american

A bird-lover’s report on the crows of Cleveland, OK

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Here’s a recent observational letter from local farmer Joseph Hoyt to the Cleveland (OK) American. I like that ‘his crows’ signal him for food the way ‘my chickadees’ call me out for leaving their feeder empty.

The crows have gotten to the point that they accept me, maybe not as a friend, but at least as a source of food. Sometimes, as I’m working outside, they perch on a nearby tree branch and yell at me. I’m beginning to learn that that three “caws” in succession means, “Meet me at the barn. Bring food.” If I have anything for them, I’ll give in to their demands, and by the time I get back to the house, they’ve already swooped in and started eating.

I feed other birds too. Hummingbirds, for instance, have grown accustomed to stopping by the patio for sips of nectar on warm summer days. They’ve gotten so used to me, in fact, that I can sit near their feeder and they will fly within a few inches of my face. Cardinals perch in the grapevines and blissfully eat to their hearts content with me standing a few feet away. Chickadees and titmice flit around here and eat the seeds that I’ve put out for them, and jays and woodpeckers will play in the birdbath. But there is something different about the crows.

Crows have and aura about them, and intelligence that can be sensed as you interact with them, and the more I’m around them, the more I notice a nonverbal communication between us. It’s almost as if we’re always playing games with one another.

Farmer Hoyt gets it: he shares his hilltop not only with the crows and other birds and his neighbors, but with all generations of all creatures past and future to inhabit his land. The very act of accepting that he has a responsibility to something other than himself is a refreshing change in this era. It’s good to be reminded, or simply to remember, we’re not alone on this Earth. Read the rest of his letter here.

Andrew Anderson – The One I Left Behind

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My friend Tom turned me on to Andrew Anderson both by personal recommendation and by playing his music on the stream for his amazing radio project in Roanoke (101.5FM The Music Place). This song finally rose to the top of my ginormous iTunes ‘New Music Inbox’ playlist and became an instant favorite. Not only is the sentiment on, but the singing & musicianship is as good as it gets:

The One I Left Behind

Do me a favor and make sure that you are heard
go on and make them feel every single word
and if they have the audacity to just get on up and leave
just play that song a little louder and maybe sing a tune for me

This one’s for the one I loved thats no longer on my mind
but may just cross it from time to time
and this ones for the one I left who stole my every breath
but we unfortunately ran out of time
Yeah this ones for the one I left behind

Do me a favor and make sure that you are seen
and hell it don’t matter if they all think your a little mean
do me a favor and make sure that they all see
every little part of everything that you could possibly be
and if they have the audacity to get on up and leave
just play that song a little louder and maybe sing a tune for me

(chorus)

so I’m gonna head out west and try to make my peace
and if it does not work I’ll just head back out east
and I’m gonna run, run, run until one day you see
you were a fool, too have ever left me
and one day when you see
just play that song a little louder and maybe sing a tune for me

Dorothy Moore – Misty Blue

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A grand performance from Dorothy Moore: one which hearkens back to times when I was a kid. When Mrs. Jones –my grandmother’s housekeeper (and Addie’s namesake)– would settle into the driver’s seat of my grandmother’s Oldsmobile my brother and I would thrill at the moment she punched the preset on the radio away from my grandmother’s easy listening to one of the AM Soul stations out of Norfolk. It was our habit to sing along, sometimes making up stupid-ass lyrics as kids will. With such a name as hers you can bet we knew every word of Billy Paul’s ‘Me & Mrs. Jones’

‘Misty Blue’ was different though. Mrs. Jones sang it like she meant it. As distinctive as Dorothy Moore’s performance was –as ripe for musical parody in the ears of a six year old– Mrs. Jones’ feeling for it precluded all but the best-intentioned approach to the magnificent, soaring chorus.

Lucy Kaplansky – The Thief

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This song reminds me of a Mexican restaurant in Tiburon.

We were sitting at a cafe
You were listening like you had nothing better to do
You were feigning interest badly,
I guess interest is too hard for you.

So I stopped talking, and just watched you
Watched the way your mouth made faces at me
Watched the way your eyes looked through me
Looking for something new you could take from me…

And I know what you are
You’re the thief who steals from your friends
I know what you are and
Everything in the world does not belong to you

Everything you ever gave me
Were just scraps you didn’t want anyway
All the people you discarded
Guess you never thought you might want them back some day

I’ve been loyal, I’ve been honest
Well, to tell you the truth, I don’t know what for
I’ve knelt down with all the others
But I’m not on my knees anymore…

And I know what you are
You’re the thief who steals from your friends
I know what you are and
Everything in the world does not belong to you

Last night, in the dark, in my mirror,
I thought I saw you
I threw the mirror on the floor
And it kept breaking and breaking and breaking and breaking…

And I know what you are
You’re the thief who steals from your friends
I know what you are and
Everything in the world does not belong to you.

Jimmy La Fave – Valentine’s Day

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Did you ever hear a song that felt like the story of how you got where you are? I caught this crucial Jimmy La Fave rendering early in the day and it floored me: one of those moments when you knit your brow so nobody can tell you’re getting misty about what’s happening in your headphones.

I’m driving a big lazy car, rushing down the highway in the dark
Got one hand steady on the wheel, one hand’s trembling over my heart
And it’s pounding, baby, like it’s gonna bust right on through
And it ain’t gonna stop ’til I’m alone again with you.

Friend of mine became a father last night
When we spoke, in his voice, I could feel the light
Of skies and the rivers, the timberwolf in the pines
That great jukebox on Route 59
They say he travels fastest who travels alone
Tonight I miss my girl, mister, tonight I miss my home.

Is it the sound of the leaves left blown by the wayside
Got me on this spooky old highway tonight
Is it the cry of the river with the moon shining through
And what scares me, baby, what scares me is losing you.

They say if you die in your dreams, you really die in your bed
But, honey, last night I dreamed my eyes rolled straight back in my head
God’s light came shining through
Woke up in the dark, but I was born anew.

Wasn’t the cold river bottom I felt rushing over me
Wasn’t the memory of a dream that that I never could see
It wasn’t the wind through the grey fields I felt rushing through my arms
No, no, baby, it was you.

So hold me close, and say you’re forever mine.
Let me be your lonely valentine.
Lonely valentine.

The arc of lifelong learning

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Last night I read a description of the boyhood of Quanah Parker to my kids:

“…[as prepubescent boys] they roved about in gangs, wrestling, swimming, racing their horses. They would often follow birds and insects, shooting hummingbirds with special headless arrows that had split fore-shafts. They shot grasshoppers and ate the legs for lunch…”

All this play was leading up to something, though. By the time a Comanche boy had been recognized among his People as a warrior he could:

“from fifty yards…reliably hit an object the size of a doorknob four out of five times. From ten to fifteen yards he could shoot a twenty- to thirty-inch arrow with such force that it would drive entire through the [body] of a two-thousand-pound buffalo if it did not hit bone.”

The relative usefulness of archery in the 21st century aside, what knowledge are you/I/we teaching our children that describes so straight a line in transformation into essential lifelong skills as adults? Fishing? Honesty? Mathematics? How focused are you/your kids on these things in daily life?

Uncle Tupelo – Anodyne

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One of those combos whose sound taps into the dissatisfaction of a long road trip, still a long ways yet from over:

Anodyne
Anodyne
Tossed it out for me to find
Without a word you’re out the door
Without a reason anymore…