Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pinetree Mystery: Installment #3

We simply could not wait to wake her,
Our daughter? the mystery maker?
            She woke in a fuzz
            But she knew who it was!
Of the note, she was just the caretaker.

Her story was this: Came a knock.
It was just after seven o’clock.
            Two folks we don’t know
            Gave a friendly hello,
And at last they were ready to talk.

But alas, we were out for the night.
The timing was not yet quite right.
            A folk artist was he,
            A writer was she,
They would just leave their cards and take flight.

But not without bidding us well,
With a promise their story to tell,
            Would we come the next day,
            Just a few blocks away?
This time we should ring THEIR doorbell . . . 

 . . . to be continued . . . not because I'm trying to hold readers
 in suspense, but to buy time for writing the next installment. 
Why I ever started this limerick idea, I can't imagine.  dkm

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Ongoing Odd Goings On

Continuing on with the history
Of the ongoing Pinetree mystery . . .
        With the limerick still up,
        We went out for sup,
To mark our 42nd anniversary.

We dined in a restaurant from Rome,
Then returned to the quiet of home.
        When we turned on the light,
         Right out in plain sight,
Was a little note taped to my phone.

The message said, "Mystery solved."
But for us, it was still unresolved.
         A note in the kitchen?
         Now that's just bewitchin'!
Does this mean our family's involved?

To be continued . . .

Friday, August 2, 2013

Frontyard Spectator

An honest to goodness mystery has been unfolding in my front yard for the past nine months. Turns out it has captured the imagination of the whole neighborhood. It's not exactly a topic for a nature blog, but if you will indulge me, it's a pretty good story. Maybe it qualifies for the blog as "human nature."

It started when I said I wanted a Little Free Library.  LFLs originated in Wisconsin as a memorial to the founder's mother, who had been a school librarian. They are dollhouse sized weatherproof structures that people fill with used books and mount on poles in their yards with a sign that says, "Take a book, leave a book."  To have one in your yard you can register online, and for a minimal fee, the organization sends you a numbered plaque and sign to be mounted on your own "library." As good concepts do, LFLs caught on and are now spread around the world. Over 6000 registered plaques have been shipped.

 LFLs are beginning to pop up in our bookish city of Decatur, Georgia. I love discovering new ones around town. So when my friend Kaaren and I found a discarded dollhouse, the perfect basic structure, my husband Moe mounted it on a pole in the front yard, intending to turn it into a Little Free Library for my birthday last November. I was beyond thrilled. The only trouble is, he didn't get to it right away. Nine months later the library is still not done, for good reason. Read the limerick to find out what developed.

Ode to the Mystery on Pinetree Drive

A dollhouse, outgrown and discarded,
From Burlington to Pinetree was carted.
       Intended to be
       A library free,
Right away, the new owner got started.

It would be the best birthday gift ever.
His wife would so love the endeavor.
       He’d build a new roof,
       Add a door, waterproof,
To keep her books safe from the weather.

But alas, his great plan had a hole.
His schedule was out of control.
       Too soon came the date.
       Her gift would be late.
But at least he could mount it on a pole.

He worked by the light of the moon.
It was worth it to hear her croon.
       “A Little Free Library?
       What a gift extraordinary!
And I know you will get it done soon.”

The weeks, they came and they went.
His time by his job was well-spent.
       Then one day sublime,
       In the fullness of time,
A small change became evident.

First—a tiny table and chair.
The mystery was, “Who put it there?”
       We questioned our friends.
       All leads were dead-ends.
So, how did it come, and from where?

Soon a miniature cupboard appeared.
Still, nobody volunteered.
       More pieces showed up,
       Nobody fessed up,
Though at each new arrival, we cheered.

A fireplace, a bed, and a stove,
Pieces tucked into every alcove.
       A bunny, if you please,
       And a pet Siamese,
Became part of the treasury trove.

An easel with original art!
A piano for performing Mozart!
       You were ever so clever.
       We kept hoping, however,
That your secret you soon would impart.

One morning the windows had curtains.
We had to find out now, for certain.
       Your ID, kept hazy,
       Is driving us crazy!
How long can you keep up this flirtin’?

Your wit simply can’t be outdone.
Your game was tremendously fun.
       From unfinished small house,
       To full furnished doll house,
No question, you hit a home run.

Our friends fondly watched it evolve.
We all will boo hoo the dissolve.
       With a story to tell,
       And our thanks, fare thee well.
Of your housekeeping duties, be absolved.

The dollhouse will soon be replaced,
With a library for readers with taste.
       We finally hired
       An architect, retired,
To finish the job, post haste.

One hope remains from the fact
That you don’t have your furniture back.
       We’ll return it toot sweet,
       If you appear on the street,
To join us for wine and a snack.

                             Deb and Moe Miller

The morning after we took down the dollhouse and furnishings, at last to make the library, a small sign appeared on the empty pole that said, "Boo Hoo!" I was out front doing yard work that day, and tons of passersby stopped to add their regrets and ask what happened to the house. Apparently, even people we didn't know had been enjoying the mysterious dollhouse development. They all had lots of questions.

So I wrote the limerick and hung it on the pole, mostly to share the story, but also as thanks to the trickster, on the outside chance it was someone we didn't know—someone who might not have heard how much fun we'd been having with the mystery.

I should add that even though all our friends denied involvement, we were pretty sure we knew which one of them was the trickster, because his now grown daughters had once had dollhouses. It had to be Tom. The prank was so like him. Still, he was a good and persistent liar if he were the guy. Just in case it was another of our friends, I hoped the limerick would inspire whoever it was to own up to it with full disclosure. Tune in next week to find out what happened after we hung the limerick. dkm

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

On Being Still

One thing I've learned from my backyard long-sittings is that when I'm moving fast, the world seems still. Strong, stable, and supportive—but still.  It's not until I stay still and quiet for an extended period of time that the backyard livens into activity I couldn't have seen while crashing through with a compost bucket or garden rake. 

Take this morning, for example. First it was the barely audible tap tap tapping of a downy woodpecker, finding breakfast in the dying hickory tree with industry and determination, resting every now and then to offer its distinctive descending whinny. In the grass hopped a pair of Eastern Towhees—one following the other. At first I thought it was the less colorful female pursuing her more vivid rufous sided lover. Odd, in bird world. But on closer inspection, it appeared to be a disheveled fledgling having a training session with its father, learning the art of towhee foraging behavior.  A chipmunk investigated an old cement planter. The ubiquitous squirrels scampered around the yard—I counted six of them at once. A messy fledgling brown thrasher preened in the holly tree, and tested his wings, flitting from branch to branch before taking off across the yard. 

Then, oh precious then, a tiny furry bunny ventured into the grass to nibble on something. Clover?  I've noticed that rabbit hole in the walk path. Not far away, an adult rabbit nibbled too, so still I almost missed it. Noisily, the cardinals, nuthatches, chickadees, titmice, and finches flutter around the feeder. Pichickory-pichickory-mew-mew, call the goldfinches. A Carolina wren sits in a ray of sun on the hummingbird feeder pole, singing his exuberant heart out. With uptilted head, open beak, heaving throat, and quivering tail, he throws his entire body into the effort of his chee-boogie chee-boogie song. Soon a female joins him. Off they go together for a tryst in the woods. 

All of a sudden the bluejays erupt into raucous warning. Who knew there were so many so near? Such a flurry in the grass and trees as everybody disappears, and sure enough, a broadwinged hawk soars overhead. I love the bluejays for their vigilance. They are to bird world what journalists are to ours. The hawk whistles and disappears too. Quiet returns. 

In the Wayback, a large branch cracks and falls through the trees. Frightening sound.  Probably a result of our recent heavy rains. I'll investigate when I take the compost out later. Now the crickets begin to buzz, and the mourning doves coo in the distance—lazy summer day sounds. The sun emerges above the canopy, making it suddenly hot. Time to get this day started. 

Usually, I try to choose the single most significant observation to blog about. How could I have chosen today?  dkm

Friday, July 19, 2013

The Coolness of Dew

It's the grass this morning—the lowly grass of home—and the way the dewdrops cling to it. In places gray, in places green—odd patches of color—accentuated when viewed at a slant from a ground level seat on the front doorstep. Quiet. Comforting. Cooling. Inviting.

The sun is not yet above the eastern canopy, yet the day is already warm. After an invigorating walk with the Ya-yas, I'm drenched in sweat—and hot. The grass is covered in dew—and cool. I want to roll in it, but what would the neighbors think?

Moe often tells me he loves to walk through the wet grass in his bare feet when he goes out for the morning paper.  He says its a nice way to start a day.  I try it. He's right.

Now I really want to roll in it. Still, I resist. If I ever saw any of my senior neighbors prostrate on their lawn at dawn, I'd call an ambulance. I envision protesting to the EMT, "No really, I was just sweaty." So I content myself with imagining. dkm

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Two in Three Million

It was a soul enriching vacation. Tourists we were, with little time to sit, to be, to reflect; yet awe and wonder is what Moe and I experienced every day we spent in the natural ecosystems of Colorado and Wyoming, even with other tourists around. 

After our nephew's breathtakingly memorable wedding on a big flat rock overhang on Shadowcliff Mountain, above Grand Lake, Colorado, in a wind so high we feared the bride and groom and minister might be blown off their rock, we took a leisurely two-day drive through open range and sage brush flats,


toward Jackson Hole and the fabled national parks of northwest Wyoming, Grand Teton and Yellowstone. In the Jackson Hole area we stayed for eight days in a one-of-a-kind B&B inn, Becker's Teton Treehouse, hand-built on a mountain side, in a lodgepole pine forest by the innkeeper himself from lodgepoles on the property. Built on the ground, yes, but 95 steps up the mountain from Heck of a Hill Road, above Wilson, Wyoming. 

For guests, the steps are the only access to a house so tightly surrounded by trees that from no single vantage point could you see the whole thing. Having six guestrooms on different levels, unique interior stairways, and multiple balconies in the treetops, it's like The Swiss Family Robinson treehouse, only it has way better amenities. A real storybook adventure. 

Each room is named for a different bird, native to the lodgepole forest. Our room was The Hummingbird.

Aptly named. Rufous, Broadtailed, Caliope, and Black-chinned hummers came to the feeders all day every day, dive-buzzing around our heads on the balconies. Of the four hummer species, the Rufous males were the most aggressive, and exciting to watch. They almost looked like furry rust-brown bats, and I thought at first they were, until I got a close-up look at them at the feeders. Since we only see Ruby-throats in the southeast, these hummers were a grand unexpected pleasure and only the first of many during our eight day stay, making me itch to return to blogging. 

This is probably a female Caliope, but not sure because the females all look alike.

The second pleasure was meeting the innkeepers, 
Denny and Sally Becker.

He, a former wilderness guide and artisan builder; she, a former school principal and artisan baker; they were so knowledgeable about how to navigate the touristy areas of Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone, that we never once felt overwhelmed by crowds. Quite the opposite, we felt among a privileged few who had the opportunity to experience that magnificent landscape in a unique and special way via the able direction of a seasoned guide, all the while knowing we were were really just two of the three million annual visitors to the carefully preserved ecosystem. More unexpected pleasures of the Wyoming landscape in upcoming posts, with high hopes to stay more regularly at it, for a while at least:-). dkm

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Back soon!

It's not for lack of breathtaking moments in the backyard that I haven't posted for a while.  There was that fluffy fledgling wren on the deck, so new she didn't fly away when spoken to, the new kid twins on the goatfarm, the sun glancing off the creekwater in a way supernatural.

A squirrel with a cut off tail came for help to the door. I swear, he knocked.  Dozens and dozens of redwing blackbirds on their early trek north, the birdfeeder emptying in 1.5 days during migration season, the multitudes of goldfinches. And dare I mention the goddess mothers?

I'm still enjoying your blogposts, but not commenting these days for fear of getting lost in the fun and never getting back to my own stuff.  Meantime, working on writing of another kind. Don't give up on me. Will post regularly again when I finish this cussed little work of fiction. Be back soon! dkm

Saturday, September 8, 2012


I'm intrigued by Blogger's "popular post" feature under the Stats tab.  You can set it to show your most-read posts by the week, month, or all time.  Doesn't matter which timeframe I select, an old post titled "Surprising Hawk Poop" is almost always the most read. Another one that shows up more often than not includes a photo of the scat left behind in a bluebird nest after the fledglings have taken their first flight. I used the term "blobs of you-know-what" in the text of that post.

So, do I take this to mean that all a blog-writer has to do to generate a wider readership is wax on about the extraordinary wonders of bird poop? Such a curious species, homo sapiens. If the future anthropologists of a differently evolved life form from another planet ever study us, I'd love to know what they conclude. dkm

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Friend or Foe?

If it hadn't happened twice before, I'd think of it as simple coincidence, and that I just happened to be sitting in a momentary hovering place of a hummingbird when it flew near to me. But after yesterday's third encounter with a tiny glistening thing zooming in close enough to look me in the eye, I've come to believe our ruby-throated hummers are a delightfully curious species—and that it might have been the exact opposite of coincidence. Is it possible they zoom in intentionally to wherever I'm long-sitting for the purpose of checking me out?

Yesterday morning I was enjoying a second cup of coffee on the deck, having just seen Sarah and the children off to school, when a ruby throated fellow caught my eye zooming from the feeder to the cherry tree. Next thing I knew he zoomed to a hovering place about ten feet in front of me, then closer, to about two feet away, where he hovered sideways, the better to get a good look at my face. I could hear the hum of his wings. He is aptly named. We looked directly into each other's eyes for a long and breathtaking moment. I don't know what he was thinking, but I was fully entranced.

I like to imagine he carried a message from the universe that it was time to get writing, but he was more likely on a mission to discover what kind of creature would sit so still for so long, and if I posed a threat to his kind. He must have determined me safe because he went directly to the feeder from my sphere of energy.

It's not unusual to see hummingbirds at the sipper now, nearing, as we are, the southward migration season.  But to stare one in the eye was a magical experience that transported this writer straight into her story. Thank you for that, Mr. Literal Redneck. dkm

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

A Graceful Surprise

I call them pearls. I receive six of them every day. Six quiet hours of writing time during which the children are in school.  It's a term borrowed from Virginia Woolf, who named a free day in which to write, a "pure and rounded pearl."  I rarely have a fully free day, and when I do, I waste much of it, so I've chosen to attach the designation to a free hour. It has made all the difference.

To receive six pure and rounded pearls of grace in a day is a gift unimagined, brought to me by daughter Sarah and her children. It makes for more productive and focused writing. At long last I can see the end of the little work of fiction I've been playing with for the past SEVEN years (!!!!), have even gone so far as to claim a goal to finish it off before my next birthday, two months from now, thanks to having grandchildren move into my house.

The astonishing thing about all this is that I didn't realize it was happening until a hummingbird pointed it out during my long sit on the deck this morning.  More about that surprising encounter next post.  dkm