The Raucous Caucus and Common Ground


Blankets covered cozier, sleep felt friendlier when night’s chilly air crept through open windows coaxing me to curl up and wrap tighter. Thoughts of stepping from the shower forced me to trek ’round the house first thing after getting up, closing us off from the cool.

Later, I pushed windows up again to a day that seemed warm but very gray, and too soon came the rushing sound of rain. It fell softly through still air so I left the house open. When it stopped, I paused at the kitchen sink, listening closely to a terrific din of bird noise coming from our ash and oak trees across the yard. The two great trees seemed alive with fluttering, dark wings. The twittering chatter rose from the treetops like a reed section being boosted from two giant speakers. What kind of bird had gathered in such great numbers? Were they finding shelter from the rain or large quantities of insects in our trees? Were their voices happy or upset? I couldn’t tell.

I went back to washing dishes that my teenager had avoided by using her school work as an excuse that she knows I’ll accept. I’m glad she is focused on academics. Her days for doing dishes will come, or, if she arranges her life differently than I have, maybe not.

She is studying Carl Sandburg in her English class. When I think of Sandburg, I think of fog and I’ve looked at more of it driving to work recently than ever before. It isn’t the cat-footed fog that Sandburg described creeping in, it is already full blown, laid down as though a billowy comforter had been pulled over the fields. The road I travel is warm and just high enough to carry me apart from it so I can look across at the white, opaque blanket.

With no knowledge of Sandburg’s Fog, she read excerpts from something of his I wasn’t familiar with called The People, Yes. She wrestled with his words and pleased me by asking me to interpret. It made us both dig deep, thinking and talking about what he was saying about human nature, the universe, and how we fit into the vast scope of things. She made notes on what I told her.

I note her advice, too. I’ve taken to listening to her suggestions about what I should wear and how to do my hair. When she tells me to change my top or that the ‘flip’ in my hair is extra nice, I don’t see her as my child telling me what to do but as someone who knows and cares about me, giving me the constructive criticism I need. Although she has been taller than I am for some time, the first tastes I have of her approaching adulthood make me stop and take notice.

I may never know why the birds were in our trees, or exactly what Carl Sandburg meant in his lines, but it feels good to know that what I think and the way I look matters to this daughter who has always talked to me about everything and anything. As each year brings things to our lives that could separate us in new ways, I hope our talks can always bring us back to common ground.


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