Wednesday, August 26, 2009


A few days ago, I looked out the kitchen window and spied a new visitor to the bird bath under the hemlock tree. No, it wasn’t another deer, and far be it from the birds to claim their private watering station! It was a squirrel taking a bath. Yes, a squirrel, bushy tail raised to me. A cardinal on the fence watched it splash about in the basin, and this sight prompted me to write the following bit of prose that I call:


Two close friends brought me the dirt-colored stone bird bath as a housewarming gift. It sits under the shelter of a tall hemlock surrounded by daylilies and peonies. Birds stop by, but they’re second visitors, deferring to deer and their fawns. Cardinals perch on the wooden fence and wait, sometimes until midmorning, before they dive down and sip at the murky water.

When my mother died, I know she reincarnated into her favorite bird –the cardinal. She’s one of the drinkers at the well in my yard. How else could she visit except as a transformed male cardinal, wearing the scarlet plumage she loved while she was in human form? There was nothing to cheer about in her life, but hues of red excited her, stimulated her garrulousness. When she opened her mouth, the flow was red – the blood of wounds and sickness, murder, war, and death. It was frightening. Death was just around the block. Cars crashed in the street. Tramps, as she called them, appeared with large croker sacks slung over their shoulders – bags that held kidnapped children who would later be carved up. Knives on the kitchen counter gleamed with the insinuation of stabbing. Knocks at the door announced assassins. Soldiers dressed in WWII uniforms fell on bloody bayonets. Barking dogs, teeth bared, stood ready to rip human flesh. Red flags announced family battles, the blood of kin beginning to spill, her Scots blood stirring, her blood pressure always rising. Flashing red lights of police cars cruised the streets outside our home. Sin lurked in the red sky of the early morning, the blood of saints and martyrs spilling into the day.

Red omen that my mother was, I now envision her as a cardinal, the one sitting on our fence watching me and the visitors to the bath, waiting for IT to happen. Meanwhile, she drinks from my fountain, envying me this life. Yesterday, I went out on the porch and told her to leave. The color red blazes in the pattern of every rug in my house – that’s enough of her hue.
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