida

Well, Mr. Gray Catbird has moved on to his/her breeding grounds, and, withing a few days, so have the Painted Buntings.  I heard the Painteds singing 2 days ago, and then, they were gone - I know because I hear no song and they do not come to the feeders - all 4 of them have gone to their home breeding grounds.  

I'm not sad, although you'd think I would be.  Last week I found a stray cat in our back yard, having killed and eaten one of the racing lizards that lives there.  The cat finished all but the back torso, tail and hind leg because I scared him and used the hose to get him out of the yard.  I worried about my little bird "guests", but they have had the sense to move on.  Last year, they left during the first week of May, but this year, it is just a week earlier that they decided to "hit the road".  

I'm free now to trim bushes back, try to control the Morning Glory once more (it is an illusion - I never control the Morning Glory, but it lets me think so for brief periods of time).  We are having new windows put in our early 1970's Florida house, and I look forward to the energy savings they will bring.  With the advent of new windows comes the necessity to trim back the wildness of the bougainvillea and Cape Honeysuckle that grow right up to the house and would cover it, if allowed.  I will hack them all back, prune them if you will - like the grape vines in the Gospel of John.  But our rainy season is almost upon us and what I prune this coming week will be wild and crazy once more come October, when my "bed and breakfast for birds" opens up again for those who are migrating and seeking a place to stay. 

My husband and I had a scare last Thursday night.   He lets so much of the insanity of this world get to him, having been brought up by parents who could not, themselves, deal with the world at all.  He had a few minutes where he had difficulty talking, and, although he has had speech difficulties with certain words all his life, this was different.  Off to the emergency room we went.  He had several tests that came back fine.  He does not take care of himself physically as he should, thinking that he will last forever.  That will change now.  More fish and chicken and lots less "treats" and things we shouldn't eat are on the menu.  Low carb, no caffeine - that's the start.  We both need it.  Thank the Lord, all is well and all tests have come back normal.  He may have an MRI, the final test to rule out a mini stroke, next week, if his regular physician thinks it is necessary.  

One day at a time is all we ever receive, and if we think we get more, we are foolish.  Sufficient to the day is the evil - and the wonderfulness - thereof.  Just live today, plan for tomorrow if you must, but know that it is never guaranteed.  Knowing that my Lord is in charge is a great comfort, almost an adventure, to see what He will work out next. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

My Father's Favorite Music

I'm a lot like my father.  He had some favorite pieces of music that he would listen to as loud as he could, so as to be overwhelmed, buried in it.  You could see his emotions cross his face as he listened, the music making it almost as if he would burst with the beauty of it. 

His favorite pieces were "The Grand Canon Suite" and the theme from the movie, "Gettysburg".  For some reason - perhaps it is because both his maternal and paternal great grandfathers fought at Gettysburg in the 77th NY - my father was fascinated by the Civil War, and supremely, by the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg.  While I share his interest in the Civil War, my heroes are Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, not because of their Southern stance or their legendary leadership, but because they were honorable Christian men who lived what they believed.

A few months ago, I bought my mother an inexpensive CD player so that she could bring music to my father in the "home".  Every day when she visits, if the weather is nice, she rolls his wheelchair outside into the tree shaded courtyard and they visit awhile and enjoy the breeze and the sound of the birds.  The first time I tried to bring him music was a while before that.  I drove up to visit them and my mother was to meet me at the home.  I got there first, went to see my father, had a nurse get him ready for going outside - and out we went.  I hadn't been alone with him in such a long, long time.  My mother is always there and while that is a good thing, this felt like a stolen minute when I could somehow try to connect with the man I used to know.  I had my iPhone with me and, as we sat in the courtyard, I told him I had something for him.  I began to play the Grand Canyon Suite, and he began to hum along, his deep, beautiful voice still there.  There's the part where the donkey is clopping down the trail in the canyon, from top to bottom.  The music is  onomatopoeic in the way a word sounds like what it describes.

This is part one.  The donkey part is part three.

Part two:

Part three - the donkey theme:

Part four:

Part five - the cloudburst, and then peace:

When I played part three for him - "On the Trail", that's when he hummed along.  He doesn't remember how old he is or what year it is, he's not sure what town he is in, or even where he is, but he remembered that music.  They say that music, even for Alzheimer's patients, (although my father has dementia, not alzheimers, for what it's worth) is remembered, including lyrics.  It is indeed soul therapy.  

When I first got to his room that day I asked him if he knew who I was, and he did.  He always melts when I ask him that and he smiles and says, "my daughter" in this goofy way that is so precious to me.  I have to fight back tears at that point, it is so beautiful.  I've always known that underneath the anger issues, he was the most darling man, and I see it now more than ever.  He is happy every day.  He jokes with the nurses, he smiles, he never complains.  I can still see the father I remember as a child who always had to stop and talk to people, chat with the gas station attendant or the grocery store clerk, share a joke or a funny line with an acquaintance he has bumped into. 

I think about who I am at the present time and who I have been for the past 20 years as a grownup.  We should all strive to keep the worries of this world from affecting our behavior, from making us angry or resentful because, in the end, none of it matters anyway.  We are left elemental.  Babies are elemental.  They soak up what is around them but they are worried about nothing.  If they begin to get uncomfortable, aka, hungry, wet, tired, sick - they cry and alert their caretakers that something is needed.  They aren't angry or resentful or jealous or sad - not yet, anyway.  Not at the very beginning.  And as we age, we go back to elementals.  My father is ok as long as he is comfortable - and he seems to be that almost all the time.  He even laughs at times.  

How hard it is for all of us to let go as time passes, but eternity promises that time will no longer hold sway over us.  It will always be "now" and we will never be ruled by a clock or a calendar again.  We will be able to spend eons with our loved ones in heaven if we wish, and none of the shadows of this life will interfere.  It will be elemental all the time.  The basics, with us being fully functional beings and nothing to react against or fear.  We won't have to be reduced to babyhood to live beautifully and happily without a blemish.  

Here is the theme from the movie, "Gettysburg" that so moved my father:

My Little Avian Friends

It's that time of year when the migrant birds that have graced my yard all winter fly back to their northern homes.  My favorite little buddies this year were my Gray Catbird:

He was far from the shy recluse that Gray Catbirds are supposed to be.  I should have taken more pictures, when my little red butted friend (look closely at the second picture and you'll see his rust colored under tail feathers) came out every afternoon around 4pm.  He may still be here - I'll look tomorrow.  I heard him singing his meowy cat song a few days ago. That usually means it's getting to be mating time and time to go back home to breeding grounds. I would be sitting in my lawn chair not 6 feet from his favorite "appearance" area - and there he'd be.  He would peek out and then hop out from the opening in the bougainvillea, look for any treats I might have left him there and then move on to find peanut butter.  I would leave him pieces of ripe passion fruit from my vine - he loved those!!  Who ever heard of a wild Gray Catbird eating peanut butter (don't worry - it is natural, not full of preservatives and chemicals)!!   In the last picture, Mr. Catbird is on the branches upon which I might spread a little peanut butter.  It was fun to watch him eat it and then go for some water. 

"Cheeky-Boy", the male Common Yellowthroat, left a few weeks ago, at the end of March.  He was my favorite, flitting among the bushes directly around the screened in porch starting before the sun came up.  His little masked face was so sweet and you can tell I miss him and hope he comes back in the fall.

In the pictures above my little Cheeky Boy is eating the same thing the Gray Catbird unexpectedly liked - peanut butter.  How funny is that?  Common Yellowthroats are seen in the Everglades all year round.  In the wild they live in the marshy areas and cruise along the ground for goodies.  I think they eat bugs like most warblers.  Poor Cheeky Boy won't find much peanut butter in the wild, but that's probably a good thing, really.  I don't know where his nick name came from but one day as I was watching him gad about my yard, in and out, not shy in the least, I thought he was delightfully "cheeky" or fresh, like a little flirt - so I guess that's why I called him that.

I need to give Mr. Catbird a name, but none came to me.  I haven't named the Painted Buntings either - it doesn't seem proper, not in the same way as the little masked warbler.

I feel as if these little birds that God sends me every year are His gift to me; and I make sure I take good care of them in return.  I keep the feeders full for those who eat seed and provide caged feeders for the smaller birds who are frightened of the parrots and grackles and jays we have, not to mention the squirrels that hang upside down next to a feeder and grab it periodically to get some more food.  I love them all, mammal and bird.  There are places for them to hide in the brush and a pool of water with a filter that keeps it moving.  There is a birdbath in which the water is changed daily.  In the rainy season, all this slows down.  No need to worry about filling pools of water or birdbaths in the summer - the rain does that every day.  In the summer we concentrate on butterflies and dragonflies in the garden and the only bird feeding we do is peanuts for the Bluejays and squirrels in the morning and evening.

These little avian visitors are my companions as I sit outside and watch them come for breakfast in the morning.  Sometimes they perch on a branch and wait for me to finish filling feeders or filling the birdbath;  then as soon as I sit down, they come and eat or drink.  I can't tell you the intense soul pleasure these little creatures bring me.  My backyard is truly my little pocket Eden - in all seasons.
This year we've had one fully colored male Painted Bunting and 4 "Greenies", which could be females or immature males.   They are also still here.  Last year they left during the first week of May and I heard the male sing maybe 2 days in a row before they left.  This year the male buntings (which I now know includes one of the greenies because I saw him singing and only males sing) began singing over a week ago and have not left yet.  They sing in my bougainvillea bush so sweetly.  I'll have to keep an eye out now because every day they may be gone - for all I know they have gone today while I was at work.  I'll clean their feeders and make sure we are ready for all of them to come back in the fall.