Feathering the nest

I saw a crow building a nest, I was watching him very carefully, I was kind of stalking him and he was aware of it. And you know what they do when they become aware of someone stalking them when they build a nest, which is a very vulnerable place to be? They build a decoy nest. It’s just for you.

~Tom Waits

I was remarking the other day to the other half that we are so like birds, but so unlike them. Birds make their nest to make a family, but then the young are booted out fairly soon after they are born, (depending on the species), to go live their amazing bird lives. Europeans also enjoy the life of birds. Most spend very little time in the homes they’ve built, as they are out enjoying the surrounding sunshine and trees.

People in the U.S., unless they are as rich as peacocks, stay trapped inside, feathering their nests even when there’s no need for it. They get fatter as they fly less, and more afraid of the unknown. Conversations are stilted, awkward, or a mockingbird’s mimicry. Life doesn’t flow, and the songs aren’t from the heart.

Life hasn’t flowed for me in a long time, but I’m finding my rivers again.

I recently finished feathering my nest; my former room for my parrots was converted to a writing room. It’s minimalist: walls the color of blue hydrangeas, two black chairs (one for reading and one for writing), and a black wooden desk. No art except for a ceramic bird (a nod to all the birds who used to live here), and a Frida Kahlo doll. Eventually there will be a small bed.

It’s peaceful, I love it. It’s just for me. However, I hope I spend very little time in it except when writing. Nature is waiting.


Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing
Praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world

~ Cat Stevens, “Morning Has Broken”

In the morning as light comes through the front window, it’s a piece of art, shaped like little orbs and welcoming a new day. It’s absolutely beautiful.

As I lie, drowsy, I stare up at the ceiling and hear the Bewick’s Wren outside, my new alarm clock. The California Towhee is the syncopation, dotting the wren’s metric.

It fills my heart. My chest expands, and I feel joy. I wish I could lie here forever, and then the crow calls to its family in the park, saying, “it’s time.”

The kitchen window; I see dots on the telephone lines, and I think they are finches. I’m not sure, as my eyes are going.

The dog is not ready. She climbs on to the couch where I’ve been sleeping, and lays her head on my pillow. It’s a perfect Sunday.

Let’s begin again.





I don’t say she’ll have to work around interruptions and invisibility and micro-aggressions and a scarcity of role models and a lifetime of her own conditioning. My job on this panel is to make this place sound good, so I leave some stuff out. Particularly the fact that I’m drinking at least one bottle of wine a night to dissolve the day off of me. – Kristi Coulter, “Enjoli”

This post started out as a bunch of pondering, pontification, and platitudes. There’s nothing worse then someone giving you a life lesson who has had a terrible go navigating her own.

I’ll just cut to the chase; the other day I had a sit-down with someone who speaks in a way so tedious that you feel like you’re enduring a history lesson from the civil war. You have no idea why you’re talking about the civil war or why anyone would think that you cared. As I watched this person float in and out of the realization that they were talking to a person with their own thoughts and perspectives, I too had my own thoughts about how to navigate the conversation, mostly to end it and dig a hole somewhere for me to stick my head in. Just when I think I’ve figured out how people work or I have some key to mapping the course that’s laid before me, the route changes.

A surprising thought came to me after, that birds have been adapting to the changing landscape for 80 million years, and it gave me some comfort, that I wasn’t alone. I even felt some compassion for the “professor,” albeit briefly. I’m no Mister Rogers.

The narrator from the movie “Winged Migration (2003)” says “The story of bird migration is the story of promise – a promise to return.” In one of the more poignant scenes a flock of birds are taking their same 9,000 mile journey, only to land on a large deck of a ship, the usual spot where they would find sustenance, water, or escape the elements for a while. The look on the birds’ faces is heartbreaking; they are so confused and tired as they wander around the ship. I could only watch the movie once.

I hope that in my navigating this earth I return someplace where I am safe, where I know the road home, even if it’s just within myself. I am satisfied that this is my lot, the daily adventure of living.


“The majority of us lead quiet, unheralded lives as we pass through this world. There will most likely be no ticker-tape parades for us, no monuments created in our honor. But that does not lessen our possible impact, for there are scores of people waiting for someone just like us to come along; people who will appreciate our compassion, our unique talents. Someone who will live a happier life merely because we took the time to share what we had to give. Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have a potential to turn a life around. It’s overwhelming to consider the continuous opportunities there are to make our love felt.” — Leo Buscaglia

Several years ago my sister was murdered by her boyfriend and dumped down a cliff in Kaloloch, Washington State. You can read a little about it here. What’s interesting is that I have no idea who Robert Scott was, but I can tell you this — my sister Robin was never in love with anyone, especially the man who killed her.

Why I keep returning to this memory is beyond me, except that a flock of American Robins have been sitting outside in a sycamore for the past few days. I think they are taking advantage of the worms that have resurfaced from the rains. They are such beautiful birds and every time I see one I say “hello, Robin” as a nod to my sister.

Robin taught me that relationships with the opposite sex are just one of the stories we are given to live by, but the people in those stories aren’t always happy, or make it out alive. When I lived with her I only remembered how sour she was; her big thighs thundering through the house, her head always hung in sorrow on her broad shoulders, or the way she flipped her red hair with her left hand – that nervous tick.

So, I tried to remember some good things about her.

I remembered that she taught me to ride a horse, and when driving a car, how to slow down instead of braking on a curve.

But I was also reminded that life is fleeting, and that you should not wish your days away, and embrace those that lift you up.

Fire escape

Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all.

William Shakespeare

Stuck inside. The air is a blanket of nothing but smoke and fog.

California is burning at both ends and I haven’t opened the windows in my house in almost a week. The one day I did go into the office, I took Lyft both ways. The first driver kept staring at me in his rearview mirror. I stared out at the haze, but I could still see the rim of his glasses out of the corner of my eye, and it made me uneasy. I finally figured out he just wanted to chat, but his English sentence construction was so bad, and his car so filthy, that I couldn’t wait to get to work. There’s a first. On the Lyft home, I could tell the driver smoked as his car smelled like an ashtray. My head throbbed.

On the days I’ve been working from home, I leave nuts out for the crows, and a small amount of water in a dish as I know they are all parched. Both the crows and the eastern grey squirrels are getting more bold; they don’t immediately bolt when I get close, as they know I am the purveyor of all the nutty goodness. It’s such a thrill to be that close to a squirrel, only its head peaking over the side of the fence. We have a staring contest that lasts a few seconds, and then it goes back to playing its game of peek-a-boo. It’s a welcome delight that is fleeting.

My hands are so dry. My trees are limp and starting to drop their leaves, but there’s no beauty in it. No moisture to mark the coming of winter. So we wait, and maybe go a little mad. When can we breathe again?

Such strange dreams at night, too, born of anxiety. Last night I dreamt I dipped my feet in a stream, and as I did three fish appeared, and I was happy. Then, one of the fish bit my foot, and as it clung I lifted my foot out of the water. Someone snatches the fish away, its rainbow body writhing, mouth agape. I knew, out of water, the fish would die.



“Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will ensure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” – Rachel Carson, “Silent Spring”

Sometimes I sit in my front room and let the darkness envelop me. I don’t watch the sun go down; I let the dark slowly wrap me like a grey blanket. It’s always the same view — the dried out sycamore, the streetlamp that lights it up at night, and the wires that obstruct the view of the airport and the bay.

If I walk my dogs instead, I walk into the dark. Less light makes my neighbors’ colorful doors more vibrant, and dried lawns become desert patches. Before all the stars come out, the sky is a cornflower blue, peppered with stratus clouds.

There are fewer bird calls now, just the sound of the ravens and crows returning to nest in the eucalyptus. If I’m lying on my ancient couch, I tune in to whatever calls I can identify, and let them lull me into a restless sleep filled with strange dreams.

One night I dreamt that I opened my kitchen door to see a lone pigeon staring up at me, with smooth gray feathers and an inquisitive golden eye. I couldn’t bear to close the door, so I woke up instead.


“The first — killing the Angel in the House — I think I solved. She died. But the second, telling the truth about my own experiences as a body, I do not think I solved. I doubt that any woman has solved it yet. The obstacles against her are still immensely powerful — and yet they are very difficult to define.” — Virginia Woolf

Lately I’ve been so up in my own head with work that when I go outside I have to force myself to look at the world. So, I’ve started naming things as I walk…tree, roses, leaf, sign. If I don’t do this my walks are daydreams, lacking so much presence that I have to refocus.

I don’t know what to say today, so I’ll lead off with that. Lately my head has been hijacked by to-do lists and narcissists and the endless opinions about how to deal with narcissists. Kick them in the privates was one piece of good advice.

I’m ideal bait for narcissists and mean people in general. They see my kindness as weakness, and they rent space in my head. I’m always hyper-vigilant, whether there’s a threat or not, but this just compounds it. And I spent most of my waking hours today determining how to deal with it. And just for a few seconds I feel sorry for said people, and then I snap out of that really quick.

Many mental disorders are induced by acute stress or traumatic events. And heap on top of that a lack of community, very little vacation time, and you are a recipe for obesity, physical and mental illness. One of my fun little mental quirks is spartanism — I sometimes get so obsessed with getting rid of things that it becomes compulsive, and I have to CBT my way out of that mess. I’m hoping I don’t end up with a home with no furniture or lights, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

It seems that animal mental illness can be triggered by many of the same factors that unleash mental illness in humans. That includes the loss of family or companions, loss of freedom, stress, trauma, and abuse.

This is most easily seen in animals that are held in captivity. I would argue that many Americans are captive — owned by their phones, their jobs, fear of missing out, and not enough stuff, or the right stuff. Maybe my spartanism is a way to say “you don’t own me,” and yet the compulsion does. Yet, maybe I’m trying to strip away to truth and bone.

I’m not usually referential but I need to explain my Virginia Woolf quote. You see, after reading Rebecca Solnit’s essay that included this quote — it was like a sucker punch, an arrow through the heart. I’ve so wanted to be myself for so long, this quote floored me. I can solve. I can be more than how society defines me, I can just be myself, angel or not. It’s so simple, yet as Virginia Woolf says, the obstacles against us are still immensely powerful.



The colony

“Bees do have a smell, you know, and if they don’t they should, for their feet are dusted with spices from a million flowers.” ~Ray Bradbury, “Dandelion Wine”

Several weeks ago, on the ever-persnickety website Nextdoor, someone freaked out because they had some bees in their backyard.

It’s still beyond me that every question today has to be crowd-sourced, that we don’t trust ourselves enough to do the research on our own. However, the thread turned out to be useful, because shortly after it was posted, a colony of honey bees  moved inside my Catalpa tree, finding a crack in a hollow.

My gardener (David) told me they were there, and that he would be careful with the blower around them because he “fuckin’ doesn’t want to get stung.” As he shared a few other stories of “almost got fuckin’ stung,” a ground squirrel popped his head out of my lawn and David focused his homicidal tendencies toward it, reminiscing about the creative ways he’s killed them. I reminded him that I pay him extra each month to not kill the ground squirrels.

Anyway, back to the bees.

Ever since my friend Tina started beekeeping several years ago I’ve stopped being afraid of honey bees. The few times I sat in her backyard filled with fruit trees, chickens, and bee boxes, I loved the serene way they floated in and out, making their honeycomb. The bees in my tree are no different. In fact, I got very close to the opening and watched them  go in and out for several minutes.

Honey bees collect pollen and nectar from flowers as food for the entire colony, and as they do, they pollinate plants. Nectar stored within their stomachs is passed from one worker to the next until the water within it diminishes. At this point, the nectar becomes honey, which workers store in the cells of the honeycomb.

The one thing that surprised me, though, is that bees don’t live very long, just a few months. And bees that are dying are taken out of the hive by other workers and dropped several feet away.  I’ve watched them clammer back over the dead lawn, only to die on their return, or be eaten by a wasp. One afternoon I watched a wasp eat the body off a honey bee, leaving the head. I have to say I was a bit mortified.


A sighting


Photo by Kitty Terwolbeck: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kittysfotos/

Much of human behavior can be explained by watching the wild beasts around us. They are constantly teaching us things about ourselves and the way of the universe, but most people are too blind to watch and listen. ~Suzy Kassem

When my Saluki, Grey, fixates on a creature outside, his growl is terrifying. To keep him from ruining the front window with his nails, I sometimes have to pull him back to draw the shades. When you touch him in this state, you can feel the rumble in his fur. It’s primal, and sometimes I think he’s going to whip around and bite me.

It’s been a quiet spring, but I’ve been seeing more starlings than usual. Though I have to check again, I think they are trying to make their nests in the neighbor’s Eucalyptus, where the wrens were last season.

There used to be a season for everything. You could count on when the finches show up at your feeder, and October was always skunk month. You couldn’t walk outside late at night or at sunrise without getting a good whiff. I learned to check for the scent the hard way, when my Greyhounds were skunked not once, but twice. It’s a different smell than the roadkill smell — it permeates your sinus and there’s no escape, for weeks.

I was feeling uninspired, staring out at the sycamore, and thinking how still everything felt. I could just make out the planes over the airport, turning into moving stars as it got darker. And this is still a game I play at night with the window open — plane or star?

And there it was. A skunk. In April. Yeah yeah, I know they live year round somewhere.

It was beautiful. I saw him leave my neighbor’s yard, disappear behind a car, then walk across the street toward us. It might have heard that I was leaving out peanuts, was my guess.

Grey rumbled. I had to close the drapes, but then I snuck out the back door to see if I could still see the skunk. I got on my tip toes and peered over the fence, but he was gone, not even a whiff.




Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better. ~Henry Rollins

This morning a sparrow came to visit me; he stood on the back fence and waited for me to move so he could feed on any leftover nyjer seed or small flies in my backyard. The sparrow species in the area are numerous, and you have to know what season their plumage is in to make an identification, and even then sometimes you’re wrong.

Silent days are always met with interjections: The screaming kid two houses down, the sound of a pinball machine in the front room, and the sound of my own brain, always looping.

The day is bright and warm, high 60s with a chance of boredom. It’s days like this that the animal kingdom enjoys the sun on their backs and Americans drink. Americans drink every day, for whatever reason. But we’re so afraid of being bored because that means we have to get creative, and the truth is that’s how creativity is born. Because inside we’re all still children and we’re bored with each other, so we make up things that will give us that dopamine hit, like sex, alcohol, and drugs. We’ve lost a sense of community and connection, like when you meet that person who really “gets you” and you get that hit in the best way.

I couldn’t figure out why I was so opposed to apps that would help me organize, help me meditate, help me be calm, tell me where to eat, how to get there, and reconnect with my friends. And I figured it out — I’m not calm because I’m not meditating or listening to rainforest noises, I’m agitated because there is an unrest and a loneliness in the world that can only be solved by connecting. Forget humans, I believe they are irretrievably broken. I mean, we spend our entire lives trying to fix ourselves, and what if there’s nothing to fix?

When I looked into the sparrow’s eyes I see something whole but otherworldly, a messenger. A silent reminder to connect.

I reach out to my friends or have the occasional interaction with a coworker or someone at a local store. I know I’m going to be one of those old ladies that bores the shopkeepers because she’s lonely, but that’s if there are any shops left. As Greg Brown once wrote “as the world becomes one big bland place” as soon enough there won’t be any plazas, just a world staring into a screen, begging to be understood. I think we’re already there, at lightning speed.

It’s physiology folks…we can’t undo hundreds if not thousands of years of relying on each other for our basic needs, but we’ve become these weird semi-bots, obese and needy and grasping for something outside of ourselves, but not grasping for one another. We can’t formulate replies in real time as it’s too risky, and interactions are forced and unsatisfying.

Wind chimes. That’s it. They make a melancholy sound. The earth has become so still some days I never hear them.


“It is only by working the rituals, that any significant degree of understanding can develop. If you wait until you are positive you understand all aspects of the ceremony before beginning to work, you will never begin to work.” ~ Lon Milo DuQuette

Last night in a burst, I reinstalled drapes that were taken down while painting my bedroom. I had, unsuccessfully, tried to contact a task service to help me, and after a few choice words on their feedback survey, I did it myself. Sort of.

After inserting pins into every fold of one of the drapes, I stood on the step-ladder and began to put them back into each of tract holes, and was triumphant until I got to the last tract and realized I still had several pins left. The other and I decided that the pins had probably been doubled up in the holes, so the right-side was installed in a bunched up mess, and we moved on to the second drape.

The second drape, turns out, was shorter in width than the first, and it belonged where we had put the first.

So…I’m sitting on my bed, looking up at the lopsided installation, I got to thinking about order. I started to think of it as an art installation. I thought, hmmm, maybe I can hang something from those extra holes, like miniature fake birds from strings. That would create some semblance of symmetry, order, and it would look pretty if not a little crazy. If my sister was still around, she would look at me sideways and judge me in silence.

Being good and orderly makes you believe, incorrectly, that you have control in life. You think that you will somehow be rewarded and that you will be protected from harm. This is from being abused or being made to feel inadequate in your formative years. And all the therapists in the world won’t fix you.




“Yours is the light by which my spirit’s born: – you are my sun, my moon, and all my stars.” ~E.E. Cummings


The moon hangs in the night sky and a star right below it. After some relief from the heat, it’s back again, but not really with a vengeance, just with spite.

The bachelor buttons seedlings that Sweet Farm gave to me weren’t the sought after blue flowers at all, just some sad gangly plant with white blossoms that look like stars. I’m keeping them alive with the dog water just to see what they will do.

Every morning, just as the sun comes up, I put out fresh water and raw almonds for Silent Bob or Jay, who are the Scrub Jays that have come to rely on me for their special stash. I caught a glimpse of one of them drinking out of my fountain, something I rarely see. I had to stand silently behind the pinball machine as he took 1, 2, 3 sips… and the Bushtits are back again, flitting around the crepe myrtle.

The moon stands in the sky, really, and the lonely star is tethered to it. Like an eye chart tomorrow it will move, leaving me to wonder if it’s the same star.

I might leave the blinds open to find out what hallucinations visit me again tonight. Last night a watery reflection of a vinyl record played on my ceiling, and cartoons danced on the blinds. Cartoon A fed Cartoon B with a spoon, and I stood in dumbfounded sleep paralysis, terrified and fascinated at the same time, and unable to move.

The hum of the fan is soothing and I close my eyes, not wanting to prepare for another day. I long for lazy days though I’m not wired for that. I’m dancing and it’s never fast enough. Though I think I’m the light that never goes out, one day the wind will blow the other way, and prove me wrong.