Thursday, May 19, 2016

White Throated Sparrow

It had been a hard winter.

There are lots of hard winters, and I don't remember why this one specifically was hard at this point. Time gets away and I've lived in the same house for 18 years now and I drown in the memories when, before, I could mark them by the house where I lived, the smell of salt or mud or river or creek in the air, how the sun moved across the sky, how the dirt felt under my feet.

No more. I mark time by who was born, who might have been there, who was in the scene with me in my memory. And because these things move more slowly now, and all my babies are here and nothing changes quickly right now in this static time between births and deaths? I lose count of when things happen. They are no longer clearly catalogued. I find myself thinking meta about memory more than remembering these days. It can't be helped. I think I have too much dopamine in my hippocampus. That should be a hashtag. One that no one would ever use. #toomuchdopamineinmyhippocampus. Maybe not.

I was standing in front of my car. I was packing the last things up before heading back to St. Louis. We'd been out at Shaw Nature Reserve. Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts is another thing--it is rapidly drawing to a close, but it's ten years thus far of a blur of girls and camping trips and hikes. The other night I sat at dinner with friends, talking about one of the camping trips and it kept going like this:

"Was that the one when we got lost?"

"Or wait, was that the one with the wolf spider?"

"What about that woman who came with us that one time, what was her name? Why was she even there?"

"Was that the night everyone wet the bed?"

Another friend sat there laughing at us. We weren't portraying our time in Girl Scouts as much fun.

But oh it has been so rich.

So I was standing in front of my car, after stuffing it, expertly, because I know how to pack, with everyone's sleeping bags and backpacks and our troop tubs, one pink, one blue, full of more crap than we could ever want.

Snow was falling. It must have been early March.

And I was fragile for some reason. Maybe I was due for an adjustment in my thyroid medication. Maybe I was overtired. Maybe it had been a long winter after so many years of trying so hard and not getting anywhere and not knowing that saying goodbye was another kind of stability, a stability to my heart, to let me be ok. Maybe I was not quite ready to let go of something--my kids' school, my friendships here or there, something. I remember how I felt. I just don't remember quite why. But it was that tired, almost nauseated by tired, an overtired that doesn't have to do with missing sleep the night before. I was fragile.

Girls were standing by the car. My daughter, her friends. They were in coats, the snowflakes falling in their brown hair.

And I heard it. I turned my head to the song.

"Shh," I told them. They always listened when I said things like that. It is a perk that comes with being a girl scout leader with mad skillz. I know shit. And so when I was standing there in the light snow, girls waiting to leave, and I hushed them, they hushed.

Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada

"Do you hear it?" I whispered. The first true bird song I'd heard that year.

They listened.

Oh sweet Canada Canada Canada Canada

They nodded.

Something shifted in my brain. Something chemical, like a drug. I could breathe. I didn't feel all that heaviness that had been building for oh so long. I felt the edges of my mouth start to smile without trying.

We got in the car and drove home in the flurries and cold and hope for spring.

Oh, little bird, open your mouth and say
Been so lonesome, just about flown away
So long now I've been out
In the rain and snow
But winter's come and gone
A little bird told me so


  1. I was so sorry I was so far behind in reading your blog, but it turns out that today is the very day I need it.

  2. I love this. Paying attention and appreciating something in the moment is just enough to remind us to breathe.