Self-styled creative retreat to T and J’s Michigan farm. Floyd and I are just getting settled. We sit out on the screened porch glider, listening to spring peepers, night birds, and one lone, distant jet.
I have escaped Chicago.
Sitting in the warm sunshine on the side door stoop, listening to the birds, I try to unwind this city self.
At the sound of a pickup out on the gravel road I jump up and holler for the dog, then realize he’s right there, sniffing happily at something in the grass just a few yards away.
I go sit on the back porch glider, dog trailing, and watch chicken tv for awhile. Chicken tv is extremely relaxing.
Things I forgot to bring:
- a belt
Things I have done so far:
- feed cats & dog
- collect eggs
- wash laundry and hang it out on the line in the sun
- set up creative work area
- set up digital work area
- email T&J
- text Chris
- drink coffee
- locate a crick in my neck
- train Floyd to stay close, come, leave Fern alone, leave Maisie alone, do not chase chickens
- shout and wave arms at three large circling birds of prey
- take many pictures
Birds I have seen:
- several breeds of chicken (cluck-cluck-clucking quietly to themselves as they peck around under the bird feeder then SQUAWK)
- red winged blackbirds (chuck-chuck-chuck or piercing cherroo— bullies at the feeder)
- something delicate and shiny black with an iridescent purple head
- something that looks like it’s wearing a tuxedo and a red ascot
- something smallish and grey with a black cap and white on its throat and cheeks
- sparrows with white racing stripes
- a woodpecker with a red head
Birds I have only heard:
- chickadee (chick-a-dee-dee-dee– which I hear in my mother’s singing voice)
- cardinal (cheer cheer cheer)
- crow (caw-caw-caw)
- something crying too-WHEET with a rising pitch
- something whistling whole notes round as a roll of lifesavers
- something going chur-chur-chur-chur-chur superfast
One of the neighbors is chainsawing for a long time. I imagine a big tree falling.
A chipmunk skitters by.
For a moment I think I hear a crowd or distant loudspeaker voice, but then I realize it’s one of the gigantic hovercraft bumblebees hanging suspended in the evening spring air.
It’s remarkable how sound carries out here; there’s been an unexpected backdrop of machine noise, loud against the pervasive quiet: field-plowing tractor, that buzz saw, what seems to be a motorcycle rally across the lake. And tonight from a new direction what sounds like someone inflating a gargantuan air mattress.
Continuing the list:
- red squirrels chirring and chattering from overhead branches
- identified: brewer’s blackbird (shiny black/purple head)
- identified: yellow bellied sap sucker (woodpecker @ feeder)
- potful of red wigglers underneath the doormat
- wren trilling and burbling up and down the scale with madcap glee
- red winged blackbirds, clear and sharp back and forth between the bird feeder and treetops
- fat matronly hens chuckling to themselves
At sunset the wind dies down and everything becomes quiet– all but a May-mad cardinal and the lumbering bumblebees. Spring peepers start up out in the marshy woods.
Crosslegged in wildflower studded grass, photographing 360• snaps, buzz saw just audible over the empty field to the east, occasional far-off jet crossing hollowly overhead, twin-engine grumbling crosswise at lower altitude, here and there a vehicle shushing by on the road down the hill, call and repeat from treetops and brush– and it hits me how this place got its name.