Tag Archives: birds

When December Comes

Kansas writer, adoptive mother


The mice have returned and it’s no surprise after Thanksgiving’s ice storm. Who wouldn’t want to seek shelter from that? These mice don’t likely remember the terrible ice storm of 2007, but I do. I remember the chill down in the bones that wouldn’t go away, the dirty dishes that got set out in the snow as there was no water to wash them, the horse tank frozen solid. What seemed like the kind of adventure a pioneer gal should experience became a reminder of how little I know of what it takes to be a real pioneer. In fact, I don’t expect to ever know that. These days, in this country, we assume the utility companies will restore the light and warmth and water—hot water, of course. The dishes will be brought in and washed, the thermostat will climb up to a comfortable level, and I will go back to being able to do all those things that require light, even after the sun goes down. During that great ice storm of 2007, my not-so-fun-adventure had an end in sight.

And speaking of ends and in this case not so pleasant ones, the cats got two of the mice, leaving one on the kitchen floor for me to nearly step on first thing in the morning, and the other under the couch where it was causing quite a stink before I figured out where it was. Another especially clever one got in my live trap, ate the glob of peanut butter, left plenty of those little black dropping they are known for, and went his merry way. I had already decided that I didn’t really want to catch any of these sweet creatures (I do find them sweet) until the ice was gone, until the temperatures had warmed a bit. When I would feel better about releasing them into a field. I want them to have a chance to find a good winter home.


Let Them Come In


The new snow so white,

white as the down on the Canadian geese

searching for an uncovered field,

white as the pompom on the stocking cap

worn by my daughter.


The snowman finished,

damp mittens spread out on newspaper

alongside boots and soaked pants,

the soup simmering on the stove.


I want to have a room for the birds,

the cardinals and sparrows and crows—

yes,  the crows.


I would invite them in

to roost in small trees grown in red clay pots,

to eat from feeders

painted flower yellow and sky blue

and hung from the branches,

newspaper underneath to catch the droppings,

for droppings there would be.


They would eat their fill

then go back out

into that bright white

in search of those still needing

to be brought in.


The ice and cold have been replaced with a stretch of almost spring-like weather with thunderstorms due tonight. But winter will return. I thought the mice had left, perhaps after seeing what the cats had in mind for them, but yesterday I found Bella staring under a bookshelf with that look of patient anticipation—so no, I don’t think they’re gone. I know they belong outside, as do the birds. But there are others out there who are not meant to survive in the wild. Who would love a place where their children’s damp clothes can dry. Where they can cook soup for dinner. Where they can watch the birds outside their windows. Where someone says to them, “Welcome home.”

December is here. The shortest day is drawing near. The bright white of winter’s sun won’t linger for anyone. It is time to let them come in.



Kansas writer


# Kansas writer   #refugees



Fresh Air for All Things Considered in the New Year











I had a dream last night—so full of disappointment that it still hangs over me as I drink my third cup of tea (strong with milk) and watch the birds feeding outside my sun room windows.  I was on a panel about adoption, a panel of twelve to be interviewed on NPR’s All Things Considered.   But instead of being in a beautiful building in Washington, D.C., everything was shabby, from the motel where I stayed with my toddler (adopted?) son, to the small NPR building with the outside iron stairs, to the hot crowded hall outside the room where the interview was to take place.  I never saw that room, the room that I still hoped would live up to my expectations—the brilliant interviewer, the state of the art microphones, the leather padded chairs around the table.  I never saw it because I was five minutes late, along with half the other participants.  The door was shut and when it finally opened it was all over—“Sorry, maybe another time, come again.”  “But, hold on,” I wanted to shout, “I have something important to say—I am worthy to be on this show!”   But nobody seemed to care.  Not even a reprimand for being late—just a lack of interest in my lack of presence.  Now I can’t help but wonder if this dream had to do with one of my many daydreams—the one of being on NPR’s Fresh Air—-“And today our guest is author Ann Carter discussing her debut book, now a New York Times bestseller.  Written with wit and raw honesty, it details her experiences of adopting her two daughters. ”

Such expectations, such dreams, such disappointments.  On my third match.com connection, I imaged Macadamia Man (not his real name) to be as funny and intelligent and caring as his emails made him sound.  I had daydreams of anticipated weekend rendezvous, of visits filled with shared cooking and country walks, of quiet times on my screened in porch, drinking gin and tonic on summer nights, good scotch on warm autumn afternoons.  And always, always in these dreams, he made me laugh.  But it didn’t end well and I chided myself for my fanciful self, for my crazy and unlikely imaginings.   Were the dreams worth the disappointment?

Since starting my encaustic series, I think a lot about birds and I have no reason to believe they don’t have emotions too.   I can see it in the robin at the top of this post.  I can see the way he’s dreaming—of spring to come, of the rains that bring out the worms, of the sweet blue eggs that his mate will hatch.  And I look at all the birds outside my sun room windows on this cold winter day, the cardinals and chickadees and sparrows and my current favorite, the tufted titmouse—all working so hard to keep themselves alive, their dreams alive.  And I know that I’m not yet ready to give up mine.

So NPR, here I come, with book and children in tow.  I can see it clearly.  We have been staying at an old but classy hotel.   I am wearing an artsy outfit and one of my “signature” hats.  We walk by the reflecting pool of the Lincoln Memorial and then along the Vietnam Memorial Wall, a stone wall inscribed with the names of so many to remember, names that held dreams and disappointments of their own.  And I think about the young woman who designed this, a woman with a grand dream of what could be, in spite of all the obstacles she faced.

When we get to Constitution Avenue, we hail a taxi for the studio (with plenty of time to spare).   And now I see a man with us.  He is taking Rose’s hand as we get in the taxi, and winking at Helen (who is not sure she really wants to be here).   And in the taxi, headed to the Fresh Air interview about my bestselling book, this man turns to me and says something that makes me laugh.

Flocks of Linen












Two things that are lovely on this earth—flocks of birds and linen flapping on a clothes line.  Here’s a poem about them.


The Flock


They rise up like

billowing linen on a line

set free from wooden pegs

their ruffled hems fanning out

as borders of black and pink cross stitch

smooth into silent shades of gray

leaving behind airing pillows

and comforters stuffed

with feathers.


10,000 Hours of Playing Possum









It’s Sunday morning and I just received a text (wrong number):  “Please tell Jim I am having coffee with the Duke.  Ready to get to the rat killing.”   Well, I’m having tea beside Jack and Kosmo and not getting ready for rat killing.   Quite the opposite, if you’ve been following this blog.   Since last writing I have captured mouse “Theodore” and released him in a field of cut sorghum.  It took me several days to get to that, and what with my constant check-ins to see how he was doing, I think we grew rather fond of each other, or at least I like to imagine it that way.  But in spite of my attempts at kindness to the local wildlife, there was some violence here last night.  The dogs, now lying on the couch pretending to be quite innocent of their recent exploits, captured a possum.   After I called them off,  I did a not-so-close inspection.  There was lots of dog slobber but no blood that I  could see.  Before moving to the country, I would have been wondering what to do with this limp hunk of wet fur.  Was it suffering?  If so, would  I be able to do what it took to stop the suffering?  But I know better now.  It was “playing possum” and likely not hurt at all.  Sure enough, before going to bed, I checked out the spot where Kosmo had been forced to drop it…..no possum.

I have read that it takes 10,000 hours of practice to become an expert at something, but when did this little guy find that many hours to perfect the art of looking dead?  Really, it’s uncanny and something you need to see to believe.   Could those 10,000 hours come from the practice of its ancestors?   Are the hours stored as cellular memories?  I need to research the lineage of possums.  Birds come from dinosaurs and maybe that’s why they’re so bright—all those millions of hours of practicing one thing or another.    O.K., I admit I’ve recently been rather negative about the intelligence of chickens, but they used to peck at me as a young girl on my grandmother’s farm and I’ve never quite gotten over that.  But think about it—-birds can fly!  I have had dreams where I am flying and there is nothing better, and birds do it all the time (O.K., forgive me, but not so much with chickens).

If you got to this blog by way of my portfolio page, you will know that my latest artwork is about birds.   Birds in trees.  Birds on the ground.  Single birds.  Courting birds.  Flying birds.  (Yes, even one with chickens.)   Before I started all this, I didn’t think about how birds had played a role in my life.  But now I do and I explain that in my artist statement:


“So Many Birds….So Much Magic

I went to an encaustic workshop this past summer with a dear friend.  At first I didn’t see what the excitement was about, as I found the wax unwieldy and the results often less than attractive.  But as the four day workshop continued, I began to see the excitement involved in encaustic and all the many possibilities of using it.

But why a series on birds, a subject I’ve seldom used in previous art?   My favorite piece from the workshop was the back cover of a small book, showing several robins in the snow.  As I looked at this, I began to think about birds in my life.   The little female goldfinch that I believe started my journey into adoption.  The poem I wrote about the robin that came to my mother’s door every morning one spring and how she said to me, “I don’t need anything for my birthday….and besides, I have a robin.”  The way nothing quite moves me as watching the birds feeding outside my window in winter.   The Anne Lamott saying that keeps me going, telling me to accomplish my goals “bird by bird”.   And so, bird by bird, the series began.

Perhaps birds are magical because they represent our own humanity:  our vulnerability in what can be difficult and cruel conditions, our potential to bring joy and beauty to this world, and our desire to soar to great heights.  My hope is that, as you look at this series of bird images, you are reminded that nothing is too small or too commonplace to hold great magic.”


This series is now up at Strecker-Nelson gallery.  Each bird comes with a quote under the title card.   My favorite is one from Emily Dickinson:  “I hope you love birds too.  It is economical. It saves going to heaven.”  I love my birds and I don’t mean just the images.  I feel connected to them as if they were real.  The two bluebirds nestled side by side.  The gold bird sitting in a tree with red berries.  The robins looking for food under the late spring snow.   Especially the robins in the snow.  So many birds….so much magic.

Meanwhile, Bobby  likes to pose with some flowers that friends gave me at the show opening.  This replaces any thoughts of rodent scaring.   And I don’t really mind.  If there’s another Theodore, we can have a conversation through the metal  holes of his little home away from home.  And Bobby can watch the birds outside the window, where she can’t reach them, but can only wonder at how they got to be so smart.