Wednesday, March 19, 2014

That Meddlesome Crowd is Back...

All winter long I set out good seed for the birds. There are cardinals, blue jays, two different kinds of woodpeckers, chickadees, titmice, wrens, gold finches, sparrows, and nut hatches. There are a few others that come in, too, but I have not positively identified them. These are the birds that live year 'round at Spiritcreek farm. They tough it out along with the dogs, horses, chickens and me.

I buy excellent quality bird seed from a delightful little shop in Topeka, The Wild Bird House. The more I feed the birds, the more birds come to feed, so by this time of year, I am hauling home 25 pound bags of bird seed along with oats, dog food and chicken feed. I don't mind it because nothing in this life takes the place of bird song in the morning. All is well until the bad guys arrive - the red winged black birds, and their quarrelsome kin. Of course, they aren't really bad, but they live in flocks. They return from their winter vacation homes understandably tired and hungry. The problem is they descend on the feeders and literally empty them. There are only a few seeds left for the others.

Maybe it is not a bad thing. The arrival of the black birds corresponds roughly to the arrival of warm weather. As soon as it begins to warm up, the male song birds, (who live peacefully all winter sharing the food and space with their own kind and all others), begin to scuffle and chase one another. Love does not necessarily engender peace.

It is distressing to see the scores of black birds covering the little red bud trees where the feeders hang, waiting for their "free" food. We need red winged black birds to help control the insect population but oh my gosh, they are like a swarm, a plague, a twister consuming everything in just a few minutes! At the end of the day, I see the industrious little juncos and a few cardinals searching the ground for any left over seeds, and I feel sorry for them. Soon enough, the black birds will have spread out over the prairie to begin nesting. Then there will not be a huge flock of them decimating the seed supply intended for the song birds.

I guess I can spare a few extra bucks for the black birds, too.  I love to see the little males with their distinctive red and yellow shoulder patches, sitting on the fence wires in the summer as much as I enjoy seeing the cardinals in the snow.  It's all good.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

So Long, Little Buckaroo

Now I bid farewell to my good friend Cyberkit. March 3, 2014 he peacefully let go this world, escaping overwhelming physical suffering to embrace the beckoning mysteries with his usual confidence and good humor. Oh, my world is suddenly much smaller. I will greatly miss his good mind, his humor, his love and support, his friendship.

I met Kit when he came to Patti's Lodge in the late 1990's. His doctor's had given him sixty days to get his affairs in order because their medicines and procedures could not save him from cancer. He came to Patti for one final bid at life.

We became better acquainted each time we met at Patti's house for Lodge, but it was the miracle of email that sealed our friendship. We lived 8 hours apart by land travel, making regular visits a hardship. We found, to our mutual delight, that we had deeply compatible minds. And perhaps a bit like Helen Hanff and Frank Doel, we forged a wonderful friendship almost entirely through the written word - without the intellect and genteel decorum of Helen and Frank, of course. (Our coarse humor would have mortified the properly British Mr. Doel!)

After Patti died, Kit and I were left to console one another, facing our respective lives without her. We each needed the another, even though it was all through email. I often ended my letters to him with "Be brave, little Buckaroo", which became a silly thing to say after he became ill again. Anyone suffering with emphysema is the epitome of courage. It is a long, slow descent into physical hell with no hope. He was brave, and smart, and wickedly funny, and my good friend. He blessed my life. Now he is blessing another reality with his wit and constant love. Farewell, my dear friend. Farewell.

Pama mine, Nekan.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Meditation Woes

I have been attending meditation classes twice a month for the last couple of months, and I have been meditating at least once a day, and often twice a day. Meditation is such a simple thing to do. Meditation is such a nearly impossible thing to do!

Basically, all I have to do is straighten my spine, relax my whole body, take deep centering breaths, not pay attention to any mental thoughts as I attend to the breath entering and leaving my body. I either fall asleep, or my mind is so active that I simply cannot attend to the breath entering and leaving my body. This is a true challenge for the attention deficit disordered mind!

Baby steps - that is all I can manage toward this amazing methodology of exploring human consciousness. Maybe it will take multiple lifetimes to master meditation. It will give my immortal spirit a hobby, keep it out of trouble, I guess. 

Some of the instructions are designed to drive you crazy: be aware of being aware. What?! After trying that several times, it begins to make sense. Some things are beyond mundane expression.

I have it on good authority that practicing meditation is a worthy pursuit. His Holiness the Dalai Lama writes in the foreword of the Alan Wallace book Genuine Happiness, Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment, "When the Buddha and other great teachers of the past first gave these instructions, they did not do so in order that only Indians, Tibetans, or Asians should benefit, but in order that all sentient beings should find peace and happiness. It is my prayer, too, that whoever puts these instructions and words of advice into effect may find the tranquility and insight that is their fruit".

I am giving it my best effort.

Sunday, March 2, 2014


Of the fifteen winters I have lived here in my little corner of the Flint Hills, this has been the most extreme one. (It is the counterbalance to the winter-that-never-was a few years ago, when it never got below freezing the entire winter.) I provide food for the wild birds every winter. I do this to help the declining bird populations and because I greatly enjoy watching the variety of song birds and their peaceful sharing of a steady food supply. Unfortunately, the trees where the feeders hang are too far from the house for me to have the ring-side seat I enjoyed at the old house. The larger birds I can still recognize, but the little guys are just too far away for me to identify, except the juncos.

The juncos are easy to recognize because they are the first to arrive and the last to leave. Even when the cardinals, blue jays and gold finches have exhausted the feeders, the juncos are still scratching through the remains and finding the last little millet seed or bit of corn. All the birds scatter into the safety of the mature trees when I arrive with the buckets of seeds, but the juncos are the last to take flight. They only rise into the tops of the two redbud trees, safely out of my reach, but close enough so they can descend immediately when I walk away. This winter, they are even more reluctant to waste energy scattering for the big trees when they know I present no threat to them.

While I shake the feeders empty and refill the little nyger seed dispenser for the gold finches, the juncos patiently wait, whistling and making a pleasant musical twittering among themselves. One little guy has decided he does not even need to fly to the top of the tree, but remains just a branch or two out of my reach. Just like chickens, there are one or two birds smarter and braver than the others, who will avail themselves of every opportunity to get to the food first. If winter lasts long enough, I know I could coax the little junco to land on my hand and eat the seeds offered. That is, I COULD if Jake would stay the hell back! He already knows he is not supposed to follow me to the bird feeders because he hoovers up the seeds that fall to the ground. Each time I see the brave little junco, I put a few seeds in the palm of my gloved hand, and hold it up toward the bird. I mentally quiet my thoughts and consciously extend the energy of invitation toward the little bird. The instant I extend the mental invitation, Jake apparently feels it too and comes directly to me. The junco immediately flies higher into the tree, and I am so irritated at that dog that it ruins the chances of trying again with the little bird. Bad dog!