28 July 2013

The weather forecast is dodgy. Last night, early morning, hot strong winds, trees bending in the moonlight, three drops of rain and then silence. And now, another hot and humid day and the rains have just begun. Across the garden I can hear my neighbour's teenage daughter wailing in despair at her mother, cups are flying across the patio and the church bells from down by the river join in. 
Was it that difficult with us, I asked S last week and she very diplomatically replied, no Mum, never. It is a blessing, this selective memory. But then again, there always has been and will be too much love between us. Enough to blank out the difficult bits. That's what this love is for. 

My mother never liked or loved her children. I know there are people who hate me for saying this. Didn't she make these lovely matching coats for us? Her vegetable garden, the bean poles, the field of strawberries to get lost in after school? The one (and only) time she went with us all to the movies (Cinderella)? Come on. 

For a long time after her death I would meet her. She called on me and she watched me. 
One day she was a shiny black crow suddenly landing on the uphill forest path, forcing me off my bicycle. We looked at each other for some time, silent and completely motionless until she turned her head and flew away.
Another time, she was a young hawk who suddenly swooped down on me with a loud screech, almost reaching my hair with her claws. Only I was faster, cycling on with my heart leaping out of my throat.
Some winter Sundays, she sat silently on the bare branches of the pear tree, staring through the kitchen window in her shiny blue jay glory.
Most often, though, I met her as a stringy old pigeon, one eye missing, deformed toes, picking through the crumbs and cigarette buds under the chestnuts by the outdoor cafes in the city.
That was then. 

The birds I meet these days are young and cheeky, like that fearless blackbird with the odd white feather sticking out sideways. The noisy green parakeets flocking the garden in big swoops. Magpies with their messy nests.


  1. You've given me much to think about our mothers and birds today, Sabine.

    When my mother died without warning of a massive heart attack at 78 years old, her hair was still naturally red with very little grey. To me, she looked younger than I did at age 45. Her hair had thinned dramatically but was shoulder length and pulled back into a bun. She was particularly fond of Cedar Waxwings and always put food out in my father's garden for wild birds.

    Three days after my mother died, a Black Phoebe sat on the porch railing and looked in through the large window on the ocean side of my parents' home in Northern California, and I felt it was calling out to me in joy. I had never consciously seen or heard a Black Phoebe before.

    Twice after that, visiting where my parents had lived, I was approached on the nearby dusty coastside foot trails by a single Black Phoebe who called up to me from the ground with what seemed to be enthusiasm.

    There are no Black Phoebes where I live.


    You've got me thinking that I must have had one of those mothers with the bird-like nature described in the link. In death, she was free of having to be a mother. She liked other children but told me and my sisters when we were quite young that we were unlike other children.

    A few days before she died, I received a letter from her with a newspaper clipping about a wounded and healed Golden Eagle that was about to be freed.

    Thanks so much for your vivid and evocative words and for that link.

  2. And thank you for this thoughtful comment and link. I don't think, phoebes are found in Europe.

    My mother was a keen and very knowledgeable birdwatcher. Occasionally during winter, she considered it a special treat to let us stay home from school and watch and identify the birds coming to the feeder outside the sitting room windows. For us, the birds were less important, but to spend a large part of the day with her - in good spirits - that was always a precious gift.