Tuesday Tales

Hello everyone! I’d like to give a special welcome to all the new readers who have “Followed” me this summer and fall so far. I hope you’ll find some enjoyable and interesting articles, poems, etc., here.

Time has moved on and fall has definitely arrived in our area. Most of the fields have been harvested, now golden round bales of straw sit in what were once wheat fields around us. Sandhill cranes have returned, stopping to glean for a few weeks on their way south. They are particularly fond of the field across the road so we often see them and their glub-glub-glubbing fills the air. It’s amazing how such big birds can sound like bullfrogs!

Our weather has been terrific for the farmers; today we’re having the first rain in over a month. My sympathy to those of you who have been swirled and tossed in storms and had the Caribbean Sea dumped on you. I hope you’re getting some sunny days so you can dry out and pick up the pieces. We, on the other hand, are hoping for enough rain to fill our sloughs again; a lot of them have been bone dry for several weeks now.

Our children and grandchildren came over for Sunday dinner and afternoon — always an enjoyable way to pass the time — and in the evening we went to listen to the young people singing at the Villa retirement home where I used to cook. This they do on the third Sunday evening of every month and it’s inspiring to sit and listen as they sing a dozen songs or so. I spent a couple of hours there this morning, too, visiting with one senior lady having coffee and helping do a jigsaw they had on the go.

I haven’t been doing much book promotion since Silver Morning Song went live on Amazon and Kobo, but I did join Goodreads last week. Today I listed my books in their author promo program. Trouble is, visiting all these helpful sites like Goodreads and LinkedIn takes time, especially reading over the valuable discussions on how to write and market your work. I find lists of great books others are reading plus other authors like myself who are eager to have someone read and review their book. So I volunteered to write a review for one book through Goodreads and one through Story Cartel.

Speaking of book promotions, Pastor J S Park sent out an e-mail saying that since this was Suicide Awareness Prevention Month, he was giving away his book about depression: How Hard It Really Is. Check his blog for details:  Book on Depression free this month.

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s also National Literacy Awareness Month in the US. I’m thinking we finally won’t have enough months for all the special events that want to have one of their own.

Yesterday we took a trip to the city and I walked down the aisle at the Dollarama seeing all the Christmas decorations on display already. By now the Halloween stuff is almost passé. This does get a little ridiculous. 😦

I asked a question on a Goodreads forum this morning; now I’ll ask it here as well. I’d like to study some good examples writing in the omniscient point of view. That is, a story told as if by a “narrator” watching the drama, describing the scenes, making observations about the characters and what they’re thinking, but not as a character in the story. Do you have any suggestions of novels written this way?

So what are your goals for the next few months? Leave a comment and tell me what you have planned.

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Hold Still!

by Margaret Penner Toews

Wee little hummingbird, caught in a wire,
Halt, little bird, or your wings will tire:
In your little-bird world your plight is dire!
Hold still, wee bird, hold still!

Wee little hummer, don’t flail, don’t fight!
If you’d stop your frenzy you’d be all right.
It’s the flailing that causes your awful plight.
Hold still, little bird, hold still.

Is your wee little scream a little bird prayer?
How can I tell you, wee bird, I care?
You pause at last and numbly stare.
Don’t be afraid! Hold still.

Spent, despairing, you rest your wing.
I reach. I touch. What a fragile thing,
The delicate body quivering,
A hummingbird, holding still!

In my palm you tarry a little bit,
Then shake, and away like a breath you flit.
I stand astonied at the thought of it…
A hummingbird, holding still!

How tiny the feather you left behind!
…And then of a sudden there comes to mind
The truth God wanted for me to find:
“Hold still, my child, hold still.

“Stop your frenzy and rest in Me.
It’s the flailing that hurts you, don’t you see?
Whate’er your predicament, trust in Me.
Hold still, my child, hold still.”

.
From her book FIRST A FIRE
© 1993 by Margaret Penner Toews

The $2000 Crack

No, this isn’t the story of a drug deal — but it is the story of a BIG deal. Finding two grand is a fairly big deal at this house.

My tale started innocently enough Sunday morning as I was getting ready for church. I took my hearing aids out of the box — and dropped one. Usually they stand a bit of shock, but this one went on strike. Nose out of joint — or whatever.

On Tuesday when we went into the city I took the injured appliance back to the Sask Hearing Aid Plan office where I’d purchased it — and learned that this plan was phased out in the recent provincial budget cuts. (Now only children are eligible.) The steno checked my record, though: I bought these hearing aids in Feb 2012 and they have a five year warrantee. Do the math.

I took them to a private clinic that fixes this brand and she couldn’t get the thing working again. She phoned the Oticon company and they did the math. For $500 I can get the warrantee extended for six more months. Then I can send it to their lab, but there’s no guarantee that when they take it apart they’ll be able to fix it.

A new hearing aid will cost somewhere between about $1400 and $3000. To complicate things, I have two, synchronized to work together, and there’s no guarantee a new hearing aid would be able to work in harmony with the old one. “Quite often,” the receptionist told me, “people end up having to buy two.” Whimper!

This story will be familiar to anyone who’s needed to replace a hearing aid; they just are pricey little gadgets. Dropping one isn’t wise, but it happens. So since that fateful fall my mind has been contemplating payment options:
— If I were in good health I could sell a kidney but I’m keeping my arms and legs.
— If I were a prolific writer I could crank out twenty novels by the end of the year.
— I could make do with only one hearing aid. (Bob vetoes that idea.)
At any rate, I have an appointment at a hearing aid clinic tomorrow morning and we’ll see what conclusion we can come to with those folks.

What can you say? The older we get, the more it costs.

I’ve finished Silver Morning Song, my book of short stories and poems, and am waiting now for a business name registration and an ISBN. But I have a number of stories and poems that don’t quite fit this book so I’ve been compiling a second book. The items in this one— I’m calling it Wisdom in Whimsy— will be mainly just-for-fun stories and poems.

I didn’t have very many items for this book until this morning when I plugged in an old flash-drive and found quite a few more to add. I’m thinking of writing some more stories about Winnie and Raylene (see Winnie Plays Monopoly) and including them in this second book, too.

During the past several weeks I’ve been going through a book on depression by Pastor J S Park, as one of his beta readers. Entitled How Dark It Really Is, this book is well worth reading if you want to understand what someone with depression is going through and how you can best help them. And if you’re the one dealing with this affliction, it helps you to identify negative voices that want to drag you down. You can read it and realize you’re not alone, that others have felt this same pressure, hung on in the bad times and made it through.

For no specific reason I was feeling rather blue myself last night, so I went for a walk. Need to do this more often. And I and saw a bobolink — first one I’ve seen in a long time. This afternoon at our finch feeder a mottled, odd-looking bird attracted my attention, being much larger than the pine siskins plastered on it these days. Got out my binoculars confirmed my initial guess: it was a young male rose-breasted grosbeak. A rare summer visitor.

Last week at a birthday party I was telling the ladies I hadn’t seen a gopher all summer. This is the prairie; gophers usually abound. So where are they? Have these last wet years taken such a toll on the gopher population?

Be careful what you wish for, they say. Yesterday I let my black tom, Angus, out and fifteen minutes later he came back with a full-size dead gopher dangling from his teeth. Hoping to bring it inside and eat it at his leisure. 😦 Nope — not a chance! But now I know why I never see any gophers around our yard.

Others don’t think it’s been very wet here, but it seems to me we’ve had a lot of thunder-storms and tornado alerts in the past six weeks. The sloughs along our road are drying up now, though.

And that’s another glimpse of life at our house. 🙂

The Disposers

Inspired by a Trip to the Dump:

How kind of these birds to help us,
screaming their delight
or their reproaches — who can know? —
as they orbit low.

Above the black mountain they inhale
the aroma, rotten smells that tantalize.
Man’s refuse, ravens’ delight
creatures of day and night.

What do they think of such profligates?
“How wasteful these people — all this good food!
Or do they imagine we offer to them?
“Such thoughtful men.”

Screaming, poking, doing battle
with crickets for the choicest bits,
they pull from the pile whatever
they can between the rattle and roar
of trucks bearing yet more slag —
splitting plastic bags.

We frown at their presence ungratefully,
despise their ceaseless gloating, yet
how busy do we keep those birds!
And you’ll never see them shirk
their useful work.

We sneer and say, “What vile profession!”
As if we were not partner here,
while they dispose of our debris,
the dregs of our prosperity,
and we get off so free.

Diners on My Driveway

Mourning doves, prim and proper,
strut along, poke among the pebbles
for windblown seeds.
Their muffled cooing
mellows the morning air
while a jaunty flicker nearby
jack-hammers ant homes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

May Doings at Our Place

The tree swallows have been back for several weeks and are busy building their nests now. One pair has found our bathroom exhaust fan vent to their liking again so we’re hearing tiny scratching noises in the cavity. A few mourning doves have returned and I think I’ve seen some wrens in the last couple of days, as well as different warblers and the first goldfinches.

A couple of days ago a small flock of thrushes landed in our yard and have been foraging in our garden and on the driveway ever since. There are three kinds of thrush that come through here: hermit thrush; Swainson’s  thrush; gray-cheeked thrush. These are either Hermit thrush or Swainson’s, but it’s pretty hard to tell from pics in bird books.

They are still scattered around the yard this morning. Such cute birds with their pudgy white tummies, speckled at the throats, white eye rings. They won’t stay around; their nesting grounds are in the pine forests farther north, but I enjoy seeing them passing through every spring and fall.

A United Defense

Blackbirds sound the alarm
warn the neighbors of a robbing
raven who dares drift over, checking
menu offerings in the nests.

Two, three, four parents rally
to the defense, dive-bomb the foe.
No slackers here; from every field
they rise to the cry, on guard
for home and fledglings dear.

The fighter jet swallows soar
into attack mode; even a passing seagull
joins the effort. All together, resistant,
insistent, they chase the marauding foe.

I watched, amazed. What teamwork!
We should be so smart.

.
Word Press daily prompt: Collaboration

The Swallows Are Back!

“When the Swallows Come Back to Our Exhaust Fan…”

Did you know that tree swallows have seriously decreased in numbers here in North America, especially in areas where English sparrows have multiplied. Non-native birds, English Sparrows are miserable, aggressive neighbours. They’ll chase adult tree swallows away and hog the food and best nesting sites. They will also invade swallow nests, kill the adult birds, eat their eggs and destroy their chicks. Heartless things, they lay their own eggs on top of the corpses and pick away at the remains.

Swallows may find a remote abandoned building where sparrows don’t hang out, or they may find humans who are blind enough —or kind enough— to let them live close by, where sparrows and other predators won’t venture. All the better if there’s an opening easy to defend. At least that’s what one pair of tree swallows must have thought in the spring of 2010, when they found the cover of our exhaust fan missing.

There’s a small hole in the outside wall of our mobile home just below the roof, where the bathroom fan is vented. It’s supposed to have a covering but this fell off sometime, leaving the recessed pipe about one and a half inches in diameter with one end open to the great outdoors. Tree swallows checked it out and found an entry just their size in a wall warmed by morning sun and a nice interior ledge with ample room for a nest. Thus began our own personal experience with swallows.

They set about furnishing their digs. We took note of their presence when a few straws started falling onto the bathroom counter but since we never used that bathroom fan anyway–it was far too noisy and rattling–it seemed a worthwhile nature lesson to observe this process. (Beside which, there was no way on earth we could get them out.) We taped the switch so the fan couldn’t be turned on by unsuspecting visitors and watched the swallows make forays past our window as they built their nest.

In time we heard tiny peeps coming from behind the fan. We dusted shreds of grass from our bathroom counter and smiled at the baby racket we heard when lunch was served — an all-day affair. Our cat was intrigued but helpless to disturb the birds — as were the outside cats. Weeks passed and peep volume grew.

One day I was in the bathroom brushing my hair when the peeping suddenly hushed. Then I heard the unmistakable tones of marching orders; it sounded like a parent bird laying down the law to indolent offspring just like human parents sometimes do. Followed by tiny feet scrabbling on wood, then the bathroom was silent.

I hurried to the kitchen and looked out the window just as the air exploded with swallows. Back and forth the young birds swooped and dived, getting their bearings in this new world into which they’d been shoved. They still called the nest home and for days after, whenever we passed that side of the trailer, we saw a tiny black head poking out the hole as someone prepared for takeoff.

Then the offspring moved out for good. For the rest of July we watched them zip through the sky or balance on wires, learning the ropes, feasting on mosquitoes and other insects. Swallows are entertaining acrobats and can clean up a fantastic number of bugs, especially mosquitoes, every day.

Shortly after their babies left, Ma & Pa Bird were back behind the bathroom fan scratching around. New peeps started coming through the wall and the cycle repeated itself: comings & goings increased; the peeps got loud again. I happened to be there again when another set of marching orders were issued. I could almost hear a harried parent insisting, “It’s time you were on your own. Get out there and feed yourselves!”

Repeat explosion of swallow swoopers. Repeat dives, twirls, and other aerobatics to strengthen wings. More birds on the clothesline.

The bathroom fan is vented not far from our outside tap, so we were often near their nest, but they never minded our coming and going. One or the other would often have its head out watching as I turned the tap on or off. I’d even talk to it from about two metres (6′) away and it never moved.

The next spring I learned an important lesson: don’t put out inviting bird food (i.e. sunflower seeds & nuts) for larger birds like grackles anywhere near the swallow nest. Our bird feeder, hung on a post in the lawn, was too close to the bathroom vent and the swallows were obviously distressed by the presence of bigger birds at the feeder. Several times I saw them dive at grackles sitting there. That spring the swallows raised only one batch of babies, then left.

The swallows used the exhaust fan vent for two summers, then moved on to other nesting sites. We’ve put up several more swallow nest boxes over the past six years, all of which are claimed every spring and new broods raised.

Our yard can be bad for mosquitoes, but we’ve noticed that as long as the swallows are around, the mosquitoes aren’t as plentiful. Nice! It would be worth the price of a dozen birdhouses if we’re spared West Nile Virus. The swallows usually leave us at the end of July and head over to the sloughs to feast on the multitudes of mosquitoes there. After that we  have to look out for ourselves mosquito-wise.

In the fall of 2010 I read in a gardening magazine that “swallows produce one batch of young every summer.” Well, ours must not have read the rules. Or they felt so secure in their cozy home that they decided on a second family. The ones who occupy the nest we mounted on the garage have raised two broods some summers as well.

Yesterday at leas one family of swallows returned, twittering around and all trying to get into their old nest box just outside my sewing room window. Welcome home, friends!