Bluebirds finally find my small refuge

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October’s fabled bluebird weather has long since flown, but while blending into grey November left memories that will help us survive the looming winter.

One of my sweetest memories will be the morning of Nov. 8 when, to my absolute jaw-dropping disbelief, I saw, perched on the rim of my bird bath, a real, honest to goodness bluebird, a bird that in all my 62 years here at this dear place, I have never seen before!

Talk about the bluebird of happiness!

Almost afraid to breathe, I watched him take several sips before stepping into the water and splashing with what had to be a refreshing bath.

Delighted shock

Still in delighted shock, I watched as he moved to the Rose of Sharon hedge to fluff his feathers, and then to my continued amazement, I watched as his mate flew in and followed his example.

Just as suddenly as they appeared, they were gone, and I haven’t seen them since, but I continue to marvel that amidst all of Boardman Township’s wall-to-wall clutter of endless blacktop and buildings, they found my small refuge.

The sighting makes all the sacrifices in saving this rare island worthwhile.

More excitement

And just to top off the excitement, on Nov. 11 I heard the unmistakable sound of tundra swans.

Although I could not see them in the gathering dusk in the western sky, I could tell they were flying south.

I alerted Randy Jones and Leslie who called me later to say they had indeed heard them, and had even been able to count another flock of about 60, in the east but also flying south.

Checking last year’s calendar, I recorded I heard them Nov. 13, so the move is right on time.

Most readers probably don’t appreciate my raves about various birds and wildlife, but I found a comment by author David Sibley in a magazine that expresses my feelings and hopefully some of you feel the same way: “In a sense, birds are wilderness — a bit of nature that has never been tamed, a constant reminder that there is still wilderness out there and that we all need it.”

* * *

As Thanksgiving approaches, memories of earlier autumns surface, and recently a vintage friend and I were reminiscing about our childhood activities in those much simpler times.

Raking leaves

Marjorie Sittig is considerably younger than I, but appreciates the years of innocence and remembers fondly the family ritual of raking leaves.

I suggested she write some of those memories down and I thought you’d enjoy what she wrote.

“When I was young, the fall season changes tickled all the senses of sounds, sights and smells. I especially savored the autumn Sundays that signaled no more outside chores such as weeding the garden rows or pushing the stubborn mower. Leaves on the ground and skeleton trees signaled the usual patriarchal sentence, ‘Don’t plan anything after dinner — we have a lot to do.’

“Sundays pretty much had the same pattern: Sunday school, church and family dinner around the dining room table. We didn’t have to be told to set the table or clear the table — it was automatic. Despite the commandment, ‘Honor the Sabbath Day to keep it holy,’ there were a few exceptions. It was a given that movies or shopping were taboo — besides there was nothing open anyway — and I can’t recall running out of anything such as bread or milk. If we did, too bad. Mothers planned ahead.

Do it as a family

“Our chores always confused me. How come we could rake leaves when we weren’t supposed to work? I knew the answer even before Dad opened his mouth: ‘Because we do it as a family.’ That didn’t make much sense to me. Where does the Bible say that raking leaves is OK?

“Out came the worn crazy-quilts and chenille bedspreads plus enough rakes for each pair of hands. Since there were no garbage or trash bags, my sister and I raked to the coverlets, pulled up the four corners and rolled on them to squish them to a size smaller. We then dragged the bundles to the curb where Dad, with a lighted cigar in the corner of his mouth, was leaning on a rake. He was in charge of cremating fall’s evidence and the resultant smudge perfumed the air.

“It was a neighborhood event and nobody heard of pollution or rules for healthy living. Strange that this memory scene only happened once a year, but I recall all the particulars. It brought the long hot summer to a close and prepared our lives for the season of thanks. Looking back, I realize this was a good memory, and for that I am indeed thankful.”

* * *

Give thanks

It occurs to me that one day a year set aside for “giving thanks” is not nearly enough, considering all for which we are thankful.

Sadly, this year many families will find it difficult to be thankful, what with the lost jobs, the wars, the uncertainty of the future.

But we must keep in mind that for the moment the wars are not on our continent, the lost jobs will surely one day be “found,” and that the future has never been certain.

So let us give thanks for what we have rather than lament what we have not!

No matter what your circumstance, I hope your Thanksgiving Day is as happy as it can be.

About the Author

A lifelong resident of the Mahoning Valley, Janie Jenkins retired in 1987 as a feature writer and columnist at the Youngstown Vindicator. In June of that same year, she started writing her column, "On My Mind" for Farm and Dairy. She loves all animals and is an accomplished equestrienne. Local history is also one of her loves, and her home, the former Southern Park Stables, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. More Stories by Janie Jenkins

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