A lion sits on my bed, a little lion, named Little Growler. He clambers onto my pillow each morning after I make the bed. Hello Little Growler, I say. He guards the small house all day. And he shuffles off to his secondary perch when I draw back the blankets at night. He does not demand anything of me. He does not growl or bark or mewl or drool. He does not whine or glare or fume. Little Growler came to stay when I moved away. She brought him with her one day and introduced us. She knew I was alone now. She was 9.
When she turned 10, Olaf skated home with us from Disney on Ice. He joins Little Growler with a grin that refuses to dim. Pooh Bear with his round rumbly tumbly completes the trio, wandering in from California when the girl was not quite 2 and we met a giant Pooh and a giant Tigger and they happily squeezed in with us in a photo of the family: together.
I wave to the threesome at night – company in the dark is comforting – and manage to smile and say Good night little friends and remember Hannah at 9 and 10 and 2 and know we have had some happy times and I am not irreparable and I am very much alive and moving into something mysterious and beautiful and that Little Growler will be perched on my pillow when I come home at night.
They Fell from the Sky
Hundreds of them. Eared Grebes. The birds precipitated from inside crystalline clouds where the sunlight flashed in an infinity of ice atoms swirling and refracting in a frozen explosion of brilliance, as if the sun raged coldly right there inside the clouds. The birds became utterly hopelessly disoriented in the icy intensity, blind, not knowing up from down. Hundreds of grebes dropped from the mists to bounce into buildings, cars, trees, yards, and parking lots. And there she stood, unmoving, in my parking space, her olive-brown feet stuck frozen to the ice. My office key made a crude chisel for chopping around her toes – they bled and flaked skin already. I wrapped her in my coat and sat her in a box by my desk, with cracker crumbs and a bowl of water.
The children begged to open the box and see what was scratching inside, and exhaled exclamations of wonder when they saw. What IS it? She’s an Eared Grebe. Look at her pointy black beak, her long flaring golden feathers that look like ears, and her crimson eyes. Do you know what you call a group of grebes? A Water Dance! Can’t you just picture the family flapping and paddling and splashing their delighted dance on the lake?
What are we going to do with her? Can we fill the bath tub? Our grebe paddled around with obvious enthusiasm. What are we going to feed her? How about fish! Tub-side with a bag of goldfish, the children clamored for the privilege of feeding their bird. Our compromise: eight hands held the bloated bag and poured. She darted after the fish in a flash of black and gold and red, a little paddling package of magnificence. Look at her feet – no webbing. Look at how her toes unhinge with little retractable paddles. Wow! came in whispers.
That needling question of what to do with the bird in the bathtub? We would try a nearby pond, and hope for the best. The children watched her swim away and they looked sad and happy and I sensed how singular a blessing to have welcomed that bit of living feathered grace into our human home, to release her willfully, to be moved by her wildness and beauty. And I hoped a small sliver of that exquisiteness would stay behind in memories of hinged toes and golden ears and red red eyes, and of creatures that dance on the water.
(Image by David Mark from Pixabay.)
Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season.
The Wrong Shade of Blue
On my desk stands an assortment of cheap pens, conference swag stamped with the names of cities and malls, colleges and garbage haulers, hospitals and law firms, architects and engineers and janitors. Some are fat and uncomfortable to grip, like writing with a broomstick. Some scratch the paper with stiff unrolling ball points. My favorite boasts a three-inch ruler, a level, and a screwdriver bit in the top: the engineer. The pens rise from a rough clay jar we turned so awkwardly on a wheel when we were together and laughing and making a memory – Continue reading
This was his modus operandi:
arriving at a mountain lake and settling the family with picnic baskets and chairs and tackle boxes and poles, our father walked the perimeter, heading off on a trail if there was a trail, through bushes and over-and-around tree trunks if there wasn’t, to scout the best fishing and to gather perspective of lake and forest and meadow and bog and picnicking family from every vantage point to find what he could find. He looked small on the opposite shore Continue reading
Curtains and Veils
Only a cloth curtain separated the little boy’s anticipation of surgery from my own. But he was only two and didn’t know what was coming and had two kind parents who spoke in cheerful optimistic soft voices and kind nurses and kind doctors who smiled and were soft and kind.
I am always very careful to say nothing when awaking Continue reading
A Tree to Remember
At the time, I felt proud and childlike and utterly cheerful to plug in the new two-foot-tall artificial Christmas tree with multi-colored lights pre-strung—just slide it out of the box and plug it in—and skirted with a checkered flannel pillowcase hiding three plastic feet. I hung fragile little ornaments I keep in an egg carton. This lighted loaded twig brightened my living room, a quiet understated new friend demanding nothing of me, content to glow and keep me company. Continue reading
That was the morning I awoke late and feeling groggy and foggy and depressed and sluggish, as in, like a slug. And I had been feeling so well. I will never take melatonin again at one o’clock in the morning, or for that matter at any other time of the day or night again ever. Which I also said the last time this happened. The tablets I have flung in the trash, and the bottle tossed into the recycling box for the next time I visit my parents, who have a giant green plastic recycling can the city empties Monday mornings. Saturday is a good day to do the laundry, I shrugged,