Thursday, July 21, 2005

birds of a feather

The sparrows are not the most striking birds outside the windows, but they are ever present, and cheerful. Walking to the local shop where I get my morning coffee I say hello to the little brown birds perched in the apple scented sweetbriar. The sparrows nest in the eaves, and chirp, and flutter, and fly through the little fruit trees I have trained up against the wall.
To me birds always look as if they are having a good time, but that's probably because as the child of a pilot I always wanted to fly.
So the other day one of the flocks flew up, and there in the middle of the tan and brown, fluttering with them, wholly part of the little flock, was a pale blue parakeet. I stopped to watch. The birds seem indifferent to the fact that one of them is a bit larger and very much a different color. They flitted together, nibbled seeds, flew up and about, settling, rising, falling, like the waves and swirls of the ocean. A perfect unit.
We should pray for a mild winter, but meanwhile the blue parakeet who wants to be a sparrow seems to be happy indeed.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005


He's reclining on the stack of radical newspapers, near the science section, pondering the browsing customer. It's a couple years ago, almost to the date, that the woman who works at the laundromat down the street rushed into the shop, obviously distressed, holding out her hand in which a sodden, mewling lump lay. "I don't know what to do with this", she said, thrusting the tiny cat into my hands. Someone had left him in a machine.
His eyes were barely open, and oozing green pus. He breathed rapidly, with a rasp. It seemed his breastbone might be broken. He had hardly any muscle mass or fat beneath the skin and unimpressive shabby grey fur.
I thought, holding him, at least his last hours or days can be in loving hands. So I dried him, washed the pus from his eyes, gave him an eyedropper of water, offered him some bits of food. He nudged the food with his tiny nose, but didn't eat.
My daughter and I gave him eyedroppers of kitten supplements, and we got antibiotics to combat the pneumonia. And we held him, and talked to him, and patted him.
He surprised us all by deciding to live. Within a week he was chomping down catfood and starting to bounce over to the big yellow dog, Buddy, and the very furry princess-like store cat, Destiny. Destiny tolerated him. Buddy licked him.
We named him Pippin, not for the Lord of the Rings character, but because of his tiny size, his sweetness. Reminded me of little green apples. But then our namings have been eccentric; in her childhood my daughter named a black cat Rose and a male striped cat Wendy, for reasons known only to her. And the orange cat Radish. She currently has a kitten she has named Jesus, apparently for the shock value when she says, mildly, must go home and feed Jesus, or Jesus peed on the kitchen floor. We haven't mentioned Jesus's name to the conservative branch of our family. Jesus, by the way, is a small calico female.
Pippin is a handsome, lordly Maine Coon sort of cat. He watches over the bookstore visitors and now and then demands tribute. He brings us, alas, dead mice, laid out decoratively in the fabric arts section, and perches on the computer monitor when the weather gets cold, staring longingly out the window to the blackbirds.
I suspect he composes poetry in his spare time.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

where does the time go?

My mother always used to put a phrase like "I don't know where the time goes" in her letters; my father always refered to the weather, habit from his years as a pilot. I find I do both. And no, in the heat of this day, I don't know where the time goes. Very disturbing news on Riverbend's blog linking to Raed's blog; Khalid is now in his 6th day in jail somewhere in Iraq. I read this family's postings, and Riverbend's, and before that their friend Salam Pax obsessively from the first moment I spotted them: internal truths from the country my country is insanely bombing, attacking, destroying.
Today at the bookstore we had soup. Once a month or so a nice man who works at a local market makes a big pot of soup and brings it over. I set up a table, get bowls and spoons, and send word out to the street: come on in, anyone who is hungry. In the cold months it is especially good to be able to offer hot soup. Today it did seem a little odd--the temperature is climbing into triple digits--but nonetheless a number of people I know and many wanderers new to town or passing through got word and came in for soup and a little respite.
Last night I was walking one of my dogs very late at night when I came across a young boy huddled at a corner out of the light. He didn't look much older than 14 or 15. Champ, the injured pitbull (there's a story in itself), nuzzled up to the kid, who seemed pleased. But though it is hot by daylight it still gets awfully cold by night. "Ma'am, you don't maybe have a blanket?" he asked. I went back to get a sleeping bag and bring it to him. He said he was trying to get to a city about 200 miles south of here. I always wonder why no one seems to take much note of these kids, the lost children. He looked so thin, and so tired. I gave him a little bag of food with the sleeping bag, wished him well and safe, told him to come to me if he was still around today. But he hasn't, and no one has encountered him. Maybe he got a safe ride south.
One of the men who came to eat some soup this morning remarked "you have tears just behind your eyes; you have seen so much suffering" . You're a perceptive one, I said. He is on a bike journey, healing from time in the war, a veteran who saw far too much suffering himself. I told him the way to the best swimming hole, a hidden spot on the river where the cliffs come down, the hawks fly, and the water, even in the middle of summer, runs clear and deep.
But now, I keep thinking of Khalid.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

the stars were brighter

All day on the fourth we spent pasting down the radical monthly newspaper. We use the kindergarten cut and paste method still, not the computer program. It allows for our characteristic crooked headlines,and the use of graphics culled from everywhere--staff artists, kids, the newspaper at my feet--even though we don't have a scanner. We met during newspaper production, decades ago--another small town rag. This one is I think the 5th we've been involved with, produced on cardtables set up in mid store, the dogs and customers and cats milling about. Every so often a cat jumps onto a layout sheet and is picked up and dumped down elsewhere.
But our youngest child still lives with us, and my partner thought, at 10PM, we should go in search of fireworks.
Now, the town fathers and mothers had in fact put on a big display nearby, at a recreation center along the river, this the third year. The giant chrysanthemum fireworks, none of your little sparklers. But at 10 the event had ended, and we drove to another riverbank. Blue and white flashing lights--oh! look there! But no, it was an ambulance and police cars. Seems a woman and her children had lit some illegal fireworks--the good kind--and had set fire to a whole box. Burns, disaster--but this time not so bad. Kids and their mother transported to the local hospital. We watched the few remaining little fountains of sparkling, smokey minerals ignite, and came back to finish the headlines. All above us, far from the lights of town, near the time of the dark of the moon, masses of stars.