Saturday, February 16, 2008

I Want To Go, But I Don't Want To Leave

Well, the time has come for me to leave this beautiful canyon that has been so much a part of my life. Health issues and a growing desire to be near my Tennessee sister and her three sons have conspired to send me away from here but toward a new and wonderful phase of my life.

I just now walked out front for a moment. And this unbelievably beautiful day just wrapped itself around me, the warm sun and the cool and gentle breeze making me feel as though I'm embedded in this place. I pivoted slowly, and the sight of the green hills and white shale cliffs and the oaks and the magpies and sparrows . . .

And the friends . . . so many heart friends who have shown me in a hundred ways that they love me. I have become so emotionally identified with this place and its people that leaving will feel like ripping away some of my heart, I think. It does already feel that way.

But I can't dwell on the pain, since there is so much pleasure ahead. Nina is my dear baby sister. (Sorry, Nina, it's just true. Now you can call me your old sister if it'll make you feel better. LOL) I left home when she was only eleven, and in the intervening years I've mostly spent limited times with her for most of our lives--visits for a week or two from states across the continent and sometimes from across the sea. And I think now, how can it be? How can it be that this so dear person whom I've cherished since the day she was born, is so little "known" to me? To think that I will now be with her, to enjoy her company whenever I want, gives me incredible joy.

And her sons . . . wonderful men who have grown up loving me and with whom I've shared adventures and ideas. How can I not be overjoyed to know that I will be seeing them and spending time with them?

So I guess I'll have to learn to hold onto these two tremendous emotions somehow . . . until time resolves them.

Sometime soon, when all the work that is necessary before moving has been completed, my cat Princess, my nine cockatiels and I will hit the road for Tennessee. I will continue this blog, though it will no longer be a communique from the canyon. I'll try to have my emotions under control next time I write so I can tell you about beautiful eastern Tennessee.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Watching Birds

As you know by now, birds have become a favored company of mine these days. I've gone through a canine period, during which I had a Doberman pinscher and several miniature pinschers and later groomed dogs for many years. And then there was a feline era, when I married Tony and had to share him with his old cat Itmay. Eventually, we took into our lives Yin and Yang and, later, Miss Girl and then, when all the others were gone, Princess came into my life. Cats notwithstanding, this seems destined to be my avian era.

I am literally surrounded by birds. Not only the crows and bluebirds I've spoken of already, an occasional kestrel or hawk and even a pair of golden eagles, now and then an owl in the oak tree, and not even just the flocks of magpies and sparrows or the turkey buzzards soaring ceaselessly above the hills . . . not only all of those, but I have to have nine birds in the house!

A couple of mornings ago, I watched two western bluebirds checking out the living conditions in the bluebird house Jeff put up for me. It's positioned on top of a metal pole several feet high, so no cat can climb up to it. These birds took turns looking into the hole that constitutes the entryway--one waiting on the fence while the other looked, then exchanging places. They seemed to be excited. Then, from out of the blue (sorry, couldn't resist) another pair of bluebirds flew in. They had a short exchange of impolite "words" before they all flew away. I haven't seen any more inspection going on. My fingers are crossed. Maybe I need to contact a realtor.

Then there's the little towhee who's fascinated by his reflection in the truck mirrors, sometimes practically tipping upside down to see his face.
At other times he flings himself at the glass, in an effort to drive the other little fellow away. He's been seen doing the same with reflections in the bumper or wherever else he sees another little towhee. I can't help wondering where there is real little towhee to keep him company. It would be nice if he could abandon his fruitless efforts.

As I began to say, this seems to be my avian era. I don't know why I should even think to divide my life in this way. I might as easily say this is my hermitess era, since I am living alone, enjoying activities that require an absence of the usual expectations of life. I take care of the animals who share my life and living space. I keep piles of books on my bed because I never know just which one will suit my mood when I turn on my little reading light, put on my spectacles, take that great breath that readies the body for rest, and reach for a book.

Some mornings, after the cat and birds are fed and cleaned, I sit down at my new electronic piano for a time of music. I can play for five minutes and then go tend to something I just remembered needed doing. Or I can play for two hours. Nothing tells me I must or must not please myself. It is a wonderful feeling, in a way. And I can play anything I want to play. Sometimes it's songs from movies: Candle on the Water from the movie Pete's Dragon and Can You Feel the Love Tonight out of The Lion King. Or old favorites like the one Tony especially liked, Vincent; or the one my dad thought I played and sang better than anyone in the world, Peace in the Valley (sorry Red Foley). And sometimes I get out the Broadman Hymnal and just play and sing some of the old church songs from my teen years at the Whosoever Will Mission.

While I play, the birds react by quietly listening to the more soothing music or becoming lively and noisy when I play something like Sunlight in my Soul Today or Five Foot Two, Eyes of Blue. When the music is right, Turtle, the bird closest to the piano (whom I call "my gorgeous little fat girl") closes her eyes and makes herself into a round feather ball. But when I stop, she opens her eyes and makes one commanding chirp. When I play again, she goes back into her trance. Where would I find a better audience? I should mention that after I've been playing for a few minutes, I often feel a soft movement beside me and look down to see Princess lying on the piano bench with her little paws tucked beneath her chest, quietly just being with me.

So, what, I ask myself, am I really doing at this time of my life? Enjoying my solitude. Yes. Enjoying my creatures, tame and wild. Yes. Learning as fast as I can from books and lectures on DVD and internet research.
Yes. Maybe I'm kind of like the little towhee, trying to find myself in a mirror. And, like the towhee, it certainly appears that I am enjoying myself. But, I ask again, what am I really doing? I can only say, in one of Tony's frequent sayings, "I'm working on it!"

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Going to Town

One might think going to town is a simple act. You just grab your purse, make sure you've got your cell phone and car keys. And after that it's just a matter of getting into the car and driving. However, those of us who've chosen to live in a secluded canyon where the seasonal creek carves out a new bed each time it floods . . . well, we have to think hard about whether we can, whether we ought to wait a few more days, whether we've stocked up on essential supplies ahead of time and don't need to take risks. And, we have to listen to stories told about those who tried and got stuck, where the worst crossings are, and we have to incorporate that information into our decision process.

So far, several people have been stuck in the creek, all at the crossing just up canyon from me, fortunately. And, the creek has been a little kinder to us this year and/or the road placement has made for fewer crossings that before.

Here is Dave's truck starting to enter the water at the first crossing.

That leads to my point, which is that I went to town yesterday.
I followed Dave's truck as he and Marcia left for town. The two actual water crossings were not bad at all, and we splashed and sloshed our way across them without incident.

It does make me feel akin to the pioneers who crossed the continent in wagons and forded many a river of greater consequence than this little Alamo Creek. Maybe it gives me just a tiny inkling of what they thought and felt.

Here is Dave's truck dipping into the channel at the first crossing. Bear in mind that the creek is much lower than it was at high water mark.

After the water crossing, this left the main obstacle we had to confront--the mud pit.

And here he is coming out on the high side.

Speaking of feeling akin to others, this mud pit reminded me of the monster truck events, where tackling the mud pit separates the men from the boys. (Did I say that? Surely not!) Anyway, you get the point. In our

This is a photo of BigDawg coming through a mud pit at a competition. (Just to prove to you some people do this for fun and to give you some idea of what we did yesterday.)

case, Dave went first and taught me where all the bad spots were. I followed, paying attention to the lesson, and got through without mishap. It's a strange feeling to have so little control while driving a vehicle and somehow making it through.

After all that, my time in Santa Maria went smoothly. Breakfast with Dave and Marcia at Baker's Square was good. We had a nice, long conversation, always something interesting with those two. We won't mention anything about Starbuck's and purses full of spilled coffee. No, it wouldn't be politic to be too explicit about that. (smile)

Lunch at Baker's Square with Nancy (my sister with the new diamond stud earrings) and Kim (a very dear friend) was, as usual, wonderful. Lots of family news and stuff. If you don't like spicy food, don't order the Italian sausage sandwich. Whooo! It didn't say spicy on the menu. I can't remember ever returning food at a restaurant but, with a little encouragement from Nancy and Kim, I returned that. There was some discussion between the waitress and manager, but eventually the dust settled and I got a replacement sandwich.

In between those two meals, all the errands kept me running back and forth across town. And I didn't get home until after 7:00 p.m. Made it through the mud pit alone, and
in the dark, and scared. LOLOL No, just a little literary license there. It was fine. I felt confident, calm and composed. (smile)

I began all this to talk about the difference between living in town and living out here in Alamo Creek Canyon. And now I'm not sure I can tell you what it is. I've been watching pairs of blue birds inspect the blue bird house in the back yard and hoping someone will choose it to raise their babies this spring. But I watched birds in Little Mother's back yard when we lived with her and waited daily for the mocking bird to sing. So why is this so compelling?
Maybe it has to do with the immense sweep of unpeopled hills, where a flock of a hundred or so crows can come winging up the canyon and disappear over toward the Huasna.

Maybe it's the immediacy of a flock of magpies that keeps a lookout near my house at all times to signal the arrival of the goodies I'm about to strew around. Or the numerous little white-crowned sparrows that wait in the brush pile for the same largesse. Or it could be the anticipation I feel for the imminent arrival of mother cows who will daily trek back and forth just beyond my back fence, feeding on the green grass in the pasture on one side of my house and then going for the water in the trough by the ranch house on the other side.

The thing is, I know these birds and can sometimes even recognize individuals by their white wing markings. Of course I don't know the sparrows in the same way, but I'm enchanted by their cheeky way with one another. And the cows . . . they are absolutely wonderful. When they first arrive it's birthing time, and mornings often reveal a new calf or two . . . and what can be more engaging that watching young calves begin to play together.

Well, I'm asking myself, what does all this have to do with going to town? I suppose you're asking the same thing about now. Going to town is not like the old feelings I used to have about going to the circus or even going to the Saturday matinee. Going to town is more like a chore these days. Town hasn't changed--well, not that much. But I have changed. The canyon, with all its beauty and majesty and the uncertainty of the creek, has changed me.

The best part of going to town is coming home.