Thursday, June 4, 2020

Too Much

When the gusty winds blow and shake our lives, if we know that people care about us, we may bend with the wind...but we won’t break.” - Fred Rogers

I try very hard to believe this. Some days are better than others.
As we have all grappled with new ways of doing things in recent months, I, too, have found some adjustments easier than others. For example, when I'm on my walk to the ditch or elsewhere, if someone is coming toward me on the sidewalk, I will happily step into the road or cross the street if they don't do it first.

It seems odd and so unfriendly, because most of the time walkers approaching head on greet each other with a "good morning!" or a smile. Now it's usually a "thanks!" said through a mask if anything is said at all. But people understand.

I was reminded of something my friend Mike Lewis said long ago, during those golden days when we worked at WKAR.

I have written about Mike here on the Marmelade Gypsy in the past. We worked together for decades until his untimely death in January 2014. He was the first to make funny birthday posters or videos for his friends. He had enormous comic book and video collections in a house that would make Marie Kondo cringe and he was a generous lending library to anyone who wanted DVDs for the weekend. No fee, no fine, and if you liked it a lot, don't worry about giving it back. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known, a gentle giant in a hard world.

One of the posters that Mike made for my retirement book.

With Mike you could talk about more than movies and media. Our conversations would often cross into heavy topics. I will always remember the conversation when Mike said, "When I walk down the street by myself in the evening, people cross to the other side."

You see, Mike was African American. He was large. And people who saw him coming their way thought he might be scary and dangerous. And yes, you get used to it. And yes, it still hurts.

I would like to believe that we have long passed the time when we must cross the road to avoid someone or something that scares us.

I would like to believe that the way someone looks should affect the impression we have of that person before we have even said hello.

I would like to believe we live in a world where battles fought centuries ago, then decades ago, aren't still being fought.

I would like to believe that all law enforcement officials don't use unnecessary force or shooting to kill unless absolutely essential and that in any case possible they will listen to those they are apprehending.

I would like to believe that we could all feel safe when we support what we believe through the freedom of speech and peaceful demonstration without fear of being brutalized by rubber bullets, tear gas and low flying helicopters.

I don't believe in looting and destroying property but I do believe in standing up and if standing up is taking a knee, then I believe in that, too.

Our country -- no, our world -- is going through tough times these days. A deadly virus may ease up but will not go away. So many are unemployed, facing challenges they never imagined. There is racism and xenophobia throughout the world. And that's when it gets tricky.

We are living with a heavy collective grief. At most, it is for the loss of someone we know and cared about who has died. At its least, it is grief for a loss of a way of life that seemed so commonplace and ordinary, and yet was so special.

I grieve for the loss of the healing power of touch and hugs.

And I grieve for our country and how it has justifiably lost respect and become the laughing stock of the rest of the world. I grieve for a world that is facing many of the same challenges that we are. Will it ever end?

And I grieve for all whose lives have been turned into a frightening daily nightmare by a systemic racism that we cannot seem to conquer.

I grieve for my friend Mike and wonder what he would have to say about all this.

I know it would be profound.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Oh, to Have Wings!

What would you do if you had wings to fly right now?

I actually drove the other day. It was my first time behind the wheel since March 20 when I went to the doc. I had to really concentrate to keep my eyes on the road. I just wanted to look around. I suspect birds in flight don't have this problem. How do they know where to go?

Once I finished my purpose for the drive (passing by the home of someone retiring from his departmental chairman post at the U and honking) I decided to go on a bit of a joy ride. No pix from that -- I was just too happy to see something new.

Right now we're at something familiar, checking out the birds at the Ditch. I saw some familiar favorites like this handsome male cardinal...

...and this beautiful red-winged blackbird.

I'm not sure what this one is. At first I thought a nuthatch, but the head is too round.

Ideas, anyone?

I'm wondering if this is the female red-winged blackbird. David posted one on Travel with Birds and I think they look similar -- but I'm not sure.

 This duck family was doing swimming lessons.

And this group was getting a big adventurous, preparing to cross the road. These ducklings look almost as big as their mom.

I herded them back somehow (they were most reluctant).

Eventually they went behind the fence, which felt safer.

It took some time before they headed further down the hill and toward the water. I suspect they'll head back up again.

I didn't see any of my gosling friends but these two seem to always spend a lot of time on this nest and I'm wondering if they just haven't hatched their brood yet.

I love the early morning walks. It's my best chance to catch the elusive deer.

On this day, there were two of them, happily munching on something on their island.

The colors of the morning are quite beautiful.

And so, too, are the colors of the sky, reflecting on one of the ponds, speckled with lily pads.

And I love seeing the trees bud.

On the way home I saw this -- and there was no color manipulation. When spring gives us a good day, we lap it up!

That's morning light hitting a red maple.

So, where would you go if you had wings?

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Just Another Day with Lizzie

Lizzie has been awfully sweet of late. I don't think she likes the rain storms -- I often find her huddling at my feet or even (shock and awe) jump up on the couch, curl up and sleep. I'm not complaining!

I think back to the time eight years ago this month.

My sweetest boy, The Marmelade Gypsy, had lived a long, loving life and when he moved on, I didn't think I would ever smile again.

It took a few months of coming home to a quiet house, of so many tears that came and went with remarkable unpredictability. But when a friend was fostering an abandoned mom-cat and her kittens and the kittens had found their forever-homes, the mom-cat was still at liberty. I went over and "met her" and I laughed for what seemed like the first time in ages.

She may have been a mom-cat, but she was still a kitten herself when she came my way. My vet bet she was about 10 months old when they "met" in October.

I have to say, the first months were not easy. Lizzie is nothing like Gypsy. He never met a lap he didn't like, especially mine. And it didn't matter if that lap was filled with a newspaper, book or craft project. I was his. Lizzie, on the other hand, didn't "do" lap. She didn't like to be picked up, sit close. She was her own girl.

It took more than seven years for her to fully settle. We would practice lap, thirty seconds at a time. And it's still not her favorite place. But she has turned into a loving close-sitter, a yappy girl with a tone that rivals Ethel Merman, and an animal that seems to have vocabulary comprehension of three phrases -- "Birds!", "Good Girl Treat!" and "Food!" I'm not sure she even knows her name.

She's been a good companion in these days of quarantine. The secret keeper for when my anxiety gets too high, the creature that needs me if for nothing more than two squares a day and maybe a snack before bed.

I think I'll keep her!

For the most part I have ordered groceries online through Instacart. It's a little more expensive but for now I feel more comfortable doing that. But I did my first grocery pick-up. There is a small "general store" in Lansing's Old Town that had wine and locally sourced meat. I want to see them continue to thrive when all this is over.

Easy peasy! I loved that I could pop the trunk and hands-free all the way!

I didn't order scallions because I am learning how to grow them on the window sill. Are you doing this yet? There was a recent article in the New York Times on how if you save the root (and a bit of the onion) part of the scallion, put it in water and change the water daily, new scallions will grow! So far, so good!

Meanwhile, groceries and mail still stay in quarantine, I worry about every rain storm (and kicking myself I didn't replace my basement windows in the fall instead of waiting till the spring and then Covid-19 came along.) There's a problem not with my sump pump but in its "trough" that will require repair and I'm not looking forward to welcoming a repair person to the house. He'd better be wearing a mask. (I couldn't get an appointment till June 16!)

But the lawn is green and growing...

...and the neighbor's crab apple tree was beautiful. Alas, the petals are gone now but it was good while it lasted!

No complaints.

And, if I have them, I know who to tell.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Defending Our Families, Defending Our Turf

Long ago I was talking with a friend about teenagers (especially those of the challenging kind!) and he sagely said, "You don't mess with Mama Bear." So true.

I remember being a kid and while my parents tried to teach me to fight my own battles, I can remember one time when my Mom had to step in. I felt safe and secure, knowing she had my back. I always knew they both had my back and that meant a great deal.

The other day I was at the Ditch, shortly after I'd been seeing a number of new babies, both ducks and goslings. I think some were still on the nest. All of a sudden there was a great commotion.

Two geese were flying and fighting with each other, chasing in mid-air, amidst a racket that would wake the dead.

There was great flapping of wings and honking. The birds would glide what seemed like many feet along the smooth water, turn around and go after each other again.

I'm not sure what might have happened but my guess is Goose A got a little too close to Goose B's nest and Papa Goose decided to take him on.  It was fascinating to watch them. And eventually, Goose A backed off. Another crisis averted.

Lately I've been wondering, who has our backs? Certainly not those telling us to go back to "normal" when there is still great danger in doing so.

I believe it's the docs and nurses, healthcare workers in all fields, the scientists, the grocery people, the postal workers, the teachers, the sanitation folk, and so many more who have been there for us during this mess. And will be.

It's the parents who are doing double duty, working from home while teaching or tending their children. It's those food bank workers who are making sure those who need the services have access. It is the people who help keep us fed, healthy and safe.

Governments come and go and I hope this one goes soon. But the people who have your back -- they're golden. It's up to us to protect them, as they protect us.

Please wear your mask and keep your distance, no matter what people say about things lightening up. There is a reason that it may be (and I emphasize the "may") -- and that is because people in large part have been doing their part -- taking care.

They help us be safe.

Please don't stop.

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