Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Cadence walks quickly but carefully, brown silky strands in front of her face as she stares intently down at the cups she holds, one in each hand. She glances up only long enough to be sure she is headed in the right direction; bare feet carrying skinny legs with dirty knees.

“Are you sure you don’t want to keep them to watch them change?” I ask trailing behind with the third cup. “I have an old aquarium in the basement.” I look carefully into my cup and notice that one of the three pollywogs has sprouted tiny legs and wiggles them along with his large tail.

“The lady at the pool said they tried to keep some once and they all died; every last one! I’m putting them in the pond where I put Tiny yesterday. He’s probably their brother even though he’s all the way to frog already.” She walks faster now, urgent to accomplish her mission.

Pond-side, she squats down on the edge of a flat rock over the shallow beside the bridge. “There you go little fella.” she coos as she pours the first cup in. Holding very still, she watches as the rescued waggle to safety. “They were just about to put the chlorine in,” brown eyes glance up at me, “I was just in time.” The second cup pours in and then the third. I watch Cadence coach the tiny swimmers on their journey to life and safety.

“Looks like a storm is coming,” I say, noticing the darkness inching closer, “We’d better go back to the house.” Cadence rises slowly and reaches for my hand. “You sure saved a lot of lives today.” Her dimple framed smile warms her face as she nods; the walk home needs no words.

Sitting on the steps, we see the first raindrops splat large and loud on the stone patio. “Be right back!” Cadence pushes up and spins on the steps, screen door sliding open. She is back in seconds, scrambles down the steps and squats down on the patio, thin fingers arranging a bottle cap, toothpick and large green leaf into a tiny lean-to.

“Ooooooh.” she stands frustrated as the contraption falls. Her head whips left and right, eyes searching until they lock onto her target. “Yes!” She lunges forward grabbing a child-sized, yellow, plastic garden shovel.

“Hello!” Brad calls, footsteps down the hall announcing the end of the workday. “You guys sitting in the rain?” He asks in passing, not waiting for the answer as he makes his way to the kitchen.

“The world is a better place today thanks to Cadence.” I tell him across the room as I watch her attempt to stand a flower pot on an angle upside down. “Saved at least ten pollywogs from the chorine and it appears as though she’s saving the ants on the patio from the storm.”

Cadence stands back to observe and climbs up the steps to sit beside me, rain spatter all around. “Oh, I’m not saving them,” she corrects me; “I’m protecting their dinner that I fed them, only I don’t think Dad will be happy that I am feeding the ants.”

She lowers her voice tipping her head to look at me, “Didn’t you hear the Rrrrr, Whoosh, Bang, Rrrr?” hands gesture pushing, pulling and scooping. “That was me scooping sugar out of the canister and I put a small amount at each ant hole.” She points to the little piles beneath the lean-tos. “I didn’t want it all to melt in the rain.” She said hopping up to make an adjustment to the shovel.

The sky rumbles low and deep and we move into the house. Cadence walks to the kitchen and purges her sweet truth to her father, who tries to conceal his frustration. “Cadence, I’m trying to get rid of the ants. We really don’t need to be encouraging them to live here.” he shakes his head, hand running over the top of his hair.

“Exactly Dad, you were trying to kill them for coming in the house but they have their own homes outside. They were just coming in because they were hungry. Now I bring them their food outside and they don’t have to come in, so you don’t have to kill them. You haven’t seen any in the house lately, have you?”

“I guess I haven’t.” He answers, lips rolling together; defeat spreading across his face.

Cadence’s shoulders lower with relief.

“Good, then my plan is working!” she grins.

“Makes sense to me,” I smile with one side of my mouth, eyebrows raised. “She sure saved a lot of lives today.” I add to plead her case.

Brad shakes his head slowly; his smile tells that he knows he will not win this battle. Hands on her hips, she nods with certainty and turns to leave the kitchen.

“The world is a better place because of her…” I offer.

“Indeed.” Brad answers. “That it is.”

Tuesday, June 05, 2007


The ceiling fan offers a faint, repetitious hum; gentle percussion. Brad’s muted snore adds the melody and conditions are perfect for sleeping in. The sky outside is gray but bright and I force my feet to greet the cool of the floor beneath me. The day ahead is timed to the minute and I know that a jump start will be more beneficial than more time in my slumber.

Abby pushes herself up off of her lamb’s wool bed; her gray chin and slow rise for the day remind me that she is an old girl. She is love beyond understanding and loyal to the ritual of escorting me down the stairs no matter the time of day. She waits patiently at the back door to go outside while I start the coffee. The untainted, truly unconditional love of a dog sits in my thoughts and reminds me of a piece I had written in my head that had not yet made it to paper. I push the small silver button bringing the coffee pot to an awake state; five little clicks tell me it is beginning its magic.

The house if filled with morning quiet and I find myself humming the song I heard at Jennifer Lauck’s workshop. “Three little birds… sat on my window… and they told me I don’t have to worry… summer came like cinnamon… so sweet…” I reached for the slider door handle, Abby rising to her feet, and I quietly pull the door open to let the dog out and the day in. Sliding the screen shut, I see them up to my left; three little birds, sitting on my rooftop. I smile at them and ask if they came to tell me I don’t have to worry. I wonder if they are the babies that have been living in the nest behind the fascia boards. Mother bird flutters to the roof from above and now I am certain that these are the babies emerged from the nest. They are blackbirds.

“Slow down and take time for the details…” Cadence’s life lesson rings in my ears. I go back to the kitchen to pour my cup of coffee, cool handle and hot steam; the first sip slides warm in my throat. I return to the slider to enjoy the blackbirds. The babies look very much the same as the mother, but their voices have a baby luster and they stand together at the edge of the roof. Mama bird flies to a nearby tree top, setting an example for her brood. One baby hops to the very top of the roof and flutters back to her siblings, testing her wings. The three utter soft throaty sounds and proceed to groom their flight feathers. The brave one takes another walk up and flight down, mama swooping in from above. Mama hops to the lower roof to join the other two and then takes off in flight, landing on a distant telephone pole.

The brave baby takes a short flight and returns, while the other two explore more of the roof. They groom and chirp, hopping up and down, flapping warm-ups while finding the courage. Brave baby makes her way to a nearby tree and then returns. She is ready for adventure and sure of herself. A second baby begins to flutter from one part of the roof to another, exercising caution as he ventures further This baby takes the time to check all things before taking his leap. He walks up and down as if measuring the distance from the top to the bottom of the roof, calculating the odds of success. He grooms some more, double checking his flight equipment.

Abby stands patiently on the steps waiting to come back in. I slide the screen slowly so as not to disturb the babies, glancing at the clock on the wall. I resign to the fact that I must start the day and head for the shower.

Later, I come back to the slider to find that only one baby remains. He hops back and forth along the edge above the fascia boards that hide his nest. His head tips to the side as he looks below and I think he wants to be back inside. He does not possess the skill of the mother bird, who could swoop and slide into the tiny crack below. I wonder if she built her nest there with that intention; he has crossed the threshold and he cannot go back.

Mama bird sits on the telephone pole in the distance. She watches carefully, flies to the rooftop and back to the pole, beckoning her last baby to follow. The baby continues to eye the nest and groom his feathers, not yet ready for flight. Mother bird seems to possess the wisdom that her baby is not ready. She keeps her distance, knowing that she cannot fly for him and gives him the time to find his wings.

I leave the kitchen in order to rustle the slumber within my own nest. The day ahead is busy and my three need to wake.

The first part of the day is easy; Cadence has her dance showcase performance, the culmination of the year’s efforts on stage. Cadence is the brave bird. She is the youngest of my brood but the spirit of flight runs strong in her and her wings are ever-ready. She flies for the sake of flying, loving the wind beneath her wings and takes to the stage with ease and joy. She dances and flutters with beauty and grace.

Brad hands her roses at intermission and leaves to help Tyler who is bracing himself for his first stage performance in the battle of the bands on our town green. He is a talented musician, but he is new to this band and has never performed to a crowd. Although first born, he is the bird that hovers close to the nest; fearful of flight, not trusting his own wings.

Cadence and I race to the green after her performance ends to see that his band is next in line to perform. Trevor is there helping his brother with move amplifiers and guitar cases. Trevor is my middle child, the careful bird; steady, reliable and I am happy to see him standing by with support. I see Tyler’s demeanor, the pacing and the guzzling of water. I know that in similar situations, fear has overtaken him filling him with panic.

My own anxiety heightens as I make a wide circle around the stage and settle on my perch in the distance. With the wisdom of mother blackbird, I sit back at wait for him to find his wings. I cannot keep him in the nest; I cannot fly for him.

I wait and trust.

The time comes and he clings to his water bottle, repeatedly sipping away at the nerves. The music begins and he holds the microphone, soft throaty sounds at first. I watch tensely from my perch as his wings spread and watch with joy as he takes flight. He soars with ease, music pounding around him and I settle back on my perch, grateful and relieved.

Returning home at the end of the day, I hurry to the slider door and look on the rooftop. All three babies are gone. Mother bird’s job is done. I see her sitting on the telephone pole, no doubt filled with gratitude and relief. I smile at her. “I know you’ll find yourself someday, somehow…” she sings.

I shut the slider door tightly and snap shut the lock, closing the day. The weekend was full of lessons where I least expected to find them. Wisdom is all around us, sometimes channeling through the least likely teachers. Much can be learned from eight-year-old girls and blackbirds, if we are open to the teaching.

Monday, June 04, 2007


With the residue of a Jennifer Lauck workshop pulsing through me, life took a firm and determined grip on me upon re-entry. My mind called to the duty of work and parenting, but glimpses of the faces and the teachings like a photo scrolling screen saver in the corners. Whistles of Corrine Bailey Rae “Three Little Birds, sat on my doorstep, and they told me I don’t have to worry…” pass through my busy mind like fresh spring breezes.

Much to learn and ponder and digest, but for now, the much to do calls louder. The weekend looming is filled; adding one drop more will cause the bulge over the rim to spill down the sides and I know that I must put the digestion of workshop morsels on pause for now. I zip down the hall in pursuit of a missing shin guard, bending along the way to empty the dryer in hopes of finding the green soccer socks. I lift the green laundry basket high over my daughter’s head, swooshing hips to the wall as I pass her in the doorway. Centering the basket on a kitchen stool, I move to the sink to put the breakfast dishes in the dishwasher.

“Mom, are you ready for a life lesson?” Cadence asks, the top of her head suddenly inches from my elbow. Her head is down, eyes staring intently at something in her hands. I step wide around her to grab the sauté pan off of the stove, stopping in my return trip to the sink to avoid stepping on her as she drifts across the floor, unaware of the mother ricochet happening around her.

“Sure honey.” I answer rinsing the pan and lowering it to the bottom rack. I reach for the box of dishwasher soap, prying it open with my thumbnail.

“You have to look.” she answers, knowing she has only a small share of my attention.

“OK, one minute,” I say pouring the little granules into the soap dispenser and snapping it shut. I kick my right foot back and flick it sideways, sending the dishwasher door shut. “Just let me finish this; we have to leave soon.” I say, pulling the spray hose to rinse breakfast bits from the sink and into the drain basket.

I lift the basket filled with dripping bits of bread and eggs between my fingers, cupping my left hand under as I lunge across the room to the trash can and bang the contents away.

“Mom,” Cadence says in a way that drags mom into three syllables, each one pointing out that I am not really listening.

“OK”, I say, replacing the basket and giving the sink one more spray. I move to join her at the kitchen counter. “I am ready.” Cadence smiles and nods once, dimple announcing that she is satisfied. She sets a clear plastic medicine cup on the counter, its pasty contents smell of baby powder. She holds the cup still and says, “Put your finger in very slowly.”

“What is it?” I ask as I gently poke my index finger into the cup, the cool, moist contents easing up around my finger.

“Baby powder and water,” she answers, “Now, slooow-ly pull your finger back out.” My index finger retreats, a small amount of powdery residue remaining. Cadence nods again, pleased with the results. “Now push your finger in fast!”

I push down quickly into the cup; the soft, wet mixture becoming instantly hard. I wiggle and force my way into the cup until my finger is to the bottom. “Wow!” I say, surprised at the effort it took.

“Now hard and fast pull your finger back out!” She says, eyes gleaming with excitement. She knowingly holds tight to the cup as my finger stays embedded resisting the pull; the soft, wet powder like dried cement. I tug and eventually my finger comes free.

“OK, so the reason this is a life lesson,” she says, glowing with the wisdom of ages, “is because this is what life is like. When you go hard and fast and pushing and rushing, things get hard. But if you take your time and go slow, things go more smoothly.”

“Who taught you this? I ask, feeling myself melt a little.

“Oh, well the powder and water we learned last year in science. But I was thinking about life and taking your time and this science is a good life lesson.”

Later at the dinner table, Cadence offers the life lesson to her father with equally satisfying results. “It’s like when you draw a picture," she explains, hands forward palms up. "If you rush and just get it done, it won’t be that good, but if you take your time and fill in all the details, it will be amazing!” I hear Jennifer’s voice echo in the corners of my mind where I hold the workshop wisdom, “Love your details, take time with the details, God lives in the details…”

I think about the teachers Cadence has encountered in her eight years. They have all complained that she does not pay attention:
Easily distracted
Doesn’t complete her work on time
Needs to be refocused
Goes off into her own world

Reading these comments to her from a report card last year, she dropped her head and said “yeah, that happens to me a lot. I just can’t help it Mom, the world is full of so many amazing things that when I see them or think about them, I just can’t stop!”

Cadence lives for the details. She came to teach us about life, I think to myself, “If you take your time and fill in all the details, it will be amazing!”