Monday, April 27, 2009

Are you my mother?

They hatched! Here are the wee ones referred to in my previous post straight out of P.D. Eastman's "Are You My Mother?" If you haven't read that book recently, you should. If you want, I can have one of my nieces call you and read it. She's really good at the Snort part.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Bird and the Bee

A frequent go round on my cd player of late has been a band called "The Bird and the Bee," which seems particularly ironic as a particularly bird and bee have been the bane of my existence for the past several weeks.

My current home has a lovely deck where I have a lovely patio set that I very much like to sit at in the mornings or in the evenings - never during the day when the white hot Tennessee sun threatens immediate cancer of all cells. Unfortunately, my deck has some angry squatters on it who are absolutely bent on taking over my deck. The first is a robin, that lovely bird I am wont to speak highly of in all other instances as it is my home state bird and I have never had any reason to speak negatively of it before this time. When she nipped the top off of one of my basil plants to make a nest, I was annoyed. But she was a building a nest on my porch! How wonderful! She would roost over her brood as I was brooding over mine! What wonderful serendipity, I thought! I moved the basil plants to the front where she could no longer pluck from them and watched her from afar as she continued to build her home from dry grass and twigs around the yard.

But serendipity, alas, is a temporary, unstable state at best. Any time I have since walked out the door to my deck, whether it be to get to the yard below or to take my rightful place at my patio set, the robin alights angrily, fussing back and forth between roof and telephone wire, bickering and hollering at me in what can only be called a southern squawking. I try to reassure her, tell her to look at me, won't you? I have a baby of my own to protect and there is no way I am going to upset your's. Some days it works. She remains on the telephone wire, eyeing me watchfully, but seemingly comforted by my lack of movement toward her nest. Most days it doesn't work and as her babies come closer to cracking through their shells, she is more wild in her protectiveness, dive bombing me the minute I open the door. No amount of soothing assurances or angry words of defense back to her can calm her down.

And she has an accomplice, a big fat old bumblebee, a male - though I don't have any assurance he is male other than instinct - has also started dive bombing me more ferociously than the robin before him. The minute the door leading out to the deck creaks, he strikes and is relentless. I asked Michael to go out and kill him for me and he complied, swatting and swatting, but he never got anywhere. I've watched from below the deck to see if the bee has his own brood to protect, but there are no signs of his home or any mates anywhere near the door he guards like a Guantanamo cell.

I fear the bee the most. I watch him through the glass window and he appears to float in mid-air, watching me with those compound eyes, seeing hundreds of me yet unafraid to defend his territory. I hate him. I run from him. I drop things and scramble away from his fat buzzing and crazy, unpredicatable dashes and darts.

There is only one solution: I have to give up the deck. There is no beating them and soon, we will be moving anyway. The next tenant will have to take up the fight. I hope the robin will be left alone, but that bee, I am comfortable with any fatal fate that may fall upon him.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Starling and Planting and Naming

Birds are like flowers, magically named and reminders to look up from what it is that I'm grading or watching on television and remember that mercifully, life is not all humanity and computer-driven. It is spring in Tennessee and I am on a mission to make my Sibley Guide to Birds my constant companion, along with a book about trees and shrubbery in Knoxville that I haven't looked for yet in the library. Identifying birds I am unfamiliar with is challenging. I can narrow things down somewhat, but the Sibley Guide, for all its richness, needs a section for bird-ignorant people like me that says things like "Can often be found in your yard, pulling worms from the ground until their guts are full of the slithery stuff." Then I would know, hey that gasoline-feathered bird is a starling! It is clear as I write this that a starling poem is nesting in my head. I will go sit on that soon.

There are plenty of robins in Knoxville, which makes me feel more at home as the state bird of Michigan is the robin. Also of Michigan is the state motto, circumspice, meaning "look about you." And since I miss my beautiful state that is calling for me from my Tennessee television with travel ads filled with water and fishtowns and deep sunsets, I'll do the next best thing: I'll look about Tennessee and try to make this place more familiar by learning that starlings are nuisances here and are warned off by cannons in the summer and the Bradford Pear tree, the first flowering tree of spring with its acrid, lovely aroma and appearance of snow falling everywhere, is a fast friend with that starling, made for each other, attracted by the very nature of their nature. Soon Tennessee will not seem so foreign. I hardly recognize the accents anymore.

And do the tomatoes here grow slower and speak liltingly like all other southern things? Soon I will know as I will be planting tomatoes, green beans (with their delicate white flowers), basil, mint, and whatever else looks nice and like something I would like to eat. Since Michael and I are committing to Tennessee and to one house for the next three years, I can finally plant something and watch it come out of the ground anxiously, impatiently, fearful for its strength and liveliness.

Not unlike I am waiting for this baby, anxiously, impatiently, fearful. It is that time in the pregnancy where bargains are struck with God. Let my baby be healthy and smart and I will go to Mass every Sunday. Let my baby love the outdoors and be friendly to strangers and I will teach him the importance of the rosary and daily prayer.

We must name him, a task far too big even for us whose vocabularies and student rosters are full of minglings of letters and vowel sounds and alliterations. We cannot name him wrong. We will never have a dog and we might not have another child so this one has to count. His naming cannot be the first pancake. My husband and I are stubborn, he far more than me. For us to agree on something that is perfect and whole and right will be quite a task.

The naming has to be like a bird's or a flower's, just right, individual, not silly, not too strange, not susceptible to shorthands we do not like. It has to be a series of letters flying through the sky that speak to who and what our baby is. Maybe we should wait until he's five to name him. Maybe then we'll know him better after I've learned his birds and his flowers and when his seasons come - when his accent to me is as familiar as Michigan.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

On Unsettledness

I hate being unsettled. I often quote the Nelly McKay line, "God, I'm so German, 'have to have a plan," and man, is that ever me. So imagine my fitfulnes as a six-month pregnant lady who was not sure what house, let alone what state, she was going to live in in a few months.

Well, now we have something settled. Michael and I made the monumental decision to a) stay in Tennessee until he's done with his PhD, and b) move to a different house within Knoxville. We found a house on our first day of looking, which is a little unsettling. There should be more of a struggle. There should be endless phonecalls to landlords and frantic e-mails back and forth and mapquesting all over town going on, but no. Instead, we made three viewing appointments today and were certain that the very first one we looked at was the one for us.

As a funny sort of sidenote for the day, the second house we looked at was HILARIOUS! Seriously, Michael and I will be laughing about this place for years to come. This hairy-backed, delusional landlord is looking to rent this house for $850/month. It was the most rundown shackety-shack I have ever seen and it had ZERO appliances in it. Imagine: wood paneled walls, disgustingly dirty carpet, holes in walls, doorless closets, and nary a single kitchen appliance in the dump. And this dude wants to rent it for $850 big ones! Normally, I'm very forthcoming with landlords about disliking a place if it does not suit me, however, I had this horribly creepy feeling walking into the place as the landlord shut the door behind us. If Michael were not with me, I would have felt like I had just entered a bad Lifetime movie wherein I was about to be sexually assaulted. So with that feeling sending a chill through me, I kept my mouth closed other than to say to said hairy-backed landlord that we had other places to look at before making a decision.

That was a long sidenote. Apologies. Anyway, all these changes make me feel uncomfortably unsettled, which is a terrible state to be in as it tangles up loneliness, self-doubt, fear, and melancholy inside of it. So I've got all of those emotions raging through my hormonally-charged pregnant body.

We are signing a new lease tomorrow and hoping, praying, counting on our landlord being able to rent our current home before our lease is up. All this up in the air-edness is not doing anything awesome for my German self. Sometimes even having a plan is not enough.