I changed my city sit spot.
I thought it was in the food forest,
under the umbrella of trees
and amid the undergrowth.
But then, a few mornings ago,
I was in the urban farm before anyone else
and I sat down on a half-log
that serves as a bench
and before long
birds
returned
and it was like coming home,
like sitting on my front porch
at the other farm,
Turtle Rock Farm, up north.
It felt so good
to feel in the city
what I feel at the farm.

DSCN8718
Mockingbird

DSCN8724
Female Red-Winged Blackbird

DSCN8729

Robin

DSCN8733

I watched and listened to Mockingbird
and Robin, chirp and eat Juniper berries.
I watched three gulls
flying high in lazy circles
in the gorgeous, cloudless blue sky.
When they caught the sun
at a certain angle
their white feathers
shined silver.
I watched a female Red-Winged Blackbird
(I think) and Sparrows play
on the high line pole.
I watched a squirrel scamper across
a high line wire,
with trips into the trees.
The afternoon sun was warm,
the breeze soft
the light golden,
shadows long.

DSCN8727
View of CommonWealth Urban Farm from new sit spot

Evidently it’s true what they say:
Your sit spot
finds you.

Mockingbird
has come close
in the past. Right up next
to me on the porch,
hanging out there on the nearest Hackberry branch.
Forever in my life
she has captured my attention;
first in the song, “Mockingbird Hill,”
(my mother’s old records
must have introduced me)
and much later,
when we still had such things,
atop a tv antennae
in the spring,
throughout the summer,
carrying on exuberantly
that repertoire
of others’ songs. Back
at the farm these last nine years,
their songs,
are among the sure signs
of spring; and, at midnight,
those times I awake,
welcome company.
Around the farm,
Mockingbirds often fly close
as I walk the prairie,
lighting atop Junipers
along the fence lines. As summer
warms, and they have mated,
they fly and perch silently.
I don’t know why; they seem
to accompany.

Now comes autumn
and for the first time
in my awareness,
Mockingbird is close again,
stopping by the bird bath,
flying treetop to treetop
as I walk in country
and even in the city. And
they are singing. I don’t know
why. One time
I had the notion
that Mockingbird,
could teach me to use
my own voice. I have a tendency
toward the paradoxical, you see.
So I am tempted to wonder
if that is something to consider
again. But then I notice
I have indeed been hanging out there on the limb using my own voice.

Perhaps Mockingbird
is confused by a warm autumn;
perhaps they are mating again.
Or maybe they always have sung
in autumn
and I just now notice. I could
Google…
I’m simply going to be
glad
for the song,
the accompanying,
the voice.

DSCN0289

I’ve hung the bird feeders
on the west side of the city house,
behind a fence, hoping
to keep the birds safer
from neighborhood cats. At dusk
one evening, I saw an orange tabby,
its front paws on the bird bath,
taking a drink. I did not see feathers.
Sparrows discovered the seed first.
I think there is a flock of about 60.
They line up on the fence
and take their turns at the feeders,
flutter away when something alarms them.

DSCN7771
DSCN7776
DSCN7779
DSCN7780

That flock-fluttering sound
is a new sound; with windows open
I can hear in just about every room
of the house.
Cardinals and doves have arrived.

DSCN7767
DSCN7798
A Blue Jay and a Mockingbird
have called from atop the fence,
but I’ve never seen them eating there.
I have watched three squirrels
feast from the seeds the birds drop
beneath the feeders. I don’t think the squirrels
have figured out how to get to the feeders.
Yesterday and this morning
I saw hummingbirds.

DSCN7810
DSCN7814
The birds and squirrels are as much company
in the city
as they are in the country—
I watched an adult sparrow and a juvenile
share seed, beak to beak—
though here
there is lots more human company as well.
Friends who come to call
or gather in the living room for meetings
enjoy watching the birds too—
right there through the living room windows.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m so glad to be able to spend time
in a city community
with lots of trees,
birds,
squirrels,
cats,
humans.

soft
air after a warm day
doves’ coos
wind chimes, soprano and baritone
first Hackberry leaves
peach sky

sweet
tiny white flowers in the greening grass
Meadowlarks’ high-pitched whistles
Mockingbird’s fresh song
night breeze through open window
peach moon

We spent the day together
outdoors,
as this was the Contemplation in Nature
retreat—the first here
at Turtle Rock Farm retreat center.
A day to relax into the warm air,
peer into the wide panorama,
pay attention to detail:
waves on the pond,
a chattering gathering of Red-winged Black Birds,
a Chinaberry berry seed…
It was a day to “see with new eyes,”
as if for the first time…
A day to try to imagine
our kinship with all;
to try to grasp
that we are only part
of this one complex, living organism
that is Earth…

DSCN7010Retreatant Watching a Chattering Gathering of Red-winged Blackbirds

I sat
motionless (as motionless as I could
while petting the insistent Maizey)
under my favorite Chinaberry tree
and looked across a familiar meadow
to the familiar Osage Orange trees along Doe Creek,
watched the familiar glide of a Red-Tailed Hawk,
and thrilled
when a Mockingbird
landed in the tree above me,
a silhouette against the sun.
Mockingbird!—
especially familiar.
It stayed awhile and when it flew away
and I began to notice the grass and soil
around me,
and little black balls
with holes in them
and the crinkled faded-gold Chinaberry seeds…
and then realized the black seeds
came from inside the Chinaberry seeds…
and that some thing liked
whatever was inside
the black seeds…

DSCN7001

Later in the day,
we three talked
about what we saw
and admitted to each other
that experiencing our kinship,
taking non-dualism
from thinking to a felt-knowing—
grasping deeply that we are only part
of one living organism—
will take some time,
considerable effort,
plenty more practice,
awareness…

That evening—the first time this year
it was warm enough I could spend Saturday evening
on the porch—I read an article
in “Yes!” magazine
(Spring 2015 “Together with Earth” edition)
by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

Singing whales, talking trees, dancing bees, birds who make art, fish who navigate, plants who learn and remember. We are surrounded by intelligences other than our own, by feathered people and people with leaves. But we’ve forgotten. There are many  forces arrayed to help us forget—even the language we speak.

As a beginning student of her native Anishinaabe language, Kimmerer has discovered there is no word in her language for “it,” as in anything other than human. “It’s impossible to speak of Sugar Maple as ‘it,'” she writes. “We use the same words to address all living beings as we do our family. Because they are our family.

“In indigenous ways of knowing, other species are recognized not only as persons, but also as teachers who inspire how we might live.”

When Kimmerer asked an elder for the proper Anishinaabe word for beings of the living earth, she learned it is Bemaadiziiaaki. Too long a word to take the place of “it” in the English language, she suggests we use the last two letters: “ki.” And that we also speak of other Earth beings as “kin.”

Changing our language can be transformative, she writes:

We can keep ‘it’ to speak of bulldozers and paperclips, but every time we say ‘ki,’ let our words reaffirm our respect and kinship with the more-than-human world. Let us speak of beings of Earth as the ‘kin’ they are.

Here are the words I wrote above, about Mockingbird:

Mockingbird!—
especially familiar.
It stayed awhile and when it flew away
and I began to notice the grass and soil
around me…

Here’s what the passage reads like, using the word “ki” instead of “it:”

Mockingbird!—
especially familiar.
Ki stayed awhile and when ki flew away
and I began to notice the grass and soil
around me…

From past experience,
I’ve come to allow the possibility
that Mockingbird
is one of my teachers.
Mockingbird
came to the top of the Chinaberry tree,
even though I was obviously present.
Ki sat there long in the sun
even though there was another Chinaberry tree
right next to ki,
farther from me.
In the past, Mockingbird
has taught me to use my own voice;
that is always a pertinent reminder.
This day
perhaps Mockingbird,
up against the sky,
then departed,
was what drew me down
to the ground. I wonder…Does ki
eat the stuff
inside the black seed
inside the Chinaberry seed?
Maybe ki brought no message;
maybe, ki was having a snack.
Maybe, Sister Mockingbird…
maybe I know you
and myself
a tiny bit better.

Before the snow,
the cold. Birds’ water
froze completely.
Red-Winged Blackbirds stand
on the bowl’s edge,
pecking at the ice.
They swarm
when I set out warm water.
Smaller birds,
Sparrows and Chickadees,
have to wait
until a flock of Red-Winged Blackbirds
quench their thirst.

DSCN6854
DSCN6857
DSCN6869

A day of snowfall,
snow covering everything,
yet their drinking looks
desperate.
Seems they’d get some moisture
as they peck the snow for seeds.
They swarm the bird feeders too
and spend the snowy day—black birds, Cardinals,
Meadowlarks, Red-Bellied Woodpecker,
Mockingbird, Dove, sparrows, Goldfinches,
Chickadees—eating,
drinking.

DSCN6897
DSCN6877
DSCN6904
I replace frozen water
with fresh
three times
and scatter more seed
before the sun appears,
just before the end of the day—
surprising me
and casting a bit of golden warmth
for birds sheltering
for the night.

DSCN6896

It will be snowing again
in the morning.
Blackbirds there, pecking ice,
compelling me out
into a cold, heavy snowfall,
a beautiful snow-filled land,
with warm water,
seed.

The birds’ urgent drinking,
frenetic eating
give me pause…
Maybe my efforts
are more than a ploy
for their good company.

DSCN6891

There’s a lot going on
out there
right now.
Temperature is so mild
and wind so gentle
I could work on the porch
yesterday afternoon. So soft,
this yellowed land, littered
with turning leaves, wind chime
singing, I could
swoon,
and did
in moments.

DSCN5739     Mockingbird

DSCN5736     Yellow-Rumped Warblers

DSCN5675     Easter Blue Birds

DSCN5743
Mockingbird sang most
of the afternoon.
Yellow-Rumped Warblers
chased each other
and flitted about the trees.
An Eastern Blue Bird sang too
and both kinds of birds
drank often from the water
St. Francis is holding.
Some birds drank from the fish pond,
as did squirrel.
Little white and yellow butterflies
sipped
from the Russian Sage.

DSCN5701     Belted Kingfisher

On Sunday, I heard, then saw,
a black-crested bird on a high line wire.
Its staccato call seemed urgent. When
another came alongside
they flew south. A bird-watching
cousin who has a “life list”
identified it as a Belted Kingfisher.
Bedazzled.

DSCN5746