Wren of grace vs All Hallows Eve

Today, so far I’ve: 1) jammed my little toe on that sneaky, hard maple dresser in the guest room in the darkest of the wee hours; 2) lost my footing on those wicked stairs down into the garage; and 3) had my forehead whacked by the edge of the evil washing machine lid.

I think I may have broken the toe. It’s quite sore, swollen and a blue around the base. But there’s nothing you can do about a broken toe. You can’t put a cast on it. And my little toe is so little I don’t think taping it to the uninjured toe next to it would do much good. So I’ve been icing it and trying to keep my weight off it when I walk. It makes for an interesting gait.

I was taking some recycling stuff to the bin in the garage. There are five steps down. Somehow, I mis-stepped on the second one, started to fall, grabbed the two-by-four banister and managed to stay on my feet as I slid/hopped down the other three steps to the floor. I twisted my back and my left hand is yelling at me for the unexpectedly heavy use. Lesson? Pay more attention on staircases.

There’s a sore, throbby knot just above my right eyebrow. That evil washer lid fell forward out of the blue just as I was leaning down and reaching into the tub for a single wet sock, one I’d missed while loading the drier. OWW!

It’s only 1:30 in the afternoon. I’m almost afraid to move—and there’s nearly a whole day and evening ahead, hours and hours during which I might unexpectedly add more mishaps to the running list. And my middle name has always, always been Grace.

And it’s Halloween.

Listen, Halloween spirits: We have treats to hand out liberally when the time comes tonight, so please, no more tricks? Take it easy on me.

Now, I think I’ll go make myself a cup of decaf. I promise to be extra careful with the boiling water.





A MacMasterful birthday present

Last night,  for my birthday, Mr Wren took me out to dinner at a favorite restaurant. Afterward, rather than point the car toward home he drove it in the opposite direction. He refused to say where we were going. He just smiled mysteriously.

Eventually, we arrived at the Three Stages at Folsom Lake College in Folsom—and my sweet man produced two tickets for world-class Cape Breton Celtic fiddler Natalie MacMaster’s one-night-only, sold-out performance.

Oh, what a huge surprise! I absolutely love Celtic music. I love the jigs, the reels, the laments and the aires. I love the jaunty, foot-tapping liveliness of the beat and the whimsical, whirling complexity of the tunes. A live performance of Celtic music is guaranteed to burst with wild energy, a here-and-now, pull-out-the-stops, gleeful celebration of life, laughter and camaraderie. And MacMaster, a native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is one of the best Celtic fiddlers in the world.

She and her band were absolutely brilliant. So was her six-year-old daughter Mary Francis, who played an amazingly complex reel on a miniature fiddle. And when she was done, that talented little girl joined her mama in a lively step-dance. MacMaster grinned, fiddled and danced all at the same time!

The evening was such an unexpected and thoughtful gift from Mr Wren. He gave me happy music and a happy memory for my 56th birthday.

Curious about Natalie MacMaster? Watch and listen to her here.

An autumn gift, just in time

Late this afternoon I went to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my mom, who isn’t feeling very well right now.  As I left the store and crossed the vast parking lot to my car, I suddenly heard, over the noise of cars and traffic …

Red-winged blackbirds. Singing. Trilling, filling the air with their songs.

I stopped next to my car, shopping bag with mom’s pills in my hand, and just listened, entranced. I’ve always loved birds and loved listening to birdsong, but I can’t really identify many of them. Was that a robin? A meadowlark? A flicker? A wren?

But I know the song of the redwinged blackbird by heart.

Many years ago I was canoeing around a pond at dusk while Mr Wren fished for crappie and bass from the shore. We were way out in the countryside, surrounded by low mountains, vast stretches of wildland and a few small farms, and it was very quiet.  I dipped the oar into the still water as softly as I could, not wanting to break the sweet silence even with the sound of a splash as I glided along. I was waiting for the muskrat I’d seen duck under the surface of the pond to reappear.

And then, to my right, a bird trilled. It was close. I looked, and there, in a thick stand of cattails was perched a red-winged blackbird, his bright scarlet and yellow shoulder caps glowing against his jet black feathers. He trilled again, his beak opened wide, his bright inky eye on me. I stopped rowing and sat still, watching. Listening. I was absolutely entranced. There was nothing in the world but me and that blackbird.

He flew off after a while. I didn’t hear him again. But that moment has remained utterly clear in my memory, one of those moments filed under “precious.”

And now, today, in one of the uglier places one can be in the world—a big asphalt parking lot in front of a ubiquitous grocery store—I was being regaled with not just a redwing song, but an entire redwing chorus. It sounded like there were dozens of them. A flock of blackbirds, every one of them singing the end of the day.

I looked for the birds. There were parking lot trees dotted here and there, but I could see no blackbirds in any of them. None sitting on the lightposts, either. In the end, I gave it up. The air was full of song, but the singers were invisible. I drove back to mom’s house, smiling like a goof and feeling like I’d been given a very special gift.

I’m grateful for it. I’ve been homesick lately, wishing for my own home in the mountains, where I wake up to birdsong instead of traffic noise every morning, and where I’m surrounded by a forest of evergreens, whispering in the breeze. Hearing those blackbirds singing today was like a cool balm to my soul. And I’m grateful, too, that autumn has finally arrived with her cooler days and nights and beautiful colored leaves. I’ve had more rheuma pain lately, no doubt because of the changing barometer, but with redwing blackbirds to listen to, I don’t mind.

Click here to listen to a redwing blackbird sing. Scroll down a bit to find the recordings of the various calls and songs.