How a redbird’s death “brought me down to earth, reminded me how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are right now . . .”

Life (and death) as we know it (Coronavirus Division)
Including: Our birds, ourselves

The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: ‘But when we are ready, we must pick ourselves up so that we can be a light for others to follow.’

“A beautiful essay from a childhood friend. She gave me permission to share”:

“Today we had a female cardinal fly into the window, and she died from her injuries. For at least a half-hour, her mate hopped around her frantically pecking at her, trying to wake her up. After a while, I could no longer watch his desperation. I had to look away for a few minutes to wrap my head around this all too common tragedy. After about an hour, I went back to the window and saw that the male cardinal was no longer there. She was alone in the rain. Nature’s tears were descending, and I could not help touching my face as I wiped away my own.

“In the context of this global tragedy brought on by something so dimensionally small as a virus, the cardinal brought me down to earth, reminded me how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are right now physically, financially, emotionally. As we shutter away from others attempting to protect ourselves and our loved ones, it is hard not to look away from the hardship that has come to others. It is tempting to defend myself and my family from feeling the anguish that will surely come to so many, to give in to the paralyzing feelings of fear and uncertainty.

“And yet, I know that we must all come back to the window and look at the hard reality before us. We won’t be able to change what happened, but we can think about what we can do moving forward. We can think about how we can make things better and then set our plan in motion. There are many past and present heroes who stepped up in a time of crisis. There isn’t a lack of inspiration from which to choose. I, personally, have no further to look than my own family of medical professionals, many of whom will be on the front line in the coming days, weeks, and months. While I can’t do what they are doing, I am inspired by them to do what I can.

“From experience, I know nurses, doctors, emergency responders, etc. won’t have the luxury to stop what they are doing and process their feelings. We may not be able to hug them, but we can listen to them if they need to talk it out.

“Many of us will have vulnerable people around us who will isolate themselves for an unknown amount of time. Many are grieving for those they have lost. We may not be able to reach out to them in person, but there are many other ways to keep in touch, to let them know someone else is thinking about them. They will be able to take some comfort in that.

“There are so many funny memes and posts online these days. They seem frivolous and somewhat irreverent, but they allow us to smile and laugh and connect our lives. We all need a release that helps us let go of the tension, fear, anxiety, etc. that can build up and become destructive.

“Some of us have young people around us who make us smile and laugh at their antics, their creativity, their talents. We can encourage them. They may not realize how pursuing these normal activities and sharing them will keep others from going stir crazy and maybe inspiring them to do something too. We’ve already seen many examples of this, but let’s keep it going. Every little bit helps.

“After witnessing what happened with the cardinals, I understand that the male cardinal ultimately needed to move forward. His survival depended on it. Ours, too, will depend on our ability to adapt to the circumstances before us. In a time of real tragedy, it is natural and human to feel so paralyzed by what is happening that we stop moving forward constructively. Yes, it is appropriate to pause and grieve. We must allow ourselves time for this. But when we are ready, we must pick ourselves up so that we can be a light for others to follow.”

Our times
Coronavirus Division

Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Life in a Challenging Time.

“My local grocery store has suggested that people most vulnerable to the COVID virus, such as seniors, shop from 7 to 8 a.m. — the first hour it is open each day.

“As a retiree, I enjoy sleeping later in the morning. But I used a quest for onions and milk (and food for a 9-month-old girl whose parent couldn’t find baby food) as my excuse to shop today. I was agreeably surprised to see mostly seniors in the aisles.

“The silence in the store was striking, as was the awkwardness of strangers with carts trying to avoid others without speaking. The store is not big enough for all of us to stay six feet from each other, but we tried.

“Then we got to sizable checkout lines, where some people threw out the distance rules. The woman behind me was followed far too closely by two men. I didn’t intervene until she rolled her eyes as one of them started talking about the Black Death and other plagues. I described singing outside my apartment building on St. Pat’s Day — inspired by the European people singing from their balconies.

“Then I went home to hide in place again.

“P.S. As a kid, I sometimes got really frustrated over things. My mom would then announce ‘We’re having an adventure!’ in the cheeriest of voices. It drove me nuts — but it helped.

“So, repeat after me: We’re having an adventure.

“And we can do this.”

On the bright side
Coronavirus Division

John Campbell reports: “There is a walking path across from my home in Mendota Heights, along Huber Drive. The last couple of days, I started noticing chalk messages written on the sidewalk, with words of encouragement in these troubled times. I think I saw some young girls doing this, but I could be wrong about that. Whoever was doing it left some chalk, if you wanted to add your own message.

“This is the spirit of America strong. We will get through this.”

Paula Campbell reports: “These chalk messages appeared on the sidewalk near our home in Mendota Heights.”
















BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: We saw many chalked messages as we walked around Lake Harriet Saturday.

Our favorite, near the Bandstand: “Six feet apart. Or six feet under.” We complimented the artist, just finishing up. We both laughed.

Our times (Coronavirus Division)
Leading to: The highfalutin pleasures

Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “I am one of the many elders who are sequestered in our senior residences. The buildings here are usually busy places. Besides residents and staff, we have family members, high-school and college volunteers, speakers and musicians. Classes — such as yoga, water aerobics, tai chi, painting and writing — are usually taking place all day.

“Today when I looked out in the hallways, I saw no one. It was disconcerting, to say the least.

“The situation has resulted in one positive thing, though: my delayed entry into the world of technology. I have been stubborn and reluctant in this area. Now my daughter has set me up with an iPad and directions on Skyping. The plan is that family members will call me on my landline phone. I will stay on the phone and listen as they give me step-by-step directions. I have accomplished this three times now. It is working, but I still kind of gasp when the person on the screen peers right at me and speaks. It’s as if the evening news anchor suddenly looks out of the TV and calls my name.

“I will get used to this. The reward is wonderful.”

See world
Coronavirus Division

KH of White Bear Lake writes: “It had rained during my entire walk. I was wet and tired, but when I happened across this gathering, I felt it was my civic duty to step up. I explained to them social distancing, had them practice, and then was satisfied enough with their execution that I could go home and feel good about my day.”



Donald reports: “Subject: The latest example of personalizing.

“While checking the weather on my desktop, I came across this text accompanying a picture of a bed: ‘Sofa Bed Clarence.’”


Our theater of seasons
Or: The simple pleasures

Bicycle Babe of the Midway reports: “Spring is here!

“To me, spring arrived at 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 14. That is when Conny’s Creamy Cone opened for 2020, and our tradition is to be first in line.

“We were there. The weather was cold, but we didn’t care. That first hot-fudge shake was delicious.

“Given the current situation with the COVID-19 virus, we don’t know if Conny will be allowed to keep the place open, but for now we can enjoy this little taste of the warm weather to come.”

BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: All takeout . . . so: still open!

Our theater of seasons

March 22 email from Mounds View Swede: “I was pleased and somewhat surprised to see some of my grass greening up already, even before the snow completely melted.



“Some of the lamium was showing signs of life, too.


“A couple of weeks ago, I started hearing robins chirping when I went out to get the morning newspapers. Yesterday I got to see them in my back yard for the first time. I hope they find a good place to nest in my trees.



“Some springs don’t work this way. The polar vortex in 2013 presented quick a different picture. We had heavy snow in April and more in May. These next two photos were taken April 24, 2013, of ducks in my back yard. That was the first time I had seen them in my yard at all. I assume the nearby pond and surroundings were too difficult for them to stay by.



“I noticed that year, with our late snowfalls, that sometimes the entire yard would be melted — except the heat field where our geothermal system drew heat from the ground to heat the house. I figured with the polar vortex, we had taken an awful lot of heat out of the ground. Later that summer, our big oak tree on the edge of the heat field had several large branches die. I assume we froze the roots by taking so much heat from the ground — something I had never thought of when installing the system in 2005.

“Fortunately, the oak tree seems to be doing OK still. Oak trees are very adaptable and pretty hardy, but they have never had to deal with freezing roots before.”

March 23 email from Mounds View Swede: “I was surprised this morning to find another light snow blanketing most of the back yard. This is the section of the yard that is our ‘heat field,’ which the geothermal system uses to bring heat into the house in the winter and return it in the summer when it cools the house. To find the heat field so clearly delineated tells me the ground there is colder than the surrounding areas. All this quickly went away as the day warmed.


“When they installed this field, they dug four trenches 8 feet deep and 60 feet long diagonally across our yard. Then they laid a coiled tube in the trenches and hooked it up to the heat-exchanger system in the house that takes the heat out of the fluid to heat the house in the winter and puts heat back into the fluid in the summertime when it is taking heat out of the house. It is an antifreeze fluid of some sort, so it doesn’t freeze.

“After moving back into our house in March of 2010 (we had been gone since September of 2009 due to a house fire), the system quit three nights in a row. The repair man found a failed component and also measured the temperature of the fluid being brought in. It was about 27 degrees. I asked him how cold the fluid could get and still work. He told me lower than 22 degrees wouldn’t bring in any heat.

“I was really impressed, come summertime, with how well it cooled the house. Our old system used to run 24 hours a day trying to cool the house. This system runs maybe 10 minutes in an hour, and the whole house is done. We save a lot of money on electric costs in the summer compared to our neighbors.

“I was happy to see some growing things starting. Near the house are some lamium plants with some greenery here and there.


“And the front gardens near the street have some crocus plants daring to emerge.



“Having a sunny day and blue skies tempted the wife and me to walk around the block for some exercise — and to be able to see green sprouts and leaves here and there helped uplift our spirits in these strange times. I had some particular plants in mind to buy later and now wonder if the places that sell them will be allowed to be open. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we can get through this sooner than later.”

Then & Now
And: Lost . . . and found

The Happy Medium: “Years ago, the farm auction was a huge attraction for members of a community. It was a time when neighbors gathered and visited while scanning the items placed up for sale by the farmer who had decided to call it quits. Items were placed on hay racks or in boxes by the barn for easy perusal. Machinery was lined up in an open area for easy access by potential bidders. Anyone wanting to place a bid on an item was given a number for bidding purposes.

“An auctioneer was called in and set to work without hesitation, rapidly calling the present price, encouraging people to bid higher and higher. And, of course, a delicious lunch was available for anyone wanting to donate money to the cause. All in all, the auction day was a bustle of activity from early morning to late afternoon.

“I attended one such auction when I was 4 or 5 years old. Mom and Dad took me to a farm auction one warm fall day. My older siblings were in school. Dad sauntered off to look at the machinery, and I stayed by Mom. She told me, firmly, to stay close to her at all times, so I wouldn’t get lost in the hustle and bustle of the day. I clung to Mom’s dress until I spotted a doll on a hay rack. That’s when I lost sight of her. In a flash, she had disappeared. Luckily, I caught sight of her and began following her closely, until I realized that it was not Mom I was following.

“I walked around the farm yard watching to see if Mom would reappear. When she didn’t, I really became worried and started to cry. I stopped walking and stood alone on the outskirts of a group of people listening to the auctioneer trying to sell a table-and-chairs set. My braided hair had come undone, and I must have looked like a long-lost dejected child with not a friend nor parent in the world.

“That was when the auctioneer noticed me and continued in his loud voice: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, I believe we have SOME PARENTS WHO ARE LOST. Their little blond girl with pigtails and pretty yellow dress is here with me by the auction wagon. It is amazing how parents can get lost so easily.’ And he smiled at me.

“It wasn’t long before Mom came running and found me standing next to the auctioneer.

“I grabbed Mom’s hand and held it fast the rest of the day. Yes, I had tried my best to keep Mom at my side that day, but before I knew it, she was lost and once again found.

“Currently, for the most part, auctions are events of the past. These events take place via the Internet. Gone is the time for neighbors to gather on a sunny day to visit and perhaps find a lucky treasure to take home.”

The Permanent Paternal Record


The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “I’ve written about my dad’s cluttered basement, but my sister and I never really appreciated the scope of it until after my folks died. With all the recent stories about the do’s and don’ts of decluttering, I can only add one bit of advice: Keep your sense of humor. You can get through the worst of times with love and laughter, and with a dad like ours, we had more than our share of both.

“We thought nothing could surprise us after emptying the attic and finding his large collection of liquor signs. My father, the lifelong teetotaler, evidently had a working arrangement with the local liquor store to save all the signs for him — good gag material that he never got around to using. We scraped our knuckles separating those blasted signs from some discarded bed springs which were intertwined with the guts from every metal tape measure he ever discarded . . . and there were many of them.

“Every item he carted upstairs should have gone directly into the trash barrel in the first place. He was particularly obsessed with saving cardboard. Nora and I figured he was preparing for the next Great Depression, and he was ready and able to re-sole every shoe in the county. A Dumpster full of ‘good stuff’ was pitched out that attic window, including a coolie hat. Nora tossed it to me as she called down: ‘If you’re going to work like a coolie, you might as well dress like one.’

“The main floor held no surprises, and we breezed through those rooms pretty — and then we headed downstairs to confront the basement. It took us a few days to whittle our way through the conglomeration of objects to get to the back wall of his workshop, where we were amazed to discover a working sink and a toilet! Oh, the toilet didn’t work, but if Dad had ever gotten around to moving it just a tad to the left and placing it on the flange for the sewer outlet and connecting it to the water supply? Oh well. There is always another day until there are no more.”

Everyone’s a copy editor

Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Two eye-catchers on the same page.

“Page 11A of Tuesday’s Pioneer Press (there is no Sports section as such these days) had a headline in the ‘Baseball’ section which caught my eye: ‘Tommy John surgery for Sale.’

“‘What the heck is that,’ I thought. ‘Why would someone be charging for a medical procedure that should be covered by the team? Is this another scam associated with the coronavirus?’

“Oops! Turns out that Chris Sale of the Red Sox is going to undergo the operation.

“Never mind.

“In the ‘BRIEFLY’ section at the bottom of the same page was this: ‘The Twins announced a donation of $30,000 to The Sheridan Story on Thursday, teaming up with the nonprofit to help provide a meal for $7,500 kids in Minnesota who are affected as schools remain closed.’

“Who says you can’t put a price on . . . .”

Life as we know it

The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “It has been eight years now since we returned from Italy and Switzerland, having successfully led students on a quest to understand better the crossroads of science and theology, focusing on the origin of matter and the development of the physical universe from its beginnings to its current state. For three weeks, we visited the old and the ancient as well as the new and highly technical science facilities like the Gran Sasso Neutrino facility and the Large Hadron Collider near Geneva, Switzerland. In addition to the welfare of the students, I had the responsibility to help them learn the relevant known science, while a theologian from another local university accompanied us to enable the understanding of God’s role in creation. We saw Galileo’s telescope in his museum in Florence and revisited the infamous Galilean affair. We explored the evolving ideas of cosmology at Pompeii and other places. At each location we studied unique perspectives. But one place that may have helped to bring these many disparate parts of the puzzle together was the Vatican Observatory, located in the Alban Hills south of Rome.


“We drove from Rome to Albano at Piazza Mazzini and walked to the Specola Vaticana (the observatory), where we met Brother Guy Consolmagno, now the director of the Vatican Observatory in Tucson. There, active astrophysical research is being conducted. He explained that ‘. . . theology cannot be in conflict with science, because it is itself a branch of science; indeed the first branch of science.’ We saw the Vatican collection of meteorites that hints at today’s studies of the possibilities of extraterrestrial life.


“I even held, in my hands, fragile books recording details of the early explorations seeking to learn how the universe really worked. The scientific method we use today ‘is in fact a direct development of scholastic, medieval theology.’

“Science is the search for truth. The more truth we are able to discover and to confirm, the more we are able to better know ourselves and this universe in which we live. Then, we will be able to better know our creator. We will have arrived at the place from which we began our quest. This Lenten season is for Christians a time to better know ourselves and our relationship with our God.”

The little treasures


From S. Steve Adkins of Lakeville: “My first vehicle: an Irish Mail Pump Cart, circa 1943. Picture taken on 30th Street in Omaha, Nebraska. The pump cart had remarkable features: articulated steering like a real car, hard-wood/steel steering wheel and gear shift with an inlaid wooden handle (Forward, Neutral and Reverse). Considerable skill was required to pump the steering wheel back-and-forth while steering at the same time. Best plan was to start at the top of a steep hill, shift to neutral and ‘let her rip.’ If the gear selection was engaged while going downhill fast, the steering wheel became quite dangerous, as it was driven rapidly back and forth.

“One sad day, I came home from school to find the neighborhood bully riding my Irish Mail. When I told him ‘Get off my cart,’ he replied: ‘It ain’t yours no more. My mother bought it from your mother for 10 dollars!'”

Blinded by the lyrics

Tia2d: “My personal mondegreen is from when I was very young and learning the alphabet. I wondered what elemeno was as it was used in describing the letter P.”

Today’s helpful hints (sought) (self-responsorial)

OTD from NSP: “Thanks for the advice to not overthink and just declutter. The response is much appreciated, as it enforces what I was/am thinking about the process, and trying to do.

“I am keeping my doll that I got for Christmas when I was in kindergarten (and the pillow and quilt my grandmother made for it). I have been moving that thing with me for over 60 years and don’t want to give up now.

“Keep safe and healthy.”

The darnedest things

WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, from Vertically Challenged: “Our daughter sent us this conversation with little 4-year-old Adriana:

“‘Adriana was looking kinda sleepy, cranky.

“‘I said, “Do you wanna watch a little TV or rest your eyes for a little bit?”

“‘She said, “No, I gave naps up for Lent!”'”

Band Name of the Day: Imperct World

Website of the Day:  A timely rerun . . .




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