Hope Is The Thing With Wings

A hopeful drone ant

We’re all overwhelmed with grim stories from around the globe, so I’ll try to cheer the reader up with local news and old memories.

Invasion in Portland

First, our house has been invaded. I’ve been looking at the invaders and thinking of Emily Dickinson’s poem that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers,” only my poor brain keeps misquoting it as “things with wings.” In any case, we have a surfeit of winged creatures in our kitchen, all their little souls swelling with hope, eager to produce the next generation. Besides the perennial flock of fruit flies that hover around our compost bucket, we now have drone ants. It’s spring, when the males swarm out from their nest, yearning to mate with queens. Most of them won’t succeed, but a goodly number have managed to flutter inside. If they won’t crawl up onto my hand, I slide a stiff square of junk mail under them and put them back in the garden.

The most suitable piece of junk mail that hasn’t been recycled yet is an invitation to visit an assisted living facility. Apparently some marketing person bought a list of seniors in the area and is paying the mail carriers to blizzard us with sales pitches. I would like to find that person, and the slithering slimebag who compiled the list, and practice my martial arts techniques on both of them. Perhaps I should forgive them though, because they’re supporting the much beleaguered postal service.

The things with actual feathers haven’t invaded. They remain outside, either in the chicken coop or at the bird feeder or, if they’re hummingbirds, slurping nectar from the fuschia bush. The little ones have enough sense to keep their distance. As for the chickens, we prefer that they stay in the garden, since they aren’t potty trained.

More Winged Things

We already play host to a couple of honeybee hives, tended by the local beekeeper, and in return we get pollination throughout the warm months and a free jar of honey every year. This being Portland, we get plenty of rain and mud for the bumblebees to build their hives. We’ve managed to get rid of the yellow jackets and wasps, but they’ll likely come back. And mosquitoes, like diamonds, are forever.

Yesterday we added some more winged critters to the menagerie, nailing a nesting box full of mason bee larvae onto the greenhouse wall. They’re native and endangered, and are avid pollinators of certain crops the honeybees don’t particularly care for, like blueberries. We patted the nest box and whispered good wishes: “Live long and prosper. Safe hatching and many offspring!”

Some Vodka Related Memories

I hereby announce my contribution to the war effort. I’m boycotting Russian vodka. Just to be on the safe side, I’m boycotting all vodka, whiskey, wine, beer, coffee, tea, decaf, and chocolate. Matter of fact, I’ve avoided all those products for years. During my mid to late 30s, my body started rejecting stimulants and then gave up on alcohol. Even half a glass of beer will make me sick for a week. Marijuana was next to go. So nowadays I’m on the excruciatingly boring, clean and sober side—but safer than I would be otherwise.

I can’t fathom why people buy vodka, except to mix with tomato or orange juice. Without fruit it is about as flavorful as distilled alcohol. My upstairs neighbor thinks it tastes like industrial solvent. But in my late 20s I had a chance to try real Russian vodka—the kind you couldn’t buy in stores anywhere outside what was then the Soviet Union. I was working for an anthropologist whose special area of research was Eastern Europe, and was taking classes in Russian at Hunter College, as the boss had promised to take me there on her next trip. I still remember the instructor—Maria Tolstoy, granddaughter of the author.

One day a guy from the Soviet embassy came to visit. I don’t know what I did to merit his kindness, but he presented me with a bottle of Petrovskaya Vodka, actually made in Russia near Lake Onega. The label was in Cyrillic characters. The beverage was brownish in color and quite mellow—not harsh at all, and you wouldn’t want to spoil it with a mixer.

Once I’d finished editing her last book, the boss fired me. And just after firing me, she tried to get me to share the research I’d done on women warriors of the Caucasus—the ancient Scythians who apparently were the basis for the Greek stories about Amazons. Hah! As if I was that stupid! Later, when a friend called to ask why she’d let me go, she admitted that she didn’t want to take a lesbian to Russia. I was really pissed at the time, but went on to more rewarding adventures.

A Cartoon

I know, as it says in Genesis, that I am dust and shall return to dust. Still, I’d rather it not be a cloud of radioactive dust. But unlike the pundits who tell us how the current war will end, or what goes on in Putin’s brain, or what our government should do, I don’t have answers. What I do is keep in mind a cartoon I saw some years ago. It had two panels. The first depicted a white man walking down the street with a sandwich board which read, “Jesus is coming.” The man was scowling. In the second panel, a man who looked Chinese walked down the same street. His sandwich board read, “Buddha here now.” He was smiling.

Now, half a century after finishing that bottle of Petrovskaya, I try to emulate the second man’s attitude. Greet the chickens and song birds in the morning, the stars on clear nights. And lift my glass of H2O and drink a toast to the day, and to you readers whom I hope are amused by these meanderings.

ׄA votre santé!
На здоровье!


4 Responses to Hope Is The Thing With Wings

  1. Mary Ann Aschenbrenner March 22, 2022 at 4:44 pm #

    Oh, I loved this. Thank you for the uplifting post.

  2. Martha Shelley March 22, 2022 at 10:06 pm #

    Oh good! At least I made one person happy today.

  3. Connie O Byrne March 23, 2022 at 11:48 pm #

    Reading this reminded me of a post from a while back, about summer childhoods away from NYC. While we never could have afforded even a vacation to some far off escape from where we lived, we really didn’t need to. I grew up outside of Baltimore, out in Baltimore County on a ridge that happened to be literally the highest point in the county. They had to use the ridge across the way for the radio tower because there wasn’t any available land to put it. My Dad and some childhood buddies, who I think also served in the Army together, bought a 24 acre piece of land, splitting it three ways. So I had the free roam of all of that land. The best part to me was the stream between our ridge and the next one. We kids (my brother and several other kids in the flung out neighborhood) built small dams so we could trap the water and catch crawdads and minnows. I caught a lot of crawdads, but never a minnow…a stick with a long piece of string and a bent up safety pin wasn’t ever going to do that, but I didn’t know that then.

    The piece you’ve written this time reminded me of the other one…and since I’ve kept all of them in my Gmail “my stuff/notes from friends” file, I went back and read it again. Which brought back even more childhood memories. Like catching a ring-necked snake and taking it to school in my shirt pocket for my 9th grade biology class . Yes, I really did that. But then I also have a photo of my son about the same age with one curled around the side of his glasses.

    After my second, and final divorce, in 1980, I bought a small house in a small town in Southern Indiana. My kids had access to a much larger stream, one that actually fed into the Ohio River. And our house sometimes seemed like a zoo too. Not just because there were two kids, two cats and a dog in 800 square feet of house, but because we always had lots of other critters too. The list included a guinea pig, a rabbit, a family of mice, a pet rat and two ferrets (not at the same time), and a number of smaller things, fish, toads, frogs, ring-neck snakes… When they caught the smaller things (not the fish) they could have them in the terrarium overnight, but had to take them back where they came from (literally) the next day. Having been a biology major and taught junior high science, I knew things like turtles and toads have a home turf. Not so much frogs, any pond suits them. Not sure about snakes…lol

    My granddaughter now has a veritable zoo of her own, the latest member being a Blue Tongue Skink. It joined the 5 dart frogs (only two are the same), a parakeet (it belonged to my ex- partner’s mom), gecko, chicks, snakes and a dog, all shared with her fiance in the house in Southern Indiana that belongs to my ex-and that I shared with her. My granddaughter is almost 25 and tells me I’m to blame for all of the plants and critters. And for being an independent, strong-minded, not afraid of squat woman. She also used to bolster her self-image when she was in high school by bragging that her grandmother, who was raising her, was a lesbian.

    Long story short, thank you for this post and another memory journey. And a reminder that I need to start writing this stuff down. My grandsons probably won’t care, but my granddaughter does…and if she ever has kids, they will too.

  4. Martha Shelley March 24, 2022 at 9:47 am #

    Yes, Connie, you need to write your stories down. And your grandsons might care when they grow older, and have kids of their own.

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