Learning Like Cardinals

Mr. and Mrs. C, from March 2017

When I moved into this house, I stuck a long metal pole in the ground outside the kitchen window, and hung a bird feeder on a hook at the end of it. I had every intention of keeping it full, but that didn’t work out so well. Mostly for the birds.

Earlier this year, that feeder finally fell apart from years of being in the rain, snow, and sun. So I bought a new one, and told myself that this time, I would keep this one full, without exception.

I brought it home, and filled it up with birdseed and some old pecans and almond slivers because I think Cardinals like that stuff. Soon a gang of sparrows started showing up, and not long after that, a pair of Cardinals. But then I discovered I had another problem.

The new bird feeder had a very narrow ledge. The sparrows could land on it, and still get to the birdseed. But the Cardinals would have to practically land sideways on the thing, and couldn’t reach the birdseed because they were sitting too close to it. I pointed this problem out to Marcus, who thought about it and then took the bird feeder to the shop. It came back with some Mercedes parts and two pieces of a wooden dowel added on. Voila! Perches that sat several inches away from the birdseed. The feeder was now Cardinal friendly. And they came back and have been very happy ever since.

I make every effort to keep the feeder full of tasty birdseed for anyone who wants to show up. So far we’ve had sparrows, the occasional finch, wrens, even a few catbirds have done a quick flyby. But the cutest visitors are Mr. and Mrs. C. Did you know Cardinals mate for life? Curious behavior, if you ask me.

A few weeks ago, Mr. C started bringing Junior with him. Junior is an awkward teenage Cardinal. Kind of gangly, a little unsure of his footing. He makes the trip to the feeder, but stays on the fence or on the ground, fluttering his wings and squeaking incessantly, waiting for Dad to bring him something good.

The young bird is old enough to fly to the feeder, and he’s even tried to land on the metal pole, and the bush next to the feeder. But he hasn’t yet figured out how to land on the feeder itself and scoop all the unwanted seeds onto the ground in search for sunflower seeds or pecans. He still waits for Dad to take care of that part.

Some days, I feel like Junior. There are people in my life, or things that happen, that lead me right up to that metaphorical bird feeder, but I can’t quite figure out how to make the jump onto the perch and get to the good stuff.

This also brings to mind that old proverb about leading a horse to water. But I don’t have horses in my yard so you get the bird version.

I’m grateful that I’ve had good teachers and good role models throughout my life, and I’ve come across great things to read and do and see. But sometimes it feels like there’s still a huge disconnect between intellectually understanding how something works, and the actual doing of it, or the actual feeling of it. It’s like feeling smart and stupid at the same time. Or being in a state of perpetual awkward teenage-dom.

How will Junior Cardinal make that leap, that physical and proverbial leap, onto the feeder and become totally self-sufficient? What light switch needs to be flipped before he gets it? Is it learned behavior? Instinct? Intuition? Does he just watch Dad enough times to eventually understand he needs to just take one more jump from the fence to the feeder, and freedom is finally his? I don’t think he’ll “understand” it until he “experiences” it.

What will it take for me to make that leap, for me to get that I am a fully capable human being, and that I can accomplish great things? Or at the very least, that I can take care of my own body, all my stuff and my wonderful, (often over-active) mind?

I don’t know where Mrs. C has been. Maybe she took a much needed girls trip to the seaside.


Stuff From The Beach

Caution: This Post Contains Sentimental Drivel

It’s my last full day at Sunset Beach, and as well as still feeling a little meh from Saturday evening’s food poisoning extravaganza, I find myself also feeling melancholy. This always happens when I get ready to leave.

Earlier today, I went over to Rose Park Roasters for what may be my second-to-last coffee there (not that I’m counting, because that number would make me even more sad). The route takes me up PCH into Long Beach, to 7th Street, then left on Redondo, right on 4th. I was already feeling a little sentimental before I left, but as I drove I became almost maudlin.

Very few things elicit deep emotions from me – after years and years of practice, and a few good role models, I’m a true expert at stuffing feelings. Fear? Stuff it. Anger? Cram that way down there. Love? Grief? That all goes in there, too. Happiness? Some days I’m not sure what that is, but maybe that’s somewhere in there too. So it takes something close to a tsunami or other internal or external natural disaster for me to notice what I’m feeling. But when I drove down Pacific Coast Highway today, yeah, I almost started crying.

There is something about the stretch of PCH from Sunset Beach, through Seal Beach, towards Long Beach, that perfectly sums up my relationship with Southern California. There is a lot of history along that drive. My Dad grew up in Sunset Beach, I stay in his mother’s house when I am here. And I spent lots of time with my Grandma here when I was little. My parents lived in the apartment above the garage for a while, and when they were expecting me, they rented a house in Seal Beach. So that is the first “home” I went home to. I was born in Long Beach.

I always feel sentimental when I drive that stretch of road, but today there was a whole new layer of feeling to it. It was as if I finally figured out what about it makes me so teary-eyed. It’s probably obvious to everyone else, I am usually the last one to the Feelings Party after all.

It’s as if every time I drive that stretch of road, I search for connections along the route. I try to reach back to a time that was supposed to be happy and fun and carefree. Maybe I wish that I could have a do-over, or maybe I am just stuck in the past. I wish I could say that was a happy  time, and while I know there were definitely happy moments, overall it doesn’t feel happy to me.

Other than what kind of cookies are in the kitchen, and maybe having to do a little math homework, you’re not supposed to worry about stuff as a kid. And maybe that’s all I did worry about back then, but I have a feeling that there were heavier things on my mind, things that weren’t so kid-like, things that would be better forgotten. I’m not saying anything BAD happened to me – at least I don’t think so – I think it was more a case of having to grow up and start adulting a little before I should have. To be honest, I have forgotten most of it. Or rather, stuffed it all.

When I drive down this stretch of road, I associate this place with home. I connect with the place, my physical body connecting with the memories and feelings still tied to this stretch of the California coast. Maybe one day, I can let go of it all. Which is different from pushing it down, down, and still further down.

It is hard to even write this, it’s like, feelings and stuff, you know? Who cares about that? Repressing it all has worked great so far, right? So for now, I’ll push it away again, and think about what I could have for dinner that won’t hurt my stomach. Because after pushing feelings down for so long, they’ve all ended up there, and most days, they don’t like food. Maybe one day, I can let go of it all.

Today’s Rose Park Roasters cappuccino. Fraught with emotions but still delicious.


Looking at stars from the hillside…


Yesterday, I reconnected with an old acquaintance. His name is Darren. I had actually found him on Facebook in December of 2014 and had sent him a message, but since we weren’t technically “friends,” Facebook filtered the message and he only just now saw it.
2014 or 2016, it doesn’t make much difference since we haven’t actually seen each other since 1990.

In 1990, I went to a family reunion weekend in Napa, California. 3 days spent with relatives, enjoying very decadent activities – at least they were to me, anyway. Things like casino night, a Moroccan feast, some hiking, and a lot of wine drinking occured. Not part of my everyday routine.

One evening, an astronomer was hired to give us a tour of the night sky. A camp site was chosen up the mountainside, and tents, tables, blankets, food, and everything else we could have wanted was driven up ahead of time to the campsite, along with the astronomer and his very large telescope. We had a delicious meal, and were regaled with the astronomer’s knowledge of that vast darkness above our heads. I guess it still counted as “camping” but I had never experienced that amount of luxury on a mountainside before, and I’m not likely to ever again.

That weekend was when I first met Darren; he was working for my uncle at the time, and over the weekend he helped out with things around the house and property, including setting up the aforementioned Fancy Camping Trip. I took an immediate liking to Darren; he was friendly, intelligent, and genuine. Sometimes I found my family to be intimidating. This has everything to do with me, and nothing to do with them… their accomplishments and successes, when compared to mine, seemed fantastical. It was easy to take a break and talk and spend time with Darren. And it probably didn’t hurt that he was also very handsome. Let’s face it, that never hurts.

After that weekend, I think we wrote letters back and forth a few times (pre-internet, can you BELIEVE it??), but then lost touch with each other, as people sometimes do. I still thought of him from time to time over the years, and a few years ago it occurred to me to look for him on Facebook. I thought maybe I had found him – it only took a year and a half for him to confirm that I had!
We messaged a bit yesterday, and caught up a little bit on each other’s lives. I’m sure we both have a lot more story to tell, who knows if it will ever get told. But reconnecting with him made me think back to that weekend in 1990, and how fun it was… but it also made me think back to the person I was in 1990. Because that woman is very different from the woman who is writing this now.

Imagine being 21 and going up a mountainside one night, where you are treated to a fantastic meal with fascinating people, and are given an earth-based tour of the heavens. Do you remember looking up at the stars when you were young? Not 10 years old young, but early 20’s young. Or if you are young now, what do you think about when you look up there?

Everything up there in the sky represented possibility. Think of where you will go on this amazing life journey! Up hills to fancy camping trips! To beautiful places with fascinating people! You imagine going everywhere and anywhere you want to. The possibilities are endless.

These days, when I look up into the night sky above my house, and the city lights are dim enough to allow me to see the stars, planets, and the occasional shooting star, I’m more likely to think about things like, where will I go after I die? Will I head out that way somewhere when I leave this earth?

I’m not a morbid person, by any means. It’s just fact that I am now closer to the end than the beginning, and my thoughts turn to the more fleeting aspects of “life” and what it means to inhabit, and at some point leave this physical body. It’s still about possibility – just a different set of possibilities.

The young woman who met that nice young man that weekend back in 1990 is still in here somewhere. She still dreams of accomplishing great things and she still dreams of traveling. The parameters have just changed.

I wonder if Darren thinks about these things, too.



Anniversary Thoughts

anniversary thoughts


First Thing In The Morning…

My birthday was also our 4th anniversary of being together.
When we first started dating, we bought a jar of local honey to use for our Sunday breakfasts- it crystallized right away. Since then we’ve been keeping the jar going – adding new raw honey before the old is used up, keeping it crystallized. I like to think there’s a tiny bit of the original honey in there somewhere.
There’s a metaphor here for our relationship – but I’m too sleepy to overtly point it out.


Birthday Thoughts

Yesterday was my birthday.

Every so often, I get the words just right, and I’m able to write them down and actually express my thoughts and my feelings. I think I accomplished this yesterday when I wrote this.

Last night, I was awake for a while, for some reason… I remembered it was my birthday, so I started thinking about getting older, and where I am in my life right now. I asked my mom for guidance – asked her what she thought I should do. And the answer came back quite clearly.
She told me to rise up over adversity. She told me to be the bird that I know I truly am – fly up and over and away. Transcend humanness, radiate spirit.
She has been with me all day, and the birds have been singing nonstop.
Thanks, mom.