Reflections – May 15, 2022

this sunny Sunday spring morning

it suddenly occurred to me

how grateful I am dear friend

that we can be together as “old ladies”

though more than a thousand miles apart

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May 11 2022

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there are moments when the loneliness

is almost more than I can bear

the challenges of dragging a tired body

sometimes back aching or struggling to breathe

I wonder what life is all about anyway

*

there can’t be many women like us

mothers who crossed so many divides

with children of mixed heritage

heading off on our own to live on a commune

only to discover there’s no escaping

the problems of the world

even as the experience opened our spirits

to dimensions others cannot see

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commune 5-15

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but we’re survivors, you and I

of the challenges that come with being different

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not many would want to understand the cost

of the golden moments of deep connection we share

without a need to judge or compete – feeling heard,

understood, and loved for all we’ve become

as we reminisce on the phone with tears and laughter

 

for JK

The Art of Letting Go

May 7, 2022

Up before dawn to get ready for class. I planned on reading the final two student papers before class after I took a shower. But I knew that what I had prepared for the two classes today wouldn’t do. This has been an extraordinarily difficult semester for students. Yet the students kept trying to do their best. I wondered how I could honor their hard work and as I showered, words flowed through me – “the art of letting go.”

Even though we are scheduled to see each other again in the fall, one never knows what surprises life may bring. Each moment together could be our last.

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May 2 2022

A Courageous Red Poll – May 2, 2022

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May 2 2022 2

A Curious Squirrel – May 2, 2022

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The Art of Letting Go

We spend a lifetime learning the art of letting go

when we begin there’s so much we don’t know

about the highs and lows, the good times and bad

perhaps in the end grateful for all the chances we’ve had

to know both joy and sorrow, failure and success

to love and lose, to laugh and cry, to blame and bless

finally learning we have only this moment today

to create memories that will help us keep finding our way

*

I know that words cannot express the gifts that come from students. Even though I have read the articles I’ve assigned many times, the papers students wrote during the past semester pointed out things I had never noticed or considered. Each point of view was unique, each focused on different issues, and each was written in a different voice. The lesson of research, really – to explore and consider as many vantage points as possible when trying to understand an issue.

the art of letting go

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But the most profound gift was their inspiration. No matter how overburdened their lives were, they showed up and tried – tenacious, resilient, and willing to consider uncomfortable truths. They wanted to learn all they could because they believe it’s possible to help make the world a healthier, kinder, more peaceful place for all. It’s not just wars that have been an enduring presence throughout history, though. There have also been never-ending acts of creativity, kindness, and heroism, many of which are not mentioned in history books, or these days, by mainstream media. We cover that in classes, too.

Each group of students inspires me to keep learning and trying new things. Who could ask for a better job even though it also means learning the art of letting go?

Remember Humility

remember

you are special

I’m not telling you this to boost your ego

too often you discount your own gifts

it’s a way to shirk the responsibility

you agreed to carry this lifetime

by convincing yourself you’re unworthy

remember

you will know when it’s your time to speak or remain silent

find strength in simplicity and moments of beauty and laughter

to help you stay the course in times of loneliness and doubt

remember

when you walk into the crowded room today to testify

before strangers, friends, and foes,

media, spectators, and decision-makers

I will be there to help you find the words

to touch hearts and open minds to wiser possibilities

remember

it’s not your job to make those changes

it’s just your job to help others realize

they have choices and abilities to lead

what they choose is not your burden

though it will weigh on your heart nonetheless

*

remember april 25 2022

Prequel to “For the Birds …”

April 22, 2022

As mentioned in an earlier post, I realize there are so many things I don’t know, including information about songbirds. This spring, though, my attention and concern were already heightened because the sheer number of birds that arrived this March and April seemed so much larger than in past springs. I wished I had kept careful notes about my observations in past years as a comparison, but I didn’t. It seemed the birds were asking to be fed, so I did. And I told the story in a poem and prose, poking a bit of fun at the clumsy, well-meaning “watcher” (me) while taking a few jabs at capitalism.

The draft post was sitting on WP while my internal censor considered the message and tone from multiple vantage points. Before I felt ready to post it, I got an email from a friend about a crisis – Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was affecting the commercial turkey and chicken industry nearby. In the process of learning a bit more about HPAI, I decided to write and post something about that related issue instead – For the Birds …

The message of the draft post below, though, still seems important to share. So I decided to do so today.

April 12, 2022 – For the Birds

ah dear feathered friends

I hear your urgent plea

I’ll fill your feeders for spring

just be patient with me

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the seeds I have here

are not very fresh

and while they’re not moldy

they’re not at their best

*

they’ll tide you over

‘till I can run to the store

I promise in a day or two

there’ll be fresh seeds galore

*

birdfeeders washed and dried

filled with “Better Bird” Premium seed

hanging back in their place

birds jostling for perches to feed

*

oops, I discovered a serious mistake

I didn’t read the ingredient list

instead choosing a bag with a liftable weight

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birds april 14 2022 2

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it was only the bag’s chemical smell

that later caught my attention

the list of ingredients alarming

and much too long to mention

*

another trip to another store

to buy what I hope’s safer seed

wondering why “Better Bird” thought

artificial flavor was something wild birds need

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but it turns out the birds are a lot like me

given a choice they sometimes prefer junk food

even though it may be unhealthy or nutrient-free

*

The past few weeks were filled with Zoom trainings, spring cleaning, grading papers, prepping classes, and helping students. Still, songbirds arrived by the hundreds, excitedly chirping at me to fill the feeders. I had allowed the feeders to stay empty during the past year to discourage the rats that moved into the neighborhood when the feral cats disappeared a couple years ago. I filled the feeders with sunflower seeds from a bag in the cellar that was left over from those years after checking to make sure the seeds were not moldy, funky-smelling, or discolored. The birds emptied the feeders in less than a day, and soon the bag was emptied as well.

It was time to go to the big box store for spring supplies anyway. Most of the birdseed bags were huge and too heavy for me to lift, so I settled for the 14-pounder of premium songbird food. The birds loved it. Only later did I notice a chemical smell emanating from the bag. (I always manage to somehow poke a hole in bags before I make it to my car.) The smell prompted me to look at the list of ingredients, something I learned to do for pets, and I became very concerned. The next morning, I headed out to buy new seeds, this time paying attention to the list of ingredients.

When I got home from the store, I noticed that the feeders were almost empty. I dumped the remaining feeder contents into a paper bag, thoroughly rewashed and dried the feeders, and refilled them with the new “just seeds” food. Only a few birds returned. Those who did return avoided the feeders and ate the seeds on the ground!

I wasn’t sure how to responsibly dispose of the chemical stuff but decided the landfill might be the best option. I grabbed the paper bag and the almost full 14-pounder and headed out to the waste bin just as the garbage collector was nearing my driveway. He waved and then emptied the bin into his truck and continued on his way down the alley.

To be honest, I was horrified to find chemicals in wild birdfeed. It never occurred to me that would be a problem. I was heartsick, worried that I had unthinkingly placed the health and survival of songbirds at even greater risk.

Given my sometimes-overactive imagination, I came up with a possible explanation for the absence of birds on the refilled feeders. I wondered if some birds had watched me put the almost full bag of premium food in the bin and then encouraged their flight-mates to follow the garbage truck and boogie on up to the city dump for the tasty stuff. (I think that’s what’s called “gallows humor.”)

*

birds april 14 2022 1

5:14 PM – Aril 13, 2022

On a brighter note, there were a few birds at the feeders this evening during the next round of mid-April snow. Still, I learned a valuable lesson. I will definitely remember to read labels and be more vigilant about what I buy from now on.

Note

Assigning blame to others, even corporations, is something I try to avoid without first carefully considering issues from a variety of perspectives. I don’t have any scientific evidence that the additives in Better Bird food are harmful. Perhaps, someday I will have time to look. It is reasonable, though, to suggest that corporations which claim to care about better birds should focus on efforts that directly affect birds’ survival, like working to eliminate the use of pesticides, reduce pollution, and remediate climate change.

Sixty years ago, Rachel Carson (1962) issued a warning in her work, Silent Spring.

“On the mornings that had once throbbed with the dawn chorus of robins, catbirds, doves, jays, wrens, and scores of other bird voices there was now no sound; only silence lay over the fields and woods and marsh…

No witchcraft, no enemy action had silenced the rebirth of new in life in this stricken world. The people had done it to themselves…

A grim reaper has crept upon us almost unnoticed, and this imagined tragedy may easily become a stark reality we all shall know.”

What has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America? This book is an attempt to explain.” (pp. 14-15)

For now, there is evidence that Better Bird is among the corporations that support efforts to raise awareness about songbirds. They donate to Cornell Lab of Ornithology K-12 Education, enabling educators to download educational materials for free. Still, I prefer to use birdfeed that appears to be just natural seeds although they’re not often labeled to indicate whether they came from plants that were grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or GMOs.

Feeding birds is not enough, but it’s what I could do during this prolonged hungry spring.

Work Cited.

Rachel Carson (1922). Silent spring. Fawcett Crest Books.

For the Birds …

on this cold April morning

birdsong fills the air

instead of bringing joy this year

it seems to signal despair

a warning of dire times ahead

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birds april 14 2022 3

9:24 AM, April 14, 2022

*

birds appear to know something we don’t

trying desperately to tell us before it’s too late

flocking to places that they hope they’ll be safe

to fly free, find a sanctuary, food, and a mate

lives threatened by the cost of hubris and greed

by humans who think they can improve nature

by tinkering with seed

I wonder as I listen to birdsong and cries

if the world of the future will grow silent

and dreary with beauty’s demise

***

3:47 PM, April 14, 2022

“Amid outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), the University of Minnesota’s Raptor Center is urging individuals to help mitigate its spread by taking down their bird feeders and other apparatus that birds use to congregate.” Source: Kare11.com

2022 HPAI Background

“The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed several findings of the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in wild waterfowl in the Atlantic flyways in January 2022. On February 8, 2022 APHIS confirmed H5N1 HPAI in a commercial turkey flock in Dubois County, Indiana. Since then it has been confirmed in multiple states and flock types. The USDA updates the latest HPAI detections on its website.

“The first cases of H5N1 in Minnesota were confirmed on March 25, 2022.

“The virus has not caused human illness. According to the CDC, Recent Bird Flu Infections in U.S. Wild Birds and Poultry Pose a Low Risk to the Public.

bird flu area spring 2022

Edited Screenshot to show Duluth in relation to HPAI outbreak areas – Source

Reflections – March 11, 2022

there are times these days

when I’m certain I hear

the whisper of fluttering wings

reflections march 11 2022 1

or the soft sigh of a dreaming dog

reflections march 11 2022 2

perhaps the spirits of my beloved companions

do visit in moments when I need to remember

what unconditional love feels like

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they were, after all, my best teachers

and it’s so easy to forget sometimes

when they’re no longer physically here

to soften the sorrow of wars near and far

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Honoring the gift of their past presence

requires living the lessons they shared

Reflections about Teaching – March 7, 2022

ah, the challenge of teaching

during overwhelming times

please let me be here now

and take time

to listen,

observe,

and reflect

*

we only have

these precious moments together

two hours every other week

it’s not enough

but it’s what we have

I watch and wonder

how I can help you

rekindle curiosity and learn

when you’re too weary and anxious

to be fully present

*

let’s take the first steps together

to unpack a daunting assignment

step by step

take a few minutes to read

the article title and think

what do the authors assume

about the people and issues they studied?

*

those few precious words say a lot

about how researchers frame their work

it’s the first step for analyzing anything

and it’s too easy to move on

without taking time to realize

that this is the most important thing

they will have to say

about the assumptions, values, and worldviews

which (perhaps unconsciously)

guided the purpose and design

for the steps and details that follow

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can one judge the quality of a work by its title?

the title, along with the abstract and key words,

offer a snapshot of authors’ views

about people and causes of problems

and clues about the trustworthiness

of their work and interpretations

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do they encourage exploratory solutions

which are respectful and inclusive?

does their work have the potential

to enhance community connections and resilience?

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Mary Oliver 2

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“Let me keep my distance, always, from those

who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say

‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads”

Mary Oliver

(repeated because images can’t be translated)

 

February Reflections – 2022 Transitions

snow, sorrow, solitude, and silence

the beginning of my 75th year

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february 27 2022 1

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a time to reflect and listen deeply

finding the thread of gratitude

that weaves seemingly discrete moments

into a simple life of love and learning

transcending contexts of conflicts

over transitory illusions of control

while noticing beauty in unexpected places

even during the most trying transitions

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february 27 2022 2

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