I shot these photographs at the birdfeeder in my backyard this week.
Who is that tiny chickadee…and that strange little bird with the brown cap? Why it’s a Carolina chickadee sharing feeder space with his pal, the brown-headed nuthatch.
Like the chickadee, I am in Carolina (North, that is.) My husband has a sabbatical from September-May, and we are settling in for our southern sojourn. It’s hard for me to call a place home where I don’t recognize trees and birds, but I’m learning. On one of our evening strolls we were staring at a huge tree and wondering what the heck it was.
Me: Those leaves look like willow leaves.
Husband: But the tree’s massive like an oak.
Google: You’re both right–it’s a willow oak.
Not to mention the rhododendron looking-thingies on steroids, that tower above houses! Google tells me they might be Rhododendron maximum, aka Great Rhododendron. And speaking of towering, loblolly pines grow everywhere.
Staying in North Carolina has made me wonder about where I’m from. For the past 17 years, it’s been Michigan, although I’ve never called myself a Michigander. But in North Carolina, Michigan feels like home. This past weekend I attended the SCBWI-Carolina conference (which was great) and when asked where I was from, I answered Michigan. One person asked where I grew up. When I said Massachusetts she labelled me a Yankee. I wondered what my Jewish grandparents who emigrated from Eastern Europe would have made of that–but that’s how she saw me.
All these rambling thoughts reminded me of George Ella Lyon’s poem:
Where I’m From
I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
–George Ella Lyon, all rights reserved
(Read the entire poem here.)
When my son was in seventh grade (way back in 2000) his English teacher had students write their own “Where I’m From” poems. It was a terrific way to get kids noticing and writing about the details of their own homes. And this week I drafted my own:
I am from black-capped chickadees and
towering red oaks heavy with acorns
that storm the deck on humid nights,
pounding and pinging like summer hail.
I am from litters of squirrels
who creep down trunks,
daring to touch mossy ground.
I am from painted turtles and snappers
plodding across a gravel road,
a six-mile drive for milk and eggs,
a nightly chorus that changes its tune:
spring peepers then green frogs,
jug’o-rumming bull frogs,
cicadas and katydids,
Now I hear a different song:
rumbling trucks on a busy street,
thumping bass from passing cars,
a steady drone, a highway near.
Away from traffic
a piney yard bears magic:
carolina chickadees and
a daredevil squirrel leaping for seeds,
a carpet of needles from skyscraper pines,
a praying mantis on a window screen,
prickly brown grass under bare feet,
a thorny vine cracking cement
grasping and growing,
searching for home.
–Buffy Silverman, September 2013
all rights reserved
Head over to Dori Reads for this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup.