Happy Bird Father’s Day (Miracle, all of it)

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Excerpts from Jennifer Ackerman‘s: Why Bird Fathers Are Superior:

They are attentive parents, building nests, feeding chicks and even showing their young how to sing.

Tally up the good dads and the bad dads in the animal world, and mammals come up surprisingly short. Males provide direct care of their young in less than 5% of mammal species. Some mammals, like grizzly bears, are notoriously bad dads, known to kill their own cubs…most mammal fathers are deadbeats with a “love ’em and leave ’em” approach, sticking around only to mate.

Then there are birds. For our avian friends, attentive care of the young by both males and females is the norm. True, females shoulder the full parenting load in a few avian families, such as hummingbirds. But in some 90% of bird species, the males stay around to help: They share the duties of nest-building, incubate eggs, feed brooding females and the chicks, even train their young for independent life. Birds, in short, have a system of parenting not unlike our own, despite being separated from us by some 300 million years of evolutionary history…

How could creatures whose brains are so much smaller than ours and so different from them possibly be clever? …In the past two decades or so, we’ve learned that some species of birds have relatively large brains for their body size, just as we do…Birds teach. They learn. They solve problems. They make tools. They count. They remember where they put things. They deceive and cheat. They argue and console.

And they parent—most often together, with an equitable division of labor between nest and “office.” Many birds share incubation duties. Male and female double-crested cormorants swap that role about once an hour, so that the stay-at-home parent gets a chance to forage for itself. Woodpeckers relieve one another during the day, but the male alone incubates at night.

Some male birds go to extraordinary lengths not just to find food for their young but to participate in the actual feeding. The anhinga, or snakebird, which is found in the southern swamplands of the Americas, puts his whole mouth and neck into it, creating a kind of feeding tube to efficiently deliver partially digested fish down the throats of his young. (The chicks are soon shoving their heads down their dad’s beak to speed up the process.)

The Namaqua sandgrouse, which lives in the driest regions of southern Africa, acts as a living flask for his brood: A male bird flies up to 20 miles to find a watering hole in which to soak his belly feathers, absorbing a few tablespoons of water—then flies back to his chicks to let them drink from his feathers… [Read more…]

She’s Gone (Again)

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Four days later, and the tops of both thighs still burn, sensitive to the touch. No, nothing to do with running, which is another sad story, left for another day.

I load my canons, yes one “n”, and fire.

  • The Tort: “You entered into a verbal contract. You said you would stay.”
  • The Economic: “Manhattan is nose bleed expensive. You’ll drain whatever savings you have.”
  • The Nostalgic: “I’m turning your room in an extension of my Den, and calling it my West Wing.”
  • The Desperate: “You know in Italy, kids live with their parents until well into their 30’s.”
  • The Fear Mongering: “I’m cutting you off Netflix, Amazon Prime and yes, AT&T Mobile Service.”

Nothing works. And we’re off.

The family caravan departs in the Resettlement. Eric (Son) drives the U-haul with two friends. Mom, Dad and Rachel are up ahead in a separate car.  Waze estimates 44 miles – a whopping 1 hour 42 minutes to lower Manhattan.

The rain falls gently, setting the appropriate back drop.

It’s a five-floor walk-up. I now know what a 5-floor walk-up means. No elevators and narrow stairwells. Walk-up means walk-up. With furniture, furnishings and oversize and overweight boxes, all up five floors – on foot. With adequate resistance provided by non-ventilated, A/C-free hallways. The musty carpet fibers are pulled deep into the lungs with each trip up and down the stairs. [Read more…]

And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet.

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And he reads to them, as he does every night, as if watering them, as if turning the earth at their feet. There are stories he has never heard of, and others he has known as a child, these stepping stones that are there for everyone. What is the real meaning of these stories, he wonders, of creatures that no longer exist even in the imagination: princes, woodcutters, honest fishermen who live in hovels. He wants his children to have an old life and a new life, a life that is indivisible from all lives past, that grows from them, exceeds them, and another that is original, pure, free, that is beyond the prejudice which protects us, the habit which gives us shape. He wants them to know both degradation and sainthood, the one without humiliation, the other without ignorance. He is preparing them for this voyage. It is as if there is only a single hour, and in that hour all the provender must be gathered, all the advice offered.  He longs for the one line to give them that they will always remember, that will embrace everything, that will point the way, but he cannot find the line, he cannot recognize it. It is more precious, he knows, than anything else they might own, but he does not have it. Instead, in his even, sensuous voice he laves them in the petty myths of Europe, of snowy Russia, the East.

~ James Salter, Light Years


Notes: Photo: zinegrrlReading

Siblings.

safe,parent,

She’s 23.  Her Brother, 22.

He orders a Tom Collins, and gets carded.  She, a Zinfindel. Dad, a tall ice water. “Sparkling, or Flat for you Sir?”  “Tap, Miami’s finest please.” After dinner cocktails in a hotel bar, with of-age children. Embrace the memories, block the melancholia. I fail, it seeps in and then overwhelms me, water around stone.

It’s a quiet Friday night. The Sushi Chef leans on the glass case and flirts with the cocktail waitress. She’s wearing a smart black skirt and jacket.  On the other side of the bar, middle aged lovers huddle, whispering.

A one-man band blows on an electronic wind instrument, alternating with a brass trumpet with a black trumpet cap.  His supporting cast, multi-colored bars flashing on a laptop and pumped out of tall, thin, floor standing speakers.  He sways to and fro, lips pursed on reed. The Chill music hangs, a sweet fine mist over the valley.  One could drop this, all of this, in Ramblas in Barcelona, in Gastown in Vancouver or the Dièse Onze in Montreal.  Vibe, Same.

The eyelids are heavy, barbells. The body, from its all day soak in the sun, the wind, and the ocean salt, aches for rest.

I watch them leave together, bar hopping. She leans into him with her shoulder, they laugh. How many times in their lifetimes? Hundreds of times where Mom, and Dad, the Heavy, broke up skirmishes, and worse. Salter’s Light Years: “Passing of life together, a compact that will never end…lives formed together, woven together.”  And Parents stitching, braiding, weaving it all in the hope of This. Look, This, a tapestry. Full body warmth rushes in.

I ride the elevator up.  Melancholy, a Tsunami now. [Read more…]

Driving I-95 S. With Whisk Brooms and Women.

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5:17 am. 25° F.  Rollin’ down I-95 South in light morning traffic, with other insomniacs and the red tail lights of the hulking convoys.

I roll the tape back to the scene last night.

“Wow!”
“Wow what?”
“How much did it cost?”
“$55.”
“$55?”
“$55.”
“$55 per eyebrow?”
“Really Dad?”
“What?”
“Eyelashes. Eyelashes Dad. And, who would get just one eyelash extended?”

I ponder that for a moment. She has a point there. [Read more…]

through bone and rain and everything

hold,black and white

On a spring day in 1950, when I was big enough to run about on my own two legs yet still small enough to ride in my father’s arms, he carried me onto the porch of a farmhouse in Tennessee and held me against his chest, humming, while thunder roared and lightning flared and rain sizzled around us. On a spring day just over twenty years later, I carried my own child onto the porch of a house in Indiana to meet a thunderstorm, and then, after thirty more years, I did the same with my first grandchild. Murmuring tunes my father had sung to me, I held each baby close, my daughter, Eva, and then, a generation later, her daughter, Elizabeth, and while I studied the baby’s newly opened eyes I wondered if she felt what I had felt as a child cradled on the edge of a storm— the tingle of a power that surges through bone and rain and everything.

~ Scott Russell Sanders, A Private History of Awe


Image: Suzanne with a Little Part of You

 

A Seat At The Table


[…] the most incredible thing that has happened to me is that it is my version of a fairy tale that I’ve found in this unlikely and unexpected family a home that I’ve never had before.”

Dinner.

Family.

A Seat At The Table.

Moved.

Driving I-95 S. The Last Term.

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3:39 am. Thursday morning. Or, Wednesday night bleeding over.
20 minutes until shower time.
I’m staring at the ceiling. Woozy.  Did you get any sleep?

Six hours ago Mom’s helping him pack.
Suitcases are open.
Zeke sets the mood, moping.

“Dad, do you have any sweatpants I can take?”
“Take anything you want.”
“Do you have anything that doesn’t look like leisure wear?”
I smile. It’s clear who mentored that sarcasm, honed now, cold steel glistening.

We’re in the car.
It’s Silent. Father and Son awkward.
He’s turning the dials, away from my 7 on 70s on Sirius to some thumpin’ Electro BEAT.
The bitter taste of scotch at 4:30am.
I let it pass. [Read more…]

Riding Metro North. Vive la France.

moving-train

Monday.

2:45 am.

How quiet it is.
Too soon to wake.
Too late to stop the mind.
A hamster on the wheel, spinning.

Duras: “How quiet it is,” […] “Who’d believe our nights are such an ordeal?”

3:30 am.

Up.
Pre-dawn.
In the Quiet Zone.
Ascending to de Botton’s higher consciousness. Or somewhere.

Alain de Botton: “Perhaps late at night or early in the morning (when there are no threats or demands on us), when our bodies and passions are comfortable and quiescent, we have the privilege of being able to access the higher mind …We loosen our hold on our own egos and ascend to a less biased and more universal perspective, casting off a little of the customary anxious self-justification and brittle pride.”

I do feel that ascension. Now if I could only park here.

6:51 a.m.

Father and his daughter walk to train station.  It’s 45° F.  “It’s cold Dad.” I look down at her bare red legs pockmarked with goose bumps: “Why aren’t you wearing nylons?” She snaps back at me: “Really Dad? Nylons. Nobody wears Nylons anymore? That’s creepy.

So, now I’m on the wrong side of 50 and creepy.  OK, so it wasn’t a focus area. And, it’s not that I haven’t looked at women’s legs. And there you are, a flat stone skipping silently across the water, jumping decades of fashion revolution. [Read more…]

Dear Daddy

daddy-book

Going up Sixth Avenue in a taxi, your grandson said, “Mommy, aren’t there so many amazing things in the world? Aren’t we so lucky to be alive?” That’s you in him, Daddy. He’s so like you, full of extremes and heavy on the dream space. Both kids put their fists up for each other and I know that would make you happy.

[…]

My children may never see me hunched over a checkbook and sense my mounting panic, or come home late and find me in the street armed with a shovel as I take the driver of a car by the neck when liquor is smelled on him. They will watch me make much of their victories and hold a grudge until my last breath if someone treats them cruelly. This is your family I am running here. I can’t take credit for more than remembering to point to you when I do something right and for continuing to put one foot in front of the other when I lose heart. We all miss you something fierce, those of us who wouldn’t exist had you not kept walking when an ordinary person would have fallen to his knees. To convey in any existing language how I miss you isn’t possible. It would be like blue trying to describe the ocean.

[…]

Most of all to you, Daddy. That’s you in me, the far-off gaze. The poems are you, as are the good deeds and the jars of candy I hide everywhere. You are what makes me indomitable and how I know to keep walking when I feel crippled in every conceivable way.

~ Mary-Louise Parker, ‘Dear Daddy’ from Dear Mr. You


I bought this book yesterday and I’m finding it hard to put down.

“A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker. An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today.”


See NY Times Book Review: In ‘Dear Mr. You,’ Mary-Louise Parker Writes to Men, With Lust and Rue.  “That Ms. Parker’s book is so seriously good seems like overkill. But it is…”

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