Fly Away…

“Haven’t you noticed the days somehow keep getting longer?
And the spirit voices whisper in us all.
Haven’t you noticed the rays? The spirit sun in stronger
And a new day is dawning for us all”

-Seals and Crofts, “Hummingbird” 1971

She swooped close to me in the greenhouse, and at first, I mistook her for a giant bumblebee.  Ruby-throated, with iridescent feathers on her sturdy, fierce, little body, she darted from one end of the plastic building to the other while I stood pondering the merits of marigolds versus petunias.  At first, I thought that the red geraniums on the top shelf had lured her into this warm, tropical place and that she was hanging out with me by choice. Then,  I saw her fly like a small rocket straight to the ceiling and bump her head.  Hard.

She was trapped.

I mentioned her to the clerk who was helping me with my plants and she shrugged.  “Yep, we get a couple of them in here every day.  They find their way in easily enough, but have a hard time finding their way back out the door.”  I asked her what would happen to my little bird friend.  “Oh eventually, they finally exhaust themselves, trying to fly out the way they came in.  And then we catch them and let them go. It’s really kind of cool.  To hold a hummingbird, I mean.”

As I drove home with a backseat full of marigolds, I thought about little birds.  The one I’d met, and the one I’ve raised.

She is somewhat larger than a hummingbird,  but just as busy and hard-headed.  She will graduate from college next weekend.  Like most college grads, she is excited about the future even though she has no idea what that future holds.  It is a period of transition for her, one that has her beating her own head against the wall a lot as she applies for jobs and packs up her last college apartment to head out into the Vast Unknown Where Anything Is Possible.   It is a terrifying and exhilarating place full of sunshine and wide open space to spread one’s wings and fly.  And she will.  Fly, I mean.  Her future is limited only by her imagination.  That’s what I tell her all the time.

Even so, there will be times when she yearns for the warmth and free nectar of the hothouse. Times when she will be moving too fast, working too hard, and thinking way, way too much when she’s going to need someone who loves her to catch her and hold her tight. To tell her to slow down and stop to smell the flowers and just breathe, for heaven’s sake.  There will be days, months, and maybe even years in her life that she’ll feel like she does now and she’ll rub her head and need to be shown the door when she finds herself trying to take flight again, on a different path.

But this week, a hummingbird with a headache reminded me a lot of her.  Small and busy and free.  Going a hundred miles an hour through this thing known as Life.

Happy Graduation, Libby Choi.  The sky is vast and limitless.


Love, Mom

Tick tock

I stopped wearing a watch about five years ago when the one I had quit and I never got around to replacing it. I started depending on my phone to tell me the time of day.  At first, my wrist felt naked and exposed after decades of having something strapped to it twenty-four hours a day.  The habit of constantly looking down and checking my left wrist  died a slow death.  Even now, I occasionally catch myself doing it. Often, with my cell phone in my other hand.

Time.  We are time addicts.

There is never enough of it, is there?  At least that’s what everyone says whether they are actually busy or not.  All this rushing, rushing through minutes and hours and days and years that human beings do seems kind of silly, doesn’t it?  I wonder if animals and birds ever think about time. Yesterday,  I watched our old hound as she watched a red squirrel sail between two trees in our back yard.  Maggie hasn’t had a good romp in those woods for a couple of summers now and I wonder if she has any concept of time, how much she once had and how much she has left.  Lame, deaf, and impatient,  she’d be a prime candidate for a room with a view in a dog nursing home if there was such a thing. But instead, she has us, the people who have loved her for seventeen people-years.

It is finally springtime.

Last night, I fell asleep in the screen porch for the first time this year, drifting off to the sound of spring peepers in the bog across the road and waking at sunrise to songbirds in the maple trees.  Is there anything more glorious than sleeping in a screen porch after a winter of darkness, down comforters, and tightly locked windows?  If there is, I haven’t found it.  Who needs an alarm clock in mid-May?  Who needs a watch or phone?

As a teacher, I’ve measured time in lessons and deadlines and due dates…in weeks and semesters and school years. As a mother and a spouse, I’ve measured it in childhoods ending and adulthoods just beginning as well as decades of waking up in the same house with the same partner every morning.  I measure family time and cabin time and time with friends and count people years, and dog years, too.

But lately, I measure time in a new and better way.

In seasons and sunrises and sounds.

In a porch, with an old  gray-faced dog who watches red squirrels and never asks me what time it is.


Mother’s Day, 2014

She is a Mother.

When we first met, we realized that there were quite a few years of living separating us so we did the math and then realized, in horror, that her own mother and I were exactly the same age.  We became friends a few years before anyone called her “mom” and since then, she has added four little Peeps to her life who do. They are her reason for being in much the same way that most kids are to most mothers.  At least the mothers I know.

She is wise and funny and fierce, which is why I adore her. She is part Yoda and part Pit Bull, and  she has chewed up and spit out  more school administrators and case workers and teachers than anyone I’ve ever met.  When it comes to the welfare of children, all children, there are no “somedays” or “maybes” or “mights.”  There is only NOW.  There is only DO.

She is a force to be reckoned with and she gets stuff done.  And it isn’t always pretty.

She is a foster-mother.  The type of person who gets a call from a social worker who needs a safe place for a child and  says, “what time will you be here?” instead of “let me think about it.”

She believes that when it comes to a child who needs a loving, stable home for a night or a life time, there’s very little to consider.

It is Mother’s Day this coming Sunday.  And so…..

To the young moms and  the old moms and all the moms in between…the poor moms and privileged ones…the moms who work both in, and outside their homes….the ones who do it by choice, and chance….the women who raise the grandchildren and nieces and nephews who call them “mom” as well as the ones who grieve for children they’ve  lost…Happy Mother’s Day.

To the moms with a child in the military…the moms who stay awake all night in homeless shelters and the moms in refugee camps throughout the world… Happy Mother’s Day.

To the moms who go hungry so their children can eat, and the moms who wear second-hand clothes so their children don’t…the serious moms and the goofy moms…the musical moms and the soccer moms and the dance moms….the moms who wake in the night to check insulin levels…and the ones who make a conscious choice NOT to become mothers but lovingly teach the children of other mothers….Happy Mother’s Day.

To the moms who spank when they’d rather hug, and the moms who hug when they’d rather spank…and the moms who spend the bulk of their lives doing laundry, cooking, and cleaning up after other people with very little thanks….as well as the moms who have other, better paying careers than that…Happy Mother’s Day.

To the moms who lovingly welcome their child’s same-sex partner and the moms who plan weddings for their children that they’d prefer not to have to attend at all….the moms who make their kids go to church every Sunday and moms who don’t…Happy Mother’s Day.

To my mom, my aunt, my husband’s mom, and the moms of my friends…Happy Mother’s Day.

To the foster moms like my friend, Yoda….Happy Mother’s Day.

And finally, most of all,  to the two women in South Korea I never met  who trusted, without proof, that the universe would take care of the sweet babies they labored to bring into the world…the babies I’ve raised to adulthood who will send me flowers this weekend….and call me to tell me they love me…Happy Mother’s Day.

Happy, Happy Mother’s Day.