Oklahoma


My eyes weren’t open yet
but I was awake,
enjoying the soft cooler air
floating through the open window.
It’s such a delight
to wake up to fresh air.
I let the temperature sit
at 82 degrees
during the day,
then turn off the air conditioner,
turn on the attic fan
and open all the windows
at bedtime. It’s a delight
to wake up to the morning’s
fresh, cool air.
And birdsong.
My eyes weren’t open yet
but I was awake when
I heard the first birdsong.
Cardinal I think.
Opened my eyes: 5:56 a.m.
What time do the birds start singing
in your neighborhood?

We didn’t know there was a guinea nest.
When Ann discovered a dead guinea,
Dog Sadie, despite her anti-guinea-chasing training,
was suspect. It was the Pappa Guinea,
pacing around the nest,
who inadvertently showed Ann
the scene of the crime:
The couple had set the nest far
from the barn,
in tall grass,
out by the farm sign near the road;
the guinea Sadie killed
was a sitting hen.
We have watched male guineas
tend sitting hens for weeks,
then pace and cry out for days,
long after Mamma guineas
have hatched the keets
then given up on keeping them
alive. Keets seldom survive
the first few days of life
on the predator-laden
and too-tall, too-dewy-grass prairie, far
from their native African
savannah habitat.
This hen’s death was tragic. Then,
against the grieving Pappa’s wishes,
Ann removed the eggs
and put them in an incubator.
Within hours, there were keets.
Five.

Ironic, it is:
we might never have known
the family was there
had Sadie not killed the Mamma.
We wouldn’t have known to rescue
the eggs; the keets
wouldn’t have survived
out by the road
in the tall grass.

Pappa has gone back to the barn
and five keets
are growing under warming lights
in the house.

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We hope Pappa
recognizes them
when, a little while from now,
as teenagers,
they are moved to the barn.

I pace.
I cry out.
Life is, well…
tragic,
beautiful,
ironic,
mysterious,
surprising,
unstoppable.

 

There are only three
baby Phoebes
this time. They fit
in the nest better
than when there were four,
although sometimes it looks like
the biggest of the three—
who doesn’t seem to have complete control
of its body—
might fall out.

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On these 90-plus days
they seem to hang over the edge
instead of hunker down
in the mud and grass nest
as their half-siblings did
earlier in the summer.

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Mom and Dad are always close,
in the Hackberry,
or sitting on the hummingbird feeder.
During feeding forays,
they both deliver food—sometimes,
zipping up to the porch
wing-to-wing—
to the little gaping orange mouths.

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Friends from far away,
Tennessee, Kentucky, Massachusetts,
joined a couple of us Oklahomans
for a day together
in the country
without an agenda.
It was a hot, lazy day. We moved
leisurely
from porch to alpaca pen
to hermitage to farmhouse living room
to pond house living room.
Conversation was easy…sandwiched
softly between naps. No cell phone
interruptions
for hours.
At day’s end,
there was good food
prepared by someone else
then an evening drive
back to the city and into
the intensity of our good work.

My work, the next four days,
was making a safe space
for exploring
and transforming
perceptions
of people in neighboring lands,
our own land.

Then this week
with city friends, we prepared a space
for gathering around concern,
fear
for the future of the planet
and creating connection and support
for the very best
of the human spirit.

Emerging, more and more,
the good work
of making a space—
circles of warmth,
gentleness…
holding places to support
each other through
challenge,
fear…
respites
of sleepy, soft laughter
with kind company—
so that people
can,
together,
live into all we must do,
together,
to sustain life for all life
on this beautiful blue pearl
of a planet.

Typical Oklahoma July days:
sunny,
humid,
hot, in the “mid-to-upper nineties,”
warm breeze
that stills at night. Ten days
of typical
then giant white cumulus at twilight,
thunder,
big drops in the night,
half an inch.
July morning,
cool breeze
through open windows,
thunder,
darkening skies,
a summer downpour
and, wafting through
the east windows,
a whiff of mint.

I remember the day
I became aware of birds.
It was morning.
I was looking out a window
into the vine-covered yard
of the house I was living in
in Enid, Oklahoma. Maybe
10 years ago. Of course,
I’d been aware of birds before that,
in the sense that I knew they existed,
but suddenly
I was aware of birds. I looked
deeply, took in deeply
the Robin sitting long on the fence.
It was a gravitas moment:
I knew birds would be important
from that moment, on. Companions,
guides, heralds…

And so they are.
When I arrived at the farm yesterday
I stopped at the mailbox
and when I opened the car window
to reach the mailbox door
sweet birdsong filled my senses.
In the city,
when I open the windows at the house
to let in the fresh air,
sweet birdsong floats in as well.
Birdsong has become
a reason for continued hope.
If there are birds singing
we are still doing okay.

The Phoebe couple
nesting on the farmhouse porch
now are feeding their second family.
May we pause and let the gratitude
soar.

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And in the new place in town,
where I have finally hung bird feeders
a flock of skittish,
twittering sparrows,
shower in the dust outside the front door
and empty two feeders daily.

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I’m not sure I can keep up with them.
A Blue Jay helps, sitting on the fence
squawking loudly
when the feed is gone.
It’s mighty hard to refuse
a bird.

In the dry years,
there weren’t many mosquitoes.
Last summer, after several dry years,
even the sunflowers were sparse.
And each dry year,
growing numbers of grasshoppers.
This return-of-the-moisture summer,
many mosquitoes
many sunflowers.
Very, very few grasshoppers.

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The Mimosa,
which I thought would die
three years ago
after it was brutalized by ice,
is now fully resplendent.

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Roses are blooming
again.
Honeysuckle, which usually
by now
is half-eaten by grasshoppers,
has bloomed
again.

Then one recent morning,
as I walk through the grass,
I am horrified by the numbers
of tiny baby grasshoppers
that fling themselves
when my feet pass.
They are legion.
Another morning
I watch five chicken hens
chase a guinea
who had caught
a teenaged grasshopper.
This summer
we get it
all.

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