The Birds: An Update and Possible Retraction

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It seems that I may need to retract some of my vitriolic rant against Woodpeckers.

I had the g-babies here for several days along with their other grandma who actually knows something about birds.  After some observation of said birds, a few sparkle waters, and a perusal of the Birds of Colorado Field Guide, we ascertained that the birds to whom I have become attached (Tree Swallows) actually “nest in former Woodpecker cavities.”

Okay, so the Woodpeckers got there first – but they are so much bigger.  I think we have a case of Clybourne Park in the wild going on at the Schnabin.

In the meantime, I have moved the owl which was purchased to scare away the terrible Woodpeckers who are taking over the world (pictured above with Hazel who is making it even scarier) to the back balcony.

The “birds” are using it as an outhouse and it’s just gross.



The Birds

the bird
We have been having some bird drama around the schnabin over the last couple of days.
Last year when I arrived here for the summer I noticed that a critter had bored a hole in the siding on the east side of the schnabin.  I thought maybe it was bees, but then I noticed a long piece of grass…it was a bird family that had taken up residence at the schnabin.
A few weeks later as I was making beds in the bunk room where the gbabies sleep, I heard some tweeting- and I don’t mean the social media kind.  Apparently a new batch of eggs had hatched.
Drew and Hazel were visiting for a few days and we watched as the mama and papa birds flew up to the hole in the siding with breakfast lunch and dinner.  At first we didn’t see the chicks.  But after a few days they began poking their heads out of the hole waiting for food.
Then one afternoon when we checked on them, the mama bird was sitting on the telephone wire coaxing the babies out of the hole to test their wings.  At first they looked like they were going to crash as they careened this way and that.  But after a few days they were doing loop-do-loops in the air and I swear I could hear them laughing.
The day after girls left, I was once again making beds in their room and I noticed that the twittering had stopped.  The little birds had all flown away.  It made me sad.
I shared this story with the graduating class in May because it reminded me of their journey through the program.  Somehow between the association with the gbabies and my graduating students, I got attached to those little birds.
You can imagine how happy I was when I arrived and found mama and papa bird were back.  Drew and I watched them as they flew into the hole in the siding “feathering” their nest (how the heck did she know that word?)
Everything was going along as it should until I woke up to the sound of a woodpecker.  It wasn’t pecking on a tree, the sound was clearly coming from the east side of the house.  I poked my head out the door and sure enough a big-ass woodpecker was pecking away at the little birds’ home as they watched helplessly from the telephone wire.  There were two of them and they were four times the size of my little birds.  I chased them away, but they kept coming back and by the end of the day, the little birds had moved on.  They knew when they were beaten.
I can’t help but think about the gentrification of our cities.  How often do the “great and powerful” come in and chase the little guys out in order to feather their nests?  What happens to the little birds who can’t begin to fight for their homes?
Well, this time I’m going to intervene on behalf of the little birds.  Turns out I’m bigger than the woodpeckers.  That hole will be sealed up for good.  Score one (sort of) for the little guys – wherever they ended up.

G-babies and Sparkle Water



Good friends of ours just announced that they are going to be grandparents for the first time. I remember when Bekah told me she was pregnant. I didn’t have a clue what was about to happen – but it’s not like anything I could have imagined.

My grandmother used to say that grandchildren and grandparents have a special bond because they have a mutual enemy. Now that is a little strong, but I have to say that there is definitely a special relationship that we have.

I have four granddaughters: Drew, Hazel, Ruby, and Evie; two step-grandchildren: Ally and Jake; and two more on their way (one is a girl, and I’m guessing the odds are that the other one is too).

Now when I first found out I was going to be a grandmother, I went through the whole mental freakout about being too young to be a grandmother – somehow my image of myself shifted from being a semi-hip 50ish woman to someone more closely related to Mamie Eisenhower. I vowed never to wear those stupid grandma shoes and to always be cool – as one of my students calls it – a “glamma.”

Turned out that the g-babies couldn’t care less. They think I’m young (I asked them how old they thought I was and they said 7), cool because I let them drink “sparkle water” for breakfast, and semi-hip because I took them to their first drive-in movie.

So far they don’t care what I wear as long as I can hike up mountains and go down the “big slide” at the hot springs.

They constantly entertain me, even though half the time they are a bazillion miles away. Just a picture of their shenanigans is enough to make my day.

Maybe it’s because I don’t have the day-to-day worries of parenting or maybe it’s because somewhere between their parents and them I figured out that if I relaxed it would be so much better.

Whatever it is, my friends Kris and Bruce are in for a treat.

I must go and chill the sparkle water, the g-babies are coming for a visit tomorrow.

My Father’s Voice


Today is Father’s day.

I am blessed to be married for nearly 40 years to an extraordinary father. My girls are lucky to have him. Happy Father’s Day, Russ.

There is another person I want to remember today – my dad – gone a full year.

The thing I remember best about him was his voice. It was soft and deep.   He had perfect pitch. When he celebrated communion, he often sang and when he did, it was like a single voice from heaven. He used his sotto voce to add emphasis to his sermons too.  I think it was partly because of his early training as a “thespian.” Seems like that gene runs in the family.

Most of his sermons centered on things that had happened around our house.   That’s probably why sitting in the front pew on Sunday mornings was a little unnerving.  I never knew if I was going to be the subject that day.

I remember a few sermons that focused on my pitiful attempts to learn to ride a bike, but my favorite sermon centered, thankfully, not on me but on my brother Gordon.  Dad and Gordon had been out collecting bugs one afternoon and they were poking holes in the top of the bug jar when Gordon in all his 3-year-old wisdom announced “if God were a bug, I wouldn’t keep him in a jar.”  The perfect starting point for a memorable sermon and I’ve tried not to put God in a jar ever since!

My father also used his voice to advocate for those who had no voice – migrant workers in Tulare, the little boy in my 5th grade class who was being abused by a bully of a teacher because he had epilepsy, and of course, those who were denied their civil rights.  He never backed down, not even when it cost him his job.  He did it as young journalist, as a priest and as a professor too.

I think this was the inspiration for our famous dinner table discussions.  He made us think about what we believed and advocate for those causes that meant the most to us. How many fathers do you know who encouraged their 17 year old daughter to get on a bus and travel to Washington D C to protest the war in Vietnam?

My father also used his voice to share his love of literature:

I hated Shakespeare until he read it to me.  I didn’t get poetry either, until we started with Robert Frost and worked our way up to Emily Dickinson. He made us listen to Opera and symphonies, directing each piece with one hand as we drove ‘cross-country.

And then there was Ernest Hemingway.

My kids called my Dad  “Papa” instead of grandpa because he looked just like him. When he read The Old Man and the Sea aloud, you could smell the ocean and feel the dried salt water on your skin.

The last few months of his life, my Dad couldn’t speak, so when I went to visit and we were alone, I would read to him.  I chose The Old Man and the Sea. It was my turn to share what he had taught me to love.

These are some of the memories I have of my dad’s voice.

When Emily was very small, Russ’ grandmother died.  She was trying to understand where Great Grandma had gone.  I told her that Great Grandma’s spirit had gone to heaven.   Of course, Emily wanted to know what a spirit was.  As I struggled to explain it to her, she looked up at me and wisely asked, “Is a spirit like a voice?”

I stopped.  Sometimes it takes a 3 year old to explain things.

Aspen Groves

I learned a new word in yoga this morning:  kula.  It means community.  I think this is one of those times when the universe is trying to tell me something.

Yesterday I watched Maya Angelou’s memorial service.  Over and over again speakers talked about being part of her “family.”  Not blood family, but the people Dr. Angelou gathered around her – her community – her kula.

We move in and out of many communities during our lives.  In mine there is the family community, the Detroit community,  the Cleveland community, the theatre community, the university community  to name a few.   All of them are my kulas.

So what does this have to do with Aspen groves?  Well, as anyone who has had a conversation with me about my favorite trees knows – Aspen groves are actually one organism.  They can spread over acres, but they are all part of a whole.  All of my kulas are part of the fabric that makes up my life – my personal Aspen grove.

I am blessed in different ways by the communities that support me and I am grateful for each of them – and so today as I left my yoga class, I set my intention – gratitude for each of the trees that makes up each kula that constitutes the Aspen Grove of my life.