Go outside. Don’t tell anyone and don’t bring your phone. Start walking and keep walking until you no longer know the road like the palm of your hand, because we walk the same roads day in and day out, to the bus and back home and we cease to see. We walk in our sleep and teach our muscles to work without thinking and I dare you to walk where you have not yet walked and I dare you to notice. Don’t try to get anything out of it, because you won’t. Don’t try to make use of it, because you can’t. And that’s the point. Just walk, see, sit down if you like. And be. Just be, whatever you are with whatever you have, and realise that that is enough to be happy. There’s a whole world out there, right outside your window. You’d be a fool to miss it.” –Charlotte Eriksson
This month was all about giving release a bit of a pause. This word has been so mentally taxing at times that it seemed necessary to step back and give myself a bit of respite. So in the midst of that pause, I allowed April to be about something other than me. Instead I spent my time immersed in memories of my maternal grandfather – Oliver Emil Huxhold. Thoughts of my grandpa are always close to the surface in April because of his love of poetry.
But, this month was a “two-for!” Not only was my grandpa a poetry lover, he was also an avid birder! He knew so many birds (and his bird book library was most impressive!) But when MS curtailed his outdoor time – by the time I was 5 he could no longer manage stairs at all – he began to identify birds by their songs. The best times ever were sitting on his lap listening and learning. His absolute “Holy Grail” of birds was the elusive Purple Martin. My grandparents lived about a block off Lake Macatawa on 11th Street in Holland, MI and sadly, as close as that was it just was not close enough to the water. We tried however, and I remember the spring we got him a Martin House for the back yard. My uncle installed a super long galvanized pole first and then installed the Martin house on top of that – hoping that the added height would help. Alas it did not and my grandpa grumbled plenty over the Sparrow Condo in his back yard! To my knowledge he never saw or heard Purple Martins in his life.
Steve and I headed to Erie to spend 10 days at Presque Isle. And wow. Just wow. I went outside a lot (I did bring my phone, but only to take photos) and I have so much to share with you all about our trip but for now, I’d like to share just one thing…the bittersweet achievement of my grandpa’s Holy Grail with the sightings of so many Purple Martins! I love Presque Isle, but I think my grandpa might have thought he’d “died and gone to heaven” if he could have visited it!
And so in all that “outside” time, I really felt like I had company. My thoughts were full of grandpa and remembering all those memories and being immersed in them was exactly what I needed this month.
And, of course, Carl Sandburg has a poem for us! I think he describes them perfectly.
By Carl Sandburg
If we were such and so, the same as these,
maybe we too would be slingers and sliders,
tumbling half over in the water mirrors,
tumbling half over at the horse heads of the sun,
tumbling our purple numbers.
Twirl on, you and your satin blue.
Be water birds, be air birds.
Be these purple tumblers you are.
Dip and get away
From loops into slip-knots,
Write your own ciphers and figure eights.
It is your wooded island here in Lincoln Park.
Everybody knows this belongs to you.
Five fat geese
Eat grass on a sod bank
And never count your slinging ciphers,
your sliding figure eights.
A man on a green paint iron bench,
Slouches his feet and sniffs in a book,
And looks at you and your loops and slip-knots,
And looks at you and your sheaths of satin blue,
And slouches again and sniffs in the book,
And mumbles: It is an idle and a doctrinaire exploit.
Go on tumbling half over in the water mirrors.
Go on tumbling half over at the horse heads of the sun.
Be water birds, be air birds.
Be these purple tumblers you are.
We sat and watched the martins “tumble” around us as time just faded away and I began to understand my grandfather’s love of these beautiful birds and perhaps leaving a “Holy Grail” item for the next generation to achieve is the perfect thing to do…
I want to thank Carolyn for hosting us – make sure you stop and see what everyone else did with their word this month.
Thank you for reading and if you want to see my journey with release, you will find it here.
I will be back on Wednesday with some knitting and reading! (and I promise to get caught up with all your blogs soon!!)
I’m sorry your grandfather didn’t see or hear his purple martins, but I’m very glad that you did! And watching the purple martins tumble around you was made even sweeter with all your loving memories. Presque Isle sounds wonderful and so is Carl Sandburg!
What beautiful memories Kat and what a fine post! So glad you and Steve had such a good time on your vacation. When I walk the canal trail, there is a house on the opposite of the canal (right by the skeleton on the bench that I have photographed) with a purple martin house. I’m not sure I’ve every seen or heard them, but I will be keeping my eyes and ears open!!
What a perfect break … and how wonderful to connect the birds with the poetry with your grandfather. wow! (also, welcome back. may your re-entry be slow. and kind!)
In this way you describe it, it’s almost like your trip to Presque Isle was a pilgrimage of the heart. I’m so glad it filled you up!
I think a respite is a fine thing. What sweet memories you have of your grandfather. Thank you for sharing them. I often wish I recognized more than a handful of birds by their song. Your trip sounds wonderful.
I know that you think you were taking a break from Release, but it seems to me that you’ve let go of a lot and chosen to focus on these lovely memories. I am so glad they were restorative for you.
What a beautiful post, Kat. 🙂
(And I’m just going to say . . . that your post sounded a lot like a release to me.) (Sometimes our words show up best when we’re not really thinking about them so much.) XO
Well, maybe (just maybe) by seeing all those purple martins you were able to release the sadness you felt about your grandfather never getting to see them. I think release played a bigger role than you may realize last month.
Kat – this is a beautiful post. The love you have for your grandfather is tangible – thank you for sharing it. And you were still practicing ‘release’ – you released the pressure on yourself and allowed yourself to sink into a beautiful place and beautiful – although bittersweet – memories. I’m happy you found so much joy this month!
you sound rested and wonderful, it was a good getaway!!! I’ve been enjoying watching spring evolve outside my windows, what a welcomed sight.
That’s awesome that y’all could get away. My grandfather loved watching birds too. His recliner sat so he could see them at the feeder in the back yard. We have been delighted this spring by the variety that visit our yard.