Happy 1st of December! Just a couple of days ago, I was all feathery with excitement in anticipation of flying to see you. Then I was all droopy and doldrummy as I had to say “see you soon” and fly back to Buffalo without you. Now I am neither here nor there, perched and ready to turn my wings into wheels to make the big winter trip on my own to get you on the sixteenth. That’s not long at all from now, but I’m busy getting everything ready for your visit, and I am also mentally preparing for the big trip, just in case I run into a blizzard or an ice storm or something treacherous.
Traveling long distances alone is something new to me, and I haven’t done a winter trip alone, let alone with my precious little ones, before so I’ve got to be prepared. I’m a cautious traveler, but there are extra precautions a mummy must take, like having chargers lined up, and always having a full-ish tank, and having emergency kits and blankets and anti-freeze at the ready. No need to worry, though; I’ve got an arctic attitude, a spinster spirit, and a survivor sense of humor– we will prevail, whatever comes our way.
And just in case you’re still a little scared about our winter trip, I will remind you that I once drove my pal’s car (and my pal) through a blizzard and a fifty car pile-up with little to no problem. She was flipping but I was a smooth rider. I was able to keep calm and carry on despite treacherous white-out conditions. Why? Because I was on a mission, and when you’re on a mission, you do what it takes to fulfill it. On December 16th, when I embark on my winter trek, I will be on a mission. To deliver us safely to Buffalo for the holidays. Prayers help, so I’ll say some special ones at church this and next week for us.
We’re not the only ones traveling this winter, you know. We’re in the company of birds who are infamous for their winter tours. I’ve only spoken with one cold bird about this personally, so my knowledge on the subject is a bit narrow, but I do know that thousands of birds migrate during the cold winter months; they fly to warmer environments, usually down south. We’re not exactly adhering to the classical bird trajectory for our winter travel, though; we’re more like ping pong balls bouncing east to west to west to east to east to west to west to east. We don’t have wings but we do have wheels. I’m not really one to travel south during the winter, anyway. I prefer my December with a side of snow. I love myself a good snow(o)man, too, and with any luck, in a short while we’ll be rolling, prancing, sleighing, and angel-making in the snowy yard with our very own handsome corncobpiped, buttonnosed, coaleyed, scarfnecked snowcreature.
If you see any winter birds hanging around, let me know. I’m on the lookout for brave rogue winter birds who refuse to leave home in New York in the winter, instead, preferring to rough it to be with their loved ones, no matter how rough it gets. Do you think any such birds exist? Hum. I should hope so. I would say I’ve started paying attention to birds lately, but I think I’ve always been preoccupied with the subject of birds.
One of the several million things I love about you is that you’re both bird lovers. You have been from birdth…I mean birth! You must have inherited that from your Momma Sandy. I bought her a new bird book a few years ago after hers was misplaced. I think both were found, which is good. I mention that so you are made aware that you have a bird library at your house in Illinois for all of your ornithological purposes. I, myself, have come to love birds through education– through hard work, difficult life circumstances, superb poetry, and humor, but that wasn’t always the case. Watch this clip of one of my favorite songs. It’s called “Goodbye, Little Yellow Bird.” It’s a scene from a film I watched as a child that is based on Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey (that’s the film’s name, too). Angela Lansbury, one of my very favorite performers, played a character named Sybil Vane, and in the film, she sang this lovely song about freedom.
There was a time when I could not stand birds and was terribly afraid of them. Okay, I’ll admit, I still experience fear when I am around certain birds, but I’ve come a long way when it comes to feathering up to my fear of birds. During my annual spring break trips to Disney World as a kid, I endured many agonizing encounters with birds: with seagulls, to be precise. To this day, I do not enjoy the company of the lot. When I see the clan of white gathering, my heart pounds and my neck kinks, and I become preoccupied with one thought: escape. Seagulls are bold and they come and take what they want, or so I observed on Jupiter Beach and in Singer Island, Florida, on countless occasions. That is one Florida trip matter for which I do not have to teeter totter on the porch of indecision. I’ll be glad to never see another seagull again. You will be entertained to know that I have been pooped on by seagulls twice in my life. Once, in Florida, on the beach, but I don’t recall the details other than it was white, it was wet, and it was easy to wash off. I remember more vividly the time I was walking home from high school, very cheerfully as school was a place more magical than Disney World to me, when out of nowhere a cloud of whiter-than-white seagull poop rained down upon me. Yes, some stalker seagull was following me home from school and from its rear end spurted its seagull crap on my head and down my arm. I didn’t really mind that he had been stalking me. Go wherever you want, Bro; just don’t take a crap on my head! That’s going too far. Okay, I wasn’t thinking that or even about the seagull. The only thing I was thinking about, as I was squealing and running at top speed across the street, was getting home to wash the white poop off of me. I did so, successfully, thanks to water. I even chuckled about it. Being in magical places makes life’s disasters easier to handle, I guess.
Speaking of magical places, I was with you for Thanksgiving and we had a magical time together, thanks to your Momma Si for allowing me to stay with you at the house and for her generosity in making us delicious meals! I loved all of the fun things we did together and the special moments we shared together. It all started the morning I left for work, on the day that I was set to fly to you, when I ran into (well, not exactly ran into) one of my dearest companions– a traveler, like us. This mate of mine happens to be a bird. A big bird. A turkey, actually. A turkey with many names. You probably think I’m joking but I’m not.
For the past couple of months, I have been having real, live encounters with a certain turkey on the road. This turkey is known as the Klein Road Turkey because this turkey lived in the woods at the corner of Klein Road and Paradise: you know, that magical place where we turn when we know we’re approaching Birdland. Well, our poor turkey friend, Yoda, was pushed out of the woodland, which was Yoda’s home. Without a home, Yoda was forced migrate. Yoda is a disabled turkey so the migration was modest. Our turkey had no choice but to move into the street. Yoda now lives under a stoplight, in the middle of a fairly hopping intersection. I named our turkey Yoda because Yoda likes to take things slow. Yoda certainly slows the flow of traffic.
Not many birds can stop traffic like that, but this turkey has a way with wings. Doesn’t use them in the traditional sense but what can ya do. I have been enjoying my encounters with the slow dancing turkey for a little while, and I feel sad sometimes when I don’t see Yoda on my way to work, but what’s most important is that the turkey is safe, so I keep that in mind. Anyhow, Yoda was on the road with me on the morning of the day I was flying to see you, and I’m pretty sure Yoda wished me safe travels in passing. Maybe the two of you will get to meet Yoda someday.
Our turkey’s a little tricky, so who knows, but I had to share that story with you because my encounters with the Klein Road Turkey, added to my recent fascination with birds, kickstarted my plan for us to make ourselves turkey hats. I thought that given that Yoda gave me such a friendly sendoff I should do something to show our solidarity with our turkey friend. After all, Yoda was doing us a roadside service (serving me a smile), despite having been kicked off the land and landing precariously in the middle of a busy intersection. Our turkey is a survivor with a wise and brave spirit! Yoda’s our mascot!
Turkey is kind of an ongoing theme right now. After all, thousands and thousands of turkeys are sacrificed for the good of the American Thanksgiving table each year. I just read somewhere that over 50, 000, 000 turkeys are consumed each Thanksgiving. That’s a lot of doom and gloom for the turkey community, but, I will admit, I did eat my fair share of turkey prior to turning 18 and becoming a pescatarian. In fact, I was kind of a turkey addict. In middle school and high school, I would alternate between tuna and turkey sandwiches. At Hampshire College, I ate a turkey sandwich for lunch almost every day. I wouldn’t say I was feeling the love for turkey at that time, but I was still a loyal consumer of the bird. The last good turkey sandwich I remember enjoying thoroughly was one I shared with a companion of mine at Romeo and Juliet’s Bakery in Buffalo, back in 2002, right before I left for college. My companion and I sat by a window on Hertel Avenue and ate turkey sandwiches together. I was wearing a peach dress with a light gray flower pattern on it and I don’t really remember the sandwich, except for the fact that it was turkey and that it was served on some kind of focaccia, but I do remember bits of the conversation and that I was having a remarkable time with my turkey loving companion. But I could only eat half of my turkey sandwich, so my companion agreed to finish my other half in light of my impending migration to Massachusetts, which is where I began my college career. Maybe that’s where the turkey revolution began for me: in that cafe, with my companion and our turkey sandwich. Because the consumption of turkey changed for me after that, and in what now seems like no time at all, I was sitting in a women’s studies class at the University at Buffalo, watching videos of turkeys and chickens being slaughtered inhumanely, and I could no longer bring myself to buy turkey meat. But my love for turkey managed to abide.
The thing is: I know I could eat Yoda, and that I would enjoy doing so, but I don’t want to kill Yoda or for Yoda to be killed in order for that to happen. So I guess I’d rather protect Yoda and share a tuna sandwich with Yoda this time around, instead.
The Turkey Revolution was re-initiated on the night, over this Thanksgiving break, that the three of us were reading articles together on what is happening at Standing Rock with the invasive Dakota Pipeline. It’s terrible when corporate greed trumps our respect of the land and of human life. We know that taking care of the land and the environment is very important. Taking care of the land means taking care of the water because the water streams through the land. If we put toxic things in the land or in the water, those toxic things are going to come back to us, as a species, and they are going to make us sick. Other animals are wise enough not to tamper with toxicity; wouldn’t it be nice if humans were that wise, too. At our Thanksgiving table, we had a lot of root vegetables. Those grow underground. We could not eat those if they were exposed to toxic chemicals. Well, we could, but that wouldn’t be good. We care about the people on this earth, and we want safe and clean soil and safe and clean water for everyone, and we are willing to work with others and to sacrifice some of our luxuries to make sure that happens. The transportation of oil could have terrible negative consequences on land and water systems that affect thousands of people.
As a country, we need to stand up and protect each other from harmful substances and practices. We will have to change our ways if we are going to do this. We have to collaborate and think about a future that is not about money and power but, instead, about advancing humanity and protecting the planet. But this is complex, to be sure. You were both affected by what we were reading, so much so that when I told you that I am going to be attending the Women’s March on Washington, you, especially Darah, grew very worried and begged me not to go because you were afraid I might be hosed down with water or hurt in some other way. I was glad that we did something productive the next day when we made our posters. Each of us got to write whatever she wanted on her poster. We expressed what we thought and felt.
I was so touched by what each of you wanted to say and so proud of you. It’s hard feeling helpless. It’s the worst. To feel powerless and helpless is for the… wait a minute. There’s this little idiom in which the phrase “for the birds” is attached to something to indicate that it’s of little value. But how silly that phrase is. We are the birds and we are not helpless. Look what we did over Thanksgiving break: we made art together that expresses who we are and what we stand for and believe, and we held up those signs together with pride. Oh yeah, and we were wearing turkey headbands while doing it! If our friend, the turkey, can stop traffic, so can we. We’re proof that a traffic-stopping turkey can start a movement. Now maybe it’s true that the only thing going on in that turkey’s mind is “gobble gobble” and “cluck cluck” but those sounds mean something to us.
Do you know one time I was called a chicken by a friend of mine.
Have you ever been called a chicken before? It’s a thing that immature kids call each other when they are bullying or teasing or trying to get someone to do something (“peer pressure,” it is called). Well, I was called this as an adult-kid by another adult-kid, but it got me thinking. About chicken. About turkey. And about birds. A couple of years ago, I saw an episode of “Orange is the New Black” in which there was a lovely character named Red who was obsessed with catching a certain chicken. I thought the Red-and-the-Chicken episodes were SO funny that I started paying attention to chickens. Anyway, long story condensed, after I was egged on and called a chicken by my lovable but oh so silly, juvenile friend, I decided that I would empower myself by turning that name I was called around and embracing it. This is a great tool for kids who are bullied: if someone calls you a name, hold your head high and wear it like a badge of honor. Last night, Elan, we really took that chicken power back when we were doing the chicken dance together over Facetime (before you informed me that you had to “delete” me to go get ready for bed). I love the chicken dance! It’s something we always did at family weddings when I was a kid, and when I do it on the dance floor, I get funky! Chicken dance power!!!
In my opinion, loving yourself and taking back your power by taking back the name and embracing it is the BEST way to teach a bully a lesson. We need more chickens to teach bullies lessons, don’t you think? That’s why ever since that happened, I have been identifying with chickens and calling myself a chicken. It was a gift that I never expected would be a gift. My bird empathy was born before the day I was called a chicken, but that sure propelled it. Missy, your aunt, used to tease me sometimes by calling me Bird when we were teenagers. Yes, Bird. That was my name: Bird. That is because she thought my long, spindly nose reminded her of a bird’s beak. Of course I hated this at the time, especially because I hated birds at the time, but it added to the lesson in empathy that I had to learn. That doesn’t mean I will not dodge the pigeons at the Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris. I did that in 2001, which I scooted under the body of my friend on the bench, and I’m sure I would do it again to avoid direct contact with a hoard of pigeons. But I’m still a bird ally, even if their flapping feathers and spastic movements and unpredictable nature freaks me out. And even though you’re scared about me going to the march in January, I know you’re by my side and I know you support me.
Birds of a feather flock together, right?
We’ll always flock together, whether we’re scared or not. That’s what makes us brave birds and that’s what makes us family. I love you so much, my brave little chickens. I had a wonderful Thanksgiving with you, and I cannot wait to flock together in December for our two weeks of winter wonderland.
Oh, yeah. One more thing. We saw the film “Moana” together over the holiday, and we all loved it. It was about returning to a place of respect for “mother island,” which really spoke to our discussion about water and about the people of Standing Rock. It was also about honoring who you are and honoring the voice inside, even if it goes against tradition.
Moana followed the waves. The waves spoke to her and told her to be brave in following her destiny to rekindle the nomadic spirit of her people. And so did her grandmother. Her grandmother encouraged her to go against the status quo in order for the spirit of Moana and her people to soar. There were many powerful moments in the film that touched me, but what touched me most of all was when Moana’s amazing grandmother was on her deathbed and assured her that she would always be with her. She said, “There is nowhere you can go that I will not be with you.”
It may feel like we’re so far apart from each other, but remember: there is nowhere you can go that I will not be with you.
I love you like the wave loves the shell. We are gypsies and nomads, but we always fly (or roll or walk) together.
Mother Hen & Yoda the Turkey, who hasn’t yet mastered the art of writing letters
P.S. You two are lucky to have a feather coalition behind you– you don’t mess with Mother Hen! Even if she’s a pipsqueak… ’cause Yoda will hobble in and stop you like a rush hour traffic jam on a border in Donald Trump’s dreams! 😉
It’s our family’s Road Trip Anthem, my little hexlings.
In the morning, you can tell me your dreams….