What to do when a bird gets stuck in your house

snow bird

Earlier today, I stumbled across the question: can you define this shade of pearl?  There were hundreds of responses to the original post, each competing for the chance to win some kind of blog-promoting trinket, weaving together the poetic (sleeping dove) to the ironic (disturbed domestic).  I couldn’t come up with words, though; only silence.  Only soft; snow on a skylight. 

Ah, the perils of December.  We moved; no more crossing guard, no more drunks trying to rip our back bumper license plate off the car.  Though still firmly urban, the shade of pearl that surrounds our new abode is striking in its difference.  I feel that we have grown up now; I feel like the pauses between our sentences are laced together with a slate-like permanence.  We once heard the cat purring in the other room.  We had no idea that our cat could even purr.

A garage, too; masking our inability to fully unpack.  Even as unpacking, in and of itself, is therapeutic.  Whisking away a slim volume here, an extra wooden spoon there.  I once fit everything I owned into a bag I carried on my shoulders.  Every once in a while, I look up at that skylight and squint at the blurry sky on the other side.  Gravity works differently now, edging towards another decade.  We are complicit.  We are okay with one another, the cliff jumping wars abated, the ground enjoying the feel of my feet and my body happy for the respite from falling.


1 November 2008, 6:46 pm
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Long silence.  Been out of town.  Much to report.  To come.

16 October 2008, 9:43 am
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NOT my crossing guard

NOT my crossing guard

I walk to work. 

It takes about 45 minutes each way, and I’m pretty relentless about going every day, no matter the weather.  There’s something nice about the movement, the Zen-like state you can work yourself into, the constanties and the subtle changes.  There’s the older man I see by the elementary school and over the years, we’ve gradually moved from nodding at each other to some exchanges of greetings to my own personal quest to figure anything – anything – about this man’s life at all.  I know what kind of car he drives – a spotless blue Ford Taurus – because I’ve seen him as he puts on his safety orange vest and pulls his flag out of the trunk.  And I’ve seen him once or twice driving north to the school.  But other than the cleanliness of his car and a general feeling that he lives south of me, I know nothing.

Not that I haven’t tried.

Some sample fishing-for-info lines:

“So, any big plans for the weekend?”  “No, no, just staying at home, probably.”

“It’s always fun seeing the kids go back to school, don’t you think?”  “Yeah, these kids, they keep me on my toes.”

“Spending the new year with your family?”  “I think I’ll just fall asleep before midnight, like I usually do.”

Yes, I know.  Were I of the more direct ilk, I could probably just ask him details about his life and find out what his deal is – how he came to be the most (pardon the pun) unflaggingly consistent crossing guard I have ever seen.  There every day, rain, snow, beautiful fall or disgusting winter.  I know because I am the most unflaggingly consistent pedestrian I know, letting neither weather nor running injury nor general malaise with the world keep me from walking in.  I could just ask, if only my slight repulsion from feeling like I’m being nosy weren’t in the way.

The thing is, people secretly (or not so secretly) just want to spill their guts, I think.  They want to tell you about the horrible breakup they’re suffering, or the embarrassing medical problems they have, or why they got that unusual tattoo on their forehead.  It’s something I’ve noticed hanging out with my sister, whose bold questions (how old were you when you lost your virginity, to the girlfriend of a friend-of-a-friend at a barbecue one summer) make me blush.  I like to wait for such pieces of people’s sense of self to be offered on small plates at regular intervals, to be looked at under the right light and with the right tone of voice.  But when Marie bursts on the scene, she sweeps the plates off the table, jumps up and fixes her green eyes on her target, and asks, unflinchingly, “Have you ever cheated on your boyfriend?”

And they respond!  Maybe they’ll shift their eyes away, or become suddenly intrigued with the napkin they’re twisting into knots, but the glee eminating from the confessee is thinly veiled as they spill it to this charismatic stranger confessor.

Of course, the crossing guard doesn’t need someone to jump on the table, and maybe he’s genuinely (uh oh, here we go again) guarded or unwilling to share, or maybe he’s shy, or maybe (probably) this all means much much more to me than him, but still.  Sometimes I wish I could tap into Marie’s green-eyed bolditity and spill the contents of this man’s life on to small plates.  To look at, sigh over, admire.

mornings, of
13 October 2008, 9:21 am
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I raced the cold air back into bed this morning; I used to do this all the time, jump out of the shower, dry off in the warm steam of the bathroom, and then slip back under the covers to listen to R and the cat breathe.  I had put about 12 miles between us in the interim of my waking and this warm sleep smell, and I wasn’t yet ready to face the work I never quite left this weekend.  As the world outside churned and roiled, as the winter steadily advanced and we all avoid contact with our better selves, R’s sleeping form shifted towards mine and my mind surrendered to the grey light of the sunrise.

raison d’etre
30 September 2008, 12:03 pm
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What to do when a bird gets stuck in your house

I’ve been thinking about this for months (1) and it’s occurring to me that the answer (2) has been beating its wings against the thick window of my skull. If a bird gets stuck in your house (3), you should start to look for something more important. Because chances are, you’re (4) staring at the cloud of feathers and commotion when all the time there’s smoke billowing in the parlor room.

(1) Years, if you must know

(2) One, of many

(3) The “stupid” here is implied

(4) “I’m”

time to catch up
23 September 2008, 5:53 pm
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Ayan is writing a list of 100 things about herself and is up to 31. I told her I think that by the time she gets to 67 things may get difficult, though she shows no sign of slowing down. She’s trying to get me to do one too, but I’m resisting, afraid it’s only going to get down to one-upping each other. Besides, my party tricks are unimpressive; I can’t burp the alphabet or turn my eyelids inside out. My index fingers are bent, though, and I can balance a Nalgene on my head for more than five minutes.
On Tuesday nights we go out together; on Wednesdays I have a date with myself. I pour wine into a great big glass, cook things we never eat together (sautéed beets, and that’s it; a bowl of oatmeal with cottage cheese; couscous with raisins and almonds and cumin), watch Mad Men and talk to myself. I am closetly single, I think, and relish these nights alone with Moose the cat and being unwatched. This indulgence is silly (what, really, do I do differently?) and real – but only recently have I admitted to myself; I sleep differently without R too.
I got home with a heavy soul; the day’s stresses many, insignificant but stackable until they were both taller and louder than I. Ready to lash out or curl in on myself, I was dreadful and not fit for company. But waiting for me at home were treasures and surprises sent from the women in my family – cookies from Mom, trinkets from Jax and Leigh, a singing birthday candle, sweet notes around. Lola’s mom died on my real birthday and devastated me, so this was my second shot. As before, there were tears again today, but today’s were welcome.
My mom’s birthday today, and when I called her this morning, laughing and squinting at the early fall mist, I regretted not being there with her. What’s the use of having five children if you spend your birthday alone? But I’m headed to Idaho tomorrow, for a memorial service for Lola’s mom, and the obligations of friendship trumped the Midwest. Every once in a while she speaks with my voice, and it gives me pause, makes me feel more connected to the earth. The temperature changes in this part of the lake, and I’m seeing underwater with goggles this time.
Can’t really revise the words tonight, like all those months, there must be one or two where you are drunk and must rely on word count alone to get to the daily requirement. It’s occurring to me, for the first time, that there really weren’t those others, reading these words, that the drive for expression doesn’t require admiration, that the adjustment to living for the sake of others’ supervision and revision is an illusion. Ah, shit, that it is difficult even to type correctly; this even at Lola’s mom’s funeral service, an event full of wine, love, laughter, and life.
It’s early, and quiet; the kids, on their east-coast time schedules, woke up at 4am and wanted to play. I had been bumped out to the couch, which doesn’t mean much except that I was (not) sleeping right in prime play zone. Their parents, Lola’s brother and his wife, tried so hard to keep the two little ones quiet, but kids are ultimately entropy makers, and weren’t having anything to do with such plans. They were whisked off site to breakfast, but at 6:30am, I am wide awake and there is no going back to sleep off last night’s excesses.
The endless road unfurled in front of us, and I could feel Lola’s sadness settling on top of her chest. She had lived for four and a half years in this ‘before,’ even relishing it at the time, knowing that ‘after’ would last much too long. Her fingers trailed in the breeze outside the car window. She was getting farther and farther away from her mother, and panic feathered her hands until we both realized we were holding our breath for ages. Mike exploded in an exhale in the back seat. “Two miles this time! I made it two miles!”

I felt like utter crapola for most of the day, having smuggled in an alien of food poisoning back from the memorial. I was up for hours last night, fever soaked dreams keeping me and R awake for the balance of the evening. One where I was buried beneath the cairn, one running behind the rental car back to Boise – they all ended with me clutching my drenched shirt and crying silent tears.

I hauled myself into work at 7am to finish a grant, bleary-eyed through budget numbers until I could crawl back home to chamomile tea and Mad Men

drunken admiration, nights of
15 September 2008, 2:13 pm
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I’m having a tough time concentrating on much today, mostly because I can’t stop thinking about David Foster Wallace’s death over the weekend. R sent me a link this morning, and since then my mind’s been reeling in a hundred different directions – his brilliance kept him high on my list of top authors, his works so interwoven with specific events and places in my own life, his death so sad and far away.

There is a unique love, I think, for people we will never meet: it expands, shifts years and time; it forgives; it inflates your own devotion to almost-spiritual significance. I hauled Infinite Jest to Paris, and, heart breaking at the thought of leaving it there, hauled it back. I once read that he edited 500 pages from it at an editor’s insistence and can’t imagine his feeling of (yes) infinite loss.

In hindsight, I suppose, that pain is the opposite to the chasm that led him to his last effort; that pain, at least, was filled with words and pages and passion and life. The world is peering into that chasm now, Mr. Wallace, and we will miss you greatly.