I Believe in Magic

Two brothers, one older and one much younger

Or one younger, and one much older

— That’s probably closer to the mark

Their quiet voices barely carried

through the pre-show murmur of the crowd

 

The younger: How do you think he does it? Is it really

magic?

Nah, it’s just a trick. There’s no such thing as magic.

I don’t believe in it.

 

The crowd started to quiet as the magician–if there is

such a person–walked through the parents on chairs ringing

the assembled children, so many children, who sat, faces upturned, looking

as if they believed

 

And with a swirl of long-practiced hands over a few bottle caps

placed

on the floor in the style of a street performance, the show began

 

There’s no such thing as magic?

 

I believe in magic

I’ve watched those young upturned faces and

the older as well

as their eyes went wide

when balls disappeared and reappeared or

playing cards changed their colors

How could I not believe?

 

I believe in magic

I’ve heard the gasps and breaths drawn sharply

I’ve heard the rapid, whispered, questioning voices

as keys were bent or

torn objects became whole again

How could I not believe?

 

I believe in magic

I’ve felt from the crowd around me

the excitement, the joy, the awe

as reality is suspended and

the cares of the world are set aside

if only for the length of the show

How could I not believe?

 

I’ll reassume the cares of the world

tomorrow or the next day or maybe not ever

But for now

for today

I believe in magic.

How could I not believe?

“I’ve heard…”

“I’ve heard…”

Ah, the things we’ve heard, believed, and passed on.  Sometimes, just sometimes, I pine for the simplicity of the urban myths of yesteryear.  What we’ve today come to call “fake news” or “alternative facts” were, well, simpler then.  Innocent.  Relatively harmless.  (Well, many were, anyway.)

Okay, this isn’t a political post.  It’s safe to keep reading.  I’m talking about commonly held beliefs from the natural world.

I’ve heard there are alligators in the sewers of (insert city name here, usually New York City).  They live off of pets and rats they can catch.  Some, because of how long they’ve lived underground, have hatched blind, albino offspring.

Or

The daddy longlegs is the most venomous spider in the world.  The only reason they don’t kill people is their fangs are too short to penetrate our skin.

These myths have been passed along and grown because they seem plausible.  It seems like an alligator could live in the sewer.  Maybe those spiders are dangerous…they’ve always kind of creeped me out, and their heads are really small.

A little bit of thought, or, Heaven forbid, a little bit of reading, though, and those stories sort of fall apart.  Before I go any further, I need to say I’m not throwing stones.  While I’m working to dismantle that particular glass house, it’s still way too beautiful for that!

Last night, I had an “I’ve heard” experience.  Like I did a few days ago, I was helping a friend of mine conduct a raptor presentation.   I was able to present Max, a male Eurasian eagle owl, to a youth scouting group at a local church.  Standing on the grass beside the building, we went through the standard presentation, took some questions, and then stood by as the kids were taken inside.  A few parents hung back, and one gentleman walked over to me, clearly eager to have a close-up look at the owl.

We talked for a few minutes as he asked questions about Max’s age, weight, natural habitat, and diet.  Then he paused as if he was reluctant to ask his next question.  After a moment, he said, “I’ve heard that birds of prey can eat their weight in food in a single day.  Is that true?”

We’d already talked about how the bird I was holding weighed around four pounds, so, in essence, he was asking if it could eat four pounds of food in a single day.  I respected his question, but all the more so because he already sounded a bit skeptical himself.

Now, honestly, I didn’t know how much a raptor can eat in a single day.  I wasn’t going to pull out my phone to look it up, but I did do a bit of the thinking I mentioned earlier.  I knew most birds are typically already at about their weight limit for flight.  If they were much heavier, they just couldn’t fly.  I also knew, though, that raptors do, indeed, have a big appetite.

So we talked it out as we thought through it together.  We decided that a four-pound bird could probably eat about one pound of food.  We also decided that a bird (or any other animal larger than an insect) couldn’t possibly eat its weight in food.  Mosquitos, probably, but that’s about it.

After a few more minutes we said goodbye and he walked off to go find his kid.  It was good–fun, even–to think through a problem like that and come up with an educated guess.  It was a lot better than me just rattling off an answer; that’s what I think, anyway.

As a closing note, I did look it up.  A raptor will sometimes eat between 1/4 and 1/3 of its weight, but then not need to eat again for a while.  Wow…that’s an appetite.

 

Harry Makes It Look So Easy

I think that showing an owl is a lot of work.  Oh so rewarding, but a lot of work.  Over the past 24 hours, I’ve spent nearly 10 hours with one on my hand, so–while I’m not an expert–I’ve at least got a clue.

Bringing one to a show involves preparing them for the experience.

They have to be fed appropriately.  Not “filled up,” but not hungry enough to be ornery.

Their anklets need to be checked for comfort and security, and their jesses need to be inspected as well.  The equipment cannot fail.

Their jesses must have a swivel attached; that, too, needs to be checked for security.

A leash is attached to the swivel, typically before transporting the bird.  Once on site, the owl must be secure.

(Keeping the owl secure is a really big deal.)

Food, normally in the form of mice, must be thawed and packaged for the day.

The owl is placed in its travel cage.  It’s not uncommon for these to look exactly like a large dog crate covered with a fabric drape.

As it leaves the cage, the leash is secured by passing it and the jesses between the thumb and forefinger of your gloved hand from the back, across the palm, and back out between the middle and ring fingers.  The leash is wrapped several times around the first two fingers.  In addition to the leash, the swivel is clipped to a strap attached to the glove.

The owl is held with a roughly horizontal hand.  He or she will adjust position until comfortable.

That’s it–that’s all there is to it.

Thanks, Max, for a great few days.  You were a champ!

Max

Max is a male Eurasian eagle owl.

John 15:13

Figuratively speaking, the floor around me is littered with balled-up wads of paper as I’ve started this slice many more times than once.  I don’t think I have the words, and when I think I might have found them I’m afraid they’ll come out wrong.  I’m worried about privacy, I’m worried about coming across too maudlin, or I’m worried about how my writing could be misinterpreted, especially by someone who has experienced or is experiencing something similar.  This story is just too common throughout our nation, yet hidden at the same time.

So, I’ll dive in.

When you ask soon-to-be parents what they “want” concerning their new baby, some will state a preference: We want a boy or a little brother or a son to carry on the name.  Or, we want a girl, a strong little sister, a princess to call our own.  It’s not uncommon, though, to hear a third answer: It doesn’t matter, as long as he or she is healthy.  No one, it seems, wants or hopes otherwise.

But some do.

I recently traveled north, as I do during most longer school breaks, to visit “my side of the family.”  My wife goes many of the times, when work and other commitments allow, but not every time.  (Did you know there are people who don’t just get a week or two or ten off at a time?)  As we’ve made that trip so many times over the years, we’ve celebrated births and birthdays, deaths, holidays, graduations, and sometimes just the ability to get together for a shared meal on Sunday afternoon.  My siblings and I have watched our children grow into their twenties as we’ve grown into our 40s and 50s.

Now, though, as it’s just starting to get more difficult to crawl around on the floor, I have a niece and nephew, both under the age of three.  My sister and her wife, it seems, are in the process of adoption.       Full stop.  Wow.

Those two little kids are nothing short of precious.  Their young lives hold the potential of every new birth, and they’ve already grown to bring so much joy to the new family around them.  The oldest, a boy, has a mop of blonde hair and an impish look that never ceases to bring a smile to anyone who sees it.  The youngest, a girl who’s yet to see her first birthday, wears a grin most of the time and has the odd habit of rolling/scooting instead of crawling.  Her chunky little legs cry out to be gently pinched, and her dark brown hair is in a constant state of muss.

They’re kids.  They’re a son and a daughter to their new parents, a niece and a nephew to some of us, grandchildren to others, and new cousins to the rest.  Adopted into the family (well, almost, as the wheels of the system move slowly).

Choosing to adopt is an act of love and grace.  Adoption, in and of itself, is incredible.

“It doesn’t matter, as long as he or she is healthy…”

Adopting children who were born into opioid addiction? That takes things to a whole new level.

Some folks, it seems, want and hope otherwise.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

The Drive Home

My wife and I oftentimes say that the best part of any trip is coming home.  There’s just something about walking through the door after a trip–we love it.

I did just that a few hours ago, wrapping up a trip to visit my parents in Ohio.  It was a tough trip, as I drove through rain more than half of the 450 miles.  Yuck.

Sometimes I think about the differences between coming and going.

On the trip up, the car is packed neatly and everything has a place.  On the trip home, everything is in the car…somewhere.  (Except for coming back home after Christmas.  Um, Mom, how am I going to get that in the car?)

On the trip up, I’m fresh and ready for a road trip.  On the trip home, I’m tired from all of the interaction (as good as it is!) and a strange bed.  Although, I have to admit, my folks’ guest bed is extremely comfortable.  Unfortunately, it’s a double bed and I’m 6’4″ tall.  I sleep diagonally.

On the trip up, conversation is usually plentiful.  On the trip home, there’s a lot of music and thinking time.

Our (it won’t be tax season, so my wife the tax preparer can go) next trip should be in the early summer, and I can’t wait to see everyone again.

Maybe we could fly home.

I Don’t Have to Understand

Nature, sometimes, confuses me.  I don’t understand, but I guess that’s okay.

During my spring break travel time here in Ohio, I went shopping with my mom.  As we were out and about, we found ourselves in a strip mall shopping area.  Asphalt and concrete as far as the eye could see (which, honestly, wasn’t that far given the density of the buildings).

Right there in the parking lot, settled beneath a tree in the middle of 24 square feet of dirt that was once covered with mulch, sat a nesting Canada goose, with the mate standing guard just a few feet away, its feet standing on the curb.

Nature, sometimes, confuses me.  I don’t understand, but I guess that’s okay.

It Would Be Nice to Be a Regular

As I’m getting older, it seems like the only time I find myself in a bar, I’m with my mom.

Honestly, I’m not sure how she’s going to handle reading that line.

Perhaps I should clarify.  I’m currently up from Alabama visiting my family in Ohio.  It’s a trip I try to make around three or four times a year–usually my trips coincide with a school break.  When I’m here, either by myself or with my wife, we usually make at least one trip out to dinner at a favorite place in the small town where I was raised, Union.

Union, a suburb of a suburb of Dayton, is getting bigger; when I lived there the town didn’t have a single stop light.  If I’m not mistaken, it’s now up to two.  When I lived there, it didn’t have the Toll House Tavern, either.

The Toll House, situated near the historical location of a toll station on State Route 48, is now a fixture in this small town.  The Toll House can be a lot of things, depending on what you’re looking for.  We enjoy it as a restaurant with locally-famous broasted chicken, but if you’re looking for trivia on Wednesday nights, a place to meet with friends, or just a great place to tip a cold one (whatever your pleasure), it’s great for that, too.

It’s got the juke box, the neon signs that seem to have been there forever, the pine lap-joint paneling, and, of course, a long classic bar with an array of taps and bottles on display.  A dart board, and at least one framed malt beverage poster with puppies.  Dark wood beams and a few stained-glass windows round out the decor.  Depending on the night, it’s quiet (like this evening, a Monday) or it’s loud and boisterous.  If you’re a regular, you know the other regulars, and if you’re not, you feel comfortable as well.  Indeed, it could be that place where everyone knows your name.

I’ll be back in a few months, and I’m already looking forward to dinner with the family.  Maybe, just maybe, we’ll be back tomorrow night.

Roadtrip

Walking, duffle bag in hand, across the rain-soaked driveway in the pre-dawn darkness, looking up surprised to see stars instead of clouds.

Stopping 15 minutes down the road because I didn’t have to go at home.

Crossing the Tennessee State Line enveloped in fog, the windshield wipers clearing the accumulating mist.

Driving past the Shady Lawn Rest Center, confused about, well, the lack of trees on the grass in the front of the building.

Feeling better about my own drive as I pass the guy with the Wisconsin license plates.

Smiling as I around the curve and see the Nashville Skyline. Even though my daughters are now in their late twenties, I still think of the most prominent building as the Bat Tower.

Crossing the Kentucky State Line, singing along with the Allman Brothers. “Ramblin Man.” What a coincidence.

Rolling the dice and deciding not to take the bypass around Louisville.  Good call! That’s not always the case.

Crossing the last state line for the day as the Ohio River rolls on below the bridge.

Hugs to end the trip!

 

Program Outline

This morning I led an environmental education program for a group of adults with intellectual disabilities.  I’m going to write a longer post about it later, but I wanted to share the outline today:

  • Start with introducing the Land Trust property where the event was held
  • Conduct an audience-participation bird song activity
  • Teach about the geography of Alabama and how it affects the biodiversity of the land
  • Talk about the mammals, marsupials, birds, reptiles, and amphibians of the area
  • Discuss the importance of the Oxford comma.  Not really, but the last bullet necessitated the inclusion of this bullet
  • Finish with a raptor presentation starring Sassy the red-tailed hawk

In a word, it was a blast.  More to follow!