29 January 2013

In Praise of Research and Researchers

See those tic tac sized eggs in the incubator? They're Little Hermit Hummingbird eggs and the first photo is one of them candled; the slight red patch is the three day old heart of this soon-to-be hummingbird which I saw beating. The next photo shows the scale to weigh them and the data on the two latest eggs. Two "dummy" eggs replace them in the thimble sized nest so the mother continues to sit on them. Once hatched in 16 days, they will be placed back in the nest and mother will feed them insects and nectar multiple times a day to grow them from a shriveled raisin sized hatchling to a full sized hummingbird in 17 days. It must be fast because they're so vulnerable to predation in their nest close to the ground and attached to the back of a fern frond. They're in the incubator to begin with because they're even more vulnerable as eggs and because Julian, the researcher who lives in a house on my daughters property for four months a year, will swab the inside of the hatched egg for DNA for his research.

This is Julian's seventh year studying these tiny hummingbirds in the rain forest of Trinidad, recording their mating songs and dances, collecting data about these little known and shy birds by watching them, banding them and trying to trace paternity. The Little Hermits live in leks, one lek for their life, and males display for the females by dancing and singing their hearts out in an effort to be chosen by a female for mating. Each lek has its own song and, if a male moves to another lek for some reason, he learns the song of the new lek. Imagine. No one knew this before. As for what more this research will teach us about these hummingbirds, birds in general or the world around us remains to be seen but already it has increased the sense of awe in those who talk to Julian, including me and my grandson pictured below helping make the bands for the hummingbirds. Perhaps it's enough.

26 January 2013

Won't You Celebrate With Me - Lucile Clifton

won't you celebrate with me

won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.

I offer this wonderful poem by Lucile Clifton on my birthday and invite you to celebrate with me. With obvious differences we, nonetheless, also make up our life here between starshine and clay. We are shaping a kind of life with no model as the largest cohort of women elders yet. I was born in the first month of the first year of the baby boomers and we'll be a force to be reckoned with if we choose. Let's choose well and wisely. I'm excited about this prospect of building with you an elder culture; how fortunate we are. I'm grateful for life. 

22 January 2013

Retreat Day

My daughter and her family are away today so I'm taking a retreat day to myself. I've hiked to the top of a nearby hill where there's a palm roofed structure open on all sides to shelter in out of the sun and occasional showers. The only sound is the wind and all it rustles and birds galore whose names I mostly don't know except for the peculiar echoing knock of a bell bird. The layers of hills in the distance display all shades of green in this lush rain forest environment. The breeze goes from warm against my skin to cool as the clouds scurry in to drop their rain and move on over the next ridge. Bits of wild flowers dot the area with color. Two old copper pots, huge and once used to roast cacao beans on now abandoned estates, are filled with water, small fish and water lilies to give them new purpose. A stream flowing down in a waterfall froths over rocks at its base in a gully by the house on this property. A flock of wild parrots  flies by squawking ferociously, voices so at odds with their beautifully colored plumage.

I've come to be alone and ask questions that need to be re-examined near my birthday. Who am I, what do I want to be doing, where do I want to be? The other vital question of with whom do I want to be has long since been answered, a sure base of love in my life. I realize in the tranquility I feel that the questions are being answered in deep ways that will become manifest as I pay attention to myself, my Honey and what opens up to us. Already I've felt the shift into an elder's identity, still on the journey but further along and in communication with more elder peers.

The morning blue sky has given way to afternoon gray. Clouds moved in and I can hear rain in the distance as it closes the gap between where it is and me. The rain is more immediate here as it pelts the fronds just over my head. As rain quickly slows, fog spills over the hills in back of me looking like it comes from the clouds themselvesthemselves. It's a lovely place. Its peace flows into me. I realize that this was the real agenda for today.

(I'm publishing this today even though it happened a few days ago because I just finished putting it all together. Such days are delightfully re-creative.)

19 January 2013

Look Closely or Else

Just took a rain forest walk
and missed the snake wrapped round
a branch until the guide said to look
closely and see. It struck me that equivalents
happen each day- me walking by and missing
what's there until told to really look, to wake up
and pay attention, my task lest I get bitten.

A Friday Flash 55 for G- Man.
Ugh-my iPad app ate my post! It was up and had comments and disappeared! I'm trying again.

18 January 2013

By Her Leaving

She tripped on steep cement stairs,
but her father snatched her
before she hit ground; still
she sobbed with the fright
of it; mother ran, face bears

fear as well, knowing how quickly
death snatches those we love, spills
life like a profligate until bright
dims to dark and we're left there
bereft where love once was, and it thickly

weaves webs to entrap when a moment ago
life danced patterns to fill our nights
with stories, embed memories that dare
to endure, be told as family lore that will
define us, but surely not as having lost this child, though

another babe left long ago, and us marked by her leaving;
she, etched in heart and mind as we transfer
pain to medicine, to somehow move when death stills
that opened place meant for this dear one, slight
light slants through the lattice of loss by her leaving.

This is posted in response by Gay Reiser Cannon over at dVerse Poets Pub who introduced us to David James who has devised Karousels and Weaves to challenge and expand our poetic options. This is a Karousel. Check it out, it's a great article that can take you in new directions. It certainly did me. 

13 January 2013

Grown Up, Ready or Not

You were a sturdy soul right from birth,
hefty, substantial, a force to be reckoned with.
Your eyes took in the world purposely
from your first moments, you latched
onto my breast and drank with such
certitude that I was sure you were here
before, a wise one reborn to accomplish
what was left undone and wouldn't be this time.
This time you moved with inner
direction, sure- stepped architect of
a particular path that you alone knew.
I was intimidated when you looked at me
with your not me eyes. I picked you, you said,
let's do this. I was necessary but never
consulted or copied, a reference
point that kept your path true but utterly yours.
I don't know how you accomplished it,
but I knew from that first look you took,
my heart helpless with love, that this
was my life's work, up to it or not, and I'd better
love you in the way that helped you do this hard
but essential thing or you'd find someone who would.

This is in response to Stuart over at dVerse Poets Pub who asked us to write about growing up. This was the moment when I had to grow up, when I gave birth to Kelly. Being her mother is my favorite role so far. It is she who taught me the truth of E.E.Cummings quote: "It takes courage to grow up and become the person we really are." Also offered for open link Monday at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads.

11 January 2013

It's a Timeless Story

It's a timeless story
but so completely personal
that it feels like
mine alone, involves me
with these grands in a love affair
that's new even as they age,
each age better than the one before,
we play board games now and cards,
discuss, dance wildly, write, and when we write
it's a timeless story.

This is a Friday 55 in response to the prompt from Fireblossom at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads to write a poem with the first and last line the same but with a different meaning. It's not as easy as it sounds.

08 January 2013

Tobago, Last Day

Ten days alone with my grandchildren
for the first time. Their friends couldn't come,
they were disappointed, I wasn't.
On this last day together
we played in the pool, splashed
and invented games never known before.
They're ours now, silly, irreplaceable, part
of the stories we'll tell in the future.

I told them today that I can't do the dolphin kick
when I saw they can. Try this, Grandmother,
or this when they saw I till couldn't, or this. I'll show you,
I'll move your legs for you so you can feel it. Well,
you did one kick right, keep practicing, you'll get it.
It struck me that it's a gift to them to be bad at something
and they get to be the teachers. They admitted
they can't dive well and I could teach them.

We wrote poetry together and I learned
to let the poetry be about monsters when
I'd rather write about rain, and to listen better.
I wonder what their future will be, can't imagine it
really, it's theirs alone and indefinable.
I hold fear about it, about them in it,
about how to ready them, as if I could.
They're fine young people, they'll be fine adults.
That's their business, mine's to love them
and cheer them on. I do.

This is in response to Tashtoo over at dVerse Poets for Open Link Night who asks us to share our stories. This is mine this week.

Rain and Monsters

Dripping from the roof edge
the rain sounds like crystals falling
and when it's harder it's ice cubes pounding
like the drum in garage band.
Rain smells like water with one tiny touch of earth,
it makes the dog downstairs howl.
In one storm we had at home, the rain poured, thunder came
and the wind blew our orange tree down.
I like how it sounds on the metal roof when I'm in my bed.
Today, the wind blows cold, the clouds get dark
and in the west, where rain comes from, a rainbow appears.

My Granddaughter, age 6 1/2, wrote this and dictated it to me when it rained this morning.

My Grandson, age 10, wanted to do a poem about monsters. I tell him about the lune poem and we do a variation since it's easier for him to think in terms of words per line rather than syllables. He likes the result:
Weird Beasts

Awful ogres, trolls,
sphinxes, boggarts, goblins, dragons, chimeras -
weird, wonderful beasts.

07 January 2013

A Poem by The Grands About Our Day

Our Day

Sunrise, sunset,
beautiful flowers, colorful butterflies,
the breeze soft against my skin,
the grass beneath my feet soft as cotton,
the sky is blue, the ocean seems new,
the songs of birds are noisy lullabies,
afternoon flowers scent the air.
We play together as a family.
Everybody in the world is family
and could play together.
I wish my friend was here but she can't be,
so I feel sad and say good-bye.
Let's swim!

Grandmother and the grands (ages 10 and 6 1/2)
I typed this as they dictated to me their poem about our day together in Tobago.

01 January 2013

First Day of the New Year

I've traveled to Tobago, the sister Island to Trinidad, to spend ten days with my Honey and the grands to give my daughter and her husband a rare break from parenting. We're staying in a lovely house with a pool and next to a beach.

It's 4:00 in the afternoon, the day is sunny and fine with a breeze off the sea. Our house sits on a promontory of land that juts into the Caribbean and feels like the end of the world since no other houses are within sight. My Honey is swimming in the pool overlooking the beach with the grands and their friend. I sit in the blue Adirondack chair with my feet on the brick colored tiles still warm from the sun that is just leaving this section of deck. Sounds of Marco.....Polo, Marco.....Polo fill the air, broken by squeals as one or another is caught or becomes the fish out of water and is caught. My Honey is laughing: "You went right under me and I didn't even know it!" The child culprit is thrilled. The wind feels soft against my skin.

Last night we had a little ceremony with the kids to mark the New Year. They lit some fireworks that flew up and made a loud crack at the top of their flight. We had sparkling peach drink to welcome 2013 and talked of what we want to do in the coming year. My six year old granddaughter immediately said: "I want to make a potholder with my new loom." I smiled at the concrete nature of her goal. My ten year old grandson wants to make a bomb. His friend was impressed and murmured assent to this worthy goal adding it should be purple. I only raised a daughter so this is new territory for me but will pursue it later to understand more.

My granddaughter comes to me to beg me to come swimming and since she's the only girl in this group I comply although the wind is picking up enough to keep the swim short. One of the boys is on the autistic spectrum and circles the pool with a smile but not venturing in. Soon he starts to dig in the dirt around a palm tree and seems content. The others call to him but accept his need to be on his own while in their orbit. Sharks and minnows is the next game called, rules explained and new strategies devised with new squeals engendered. Is there any sound more delightful or sight more instructive than children throwing themselves into a game wholeheartedly?

The sun is down now, setting early at 6:00 on this island close to the equator. Even as the days lengthen, sunset is only one half hour later in this land of 12 hour days and nights. The children find quieter games to play and I come back to my writing to post my first blog entry for the new year. Even as my heart feels full I acknowledge the niggling need around the edges of the present to set my own goals based on my heart's reassessment of where I am and where I wish to go. The stirrings are there, the time is right, the year is new.

Blessings of growth, discovery and love be yours in this New Year.