The Elusive Wren

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was STALK

THE WREN

I stalk him in the lilacs
and round the poplar tree,
that elusive little wren
who sings so cheerfully.

House sparrows, on the other hand,
I toss them out some seed
and they're my friends forever.
They greet me eagerly.

The little wren is patient;
he waits the morn's first light
to harvest on my doorstep
the insects fried last night.

Many’s the time I’ve tried to get a look at the wrens in our yard and only saw a fluttering and movement in the leaves. But first thing in the morning, sure enough, here’s the wren cleaning off our deck, feasting on bugs that got too close to our porch light.

Image by Naturelady from Pixabay.

Things that Crepitate in the Night

The Ragtag Daily Prompt today was CREPITATE.

Never heard of it? Well, perhaps you’ve encountered some of its relatives:
CREPITANT – making a crackling or rustling sound
CREPUSCULE – Twilight
CREPUSCULAR – relating to or resembling twilight; active during twilight

DECREPIT – worn out or ruined by age or neglect
DECREPITUDE – the state of being decrepit
DECREPITATE – roast a substance such as salt to cause crackling, disintegrate audibly when heated – rather the opposite of popcorn. 🙂

CREPITATE and its cousins originated from the Latin verb crepitare: to crackle or rustle.

And now to use these crinkly words. Last night I read a short memoir from the winter of 1919-1920, one of the most severe on record here in western Canada. The writer told of how a family spent it in a log cabin near Olds, in the southern Alberta foothills. Ill use some of her memories as seed for my story.

Winter hit us early that year; snow came in October and stayed. Hit us hard, too; when it got cold, it stayed cold. Worse yet, we as a family had to move to an abandoned shack twenty miles away after a chimney fire damaged our home. We arrived on our wagon with our smoke-smelly belongings just before sundown and looked at the decrepit cabin that was to be our home this winter.

“Doesn’t look the best right now,” Mother said, “but hopefully it’ll be snug. It was home to another family just two years ago.”

Dad put his arm around her. “We’ll get a fire going and warm up the place. And we’ll do what we can to make it livable.”

My seven-year-old brother Willy and I eyed the steep hill not far from the house, thinking with delight about the sledding days we’d have.

The Rockies loomed in the crepuscule as we moved in, crunching through the deep snow with our stuff. While the last things were being unloaded, Mother began shifting the kindling wood beside the cook stove with the thought of making a fire. Crepitant sounds came from one corner and Father had to evict the first of our tiny tenants.

“We’re apt to see a few crepuscular critters come out tonight,” he said. “Skunks and raccoons move into an abandoned place pretty quick.”

Our problem didn’t come from skunks, thankfully. But once the house was warm we did hear smaller creatures crepitating under the floor boards and wondered what they were. A couple of days later as we were finishing our supper Willy dropped his spoon on the floor and forgot to pick it up. The next morning as I helped Mother set the table I noticed we were short a spoon. “Hey Willy, didn’t you pick up that spoon last night?”

He groaned and scrambled under the table to retrieve it. A moment later he held up something small and dark between his fingers. “Look! The spoon’s gone, but see this. An arrowhead. Wow!” He was thrilled with his find.

“Pack rats,” Mother pronounced. “Likely that’s the rustling we’ve been hearing. We need to be careful not to leave anything shiny laying around.”

A lesson we learned the hard way. Buttons, bottle caps, and other small objects left lying would disappear overnight and we’d find small, pretty stone in its place. We’d nod and say, “Our pack rats are trading again.”

Dad worked at making the shack as cozy as possible and Mother made it as homey as she could. Willy and I had great fun on that hill. It proved perfect for our sled and we the abundance of snow softened our tumbles when we rolled down. Near the top of the hill a poplar sapling stuck out of the snow and Willy decided one day to carve a big W in the white bark.

In spring we moved back to our house that had been “in the fixing” all winter. While we were happy to be home, we thought about the old cabin and one day in June we all got on our wagon and went to have a picnic on the hill there.

When we got to the cabin we were amazed to find there was no hill. Rather, there was a big slough full of cattails where the hill had stood. There were smaller trees around the slough, but the poplar we thought was a sapling turned out to be tree twelve inches around the base of the trunk. We knew that must be our tree, because Willy finally spotted his W – 25 feet up the trunk.

We spent all that winter playing on a huge hill of snow!

Hope is a Thing with Feathers

The Ragtag Daily Prompt for today is HOPEFUL. Which brings to mind this classic verse by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words 
and never stops -- at all.
And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.
I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me

I wonder if she got the inspiration for this verse from seeing birds on a winter morning, waiting hopefully for the arrival of someone with seeds? Or pigeons in the park waiting for the old guy that always feeds them?

We regularly feed the birds in our yard, but sometimes forget to refill our bird feeder until it gets totally empty. The local sparrows understand their source of food, so when I look out our living room window in the morning there they all sit in the shrubs to remind me, ever hopeful.

Image by GLady at Pixabay

Lately, if we’re too slow getting the signal, some of the bolder ones will fly onto our front step, either on the deck railing or the stairs. Then when I round the corner of the trailer toward the east side with a cup of birdseed in my hand, you should hear the rousing chorus of “Here it comes!”

Yes, our yard sparrows epitomize the thought that “hope is a thing with feathers.” Unlike Emily’s poem, however, these birds in their extremity (or not) are always asking crumbs from me. Especially on such a frigid winter morning as this.

A Calm Untouched

Here are two verses in the much longer poem, Ode to the Hills, by Archibald Lampman. I find it very soothing as well as picturesque. I think of the Rockies when I read this.

Empires have come and gone,
And glorious cities fallen in their prime;
Divine, far-echoing, names once writ in stone
Have vanished in the dust and void of time;
But ye, firm-set, secure,
Like treasure in the hardness of God’s palm,
Are yet the same for ever; ye endure
By virtue of an old slow-ripening word,
In your grey majesty and sovereign calm,
Untouched, unstirred.

And yet not harsh alone,
Nor wild, nor bitter are your destinies,
O fair and sweet, for all your heart of stone,
Who gather beauty round your Titan knees,
As the lens gathers light.
The dawn gleams rosy on your splendid brows,
The sun at noonday folds you in his might,
And swathes your forehead at his going down,
Last leaving, where he first in pride bestows,
His golden crown.

Emerald Lake by Faith McDonald — Unsplash

A Walk in the Park

It’s time for an ATCUS at my house again. (Total Clean-Up of Spare BR–which doubles as my craft & sewing room.) Think “Clutter HQ”. So I’ve set my art aside for a few weeks. But here’s one of the paintings I did last month and photocopied, thinking of the possibility of future note cards.

Beauty and The Beast

The Ragtag Daily Prompt this morning was The Extraordinary in the Ordinary.

The idea behind this prompt was that there’s beauty in the simplest things and I wholeheartedly agree. I’ve been amazed at times by the petals of a flower, the iridescence of a bug, the symmetrical shape shape of a tree, the strength in a mechanic’s hands as he twisted a wrench. But today my thoughts have gone in a different line.

Innocence
Beauty
Murderous

Last Sunday morning my sister Donna lost her life to drugs.