Posts Tagged ‘the barn’

Advice from Prison

February 19th, 2011 No Comments

My constant correspondent, Leonard Pickard, who is serving two consecutive life sentences in federal prison, offered me very good advice about the cat and bird game. He wrote, “Next time, remove cat first.”

All I can say to that is: “Duh!”

This is evidence that I’ve never owned a pet or lived in a house with one before this moment.

But I wonder if I could have removed the cat. She’s a nasty creature. When I first moved here, I let her sit on my bed in the morning when I wrote. She snuggled up to my leg and I petted her, enjoying that low rev motor of her purr, the very picture of what I wanted as a young girl when I was desperate for a cat, or any pet, really.

I reached over to stroke her, and she swiped at me. She drew blood!

As her owner, the owner of The Barn Michael Hamman says, “Pet her and pull back a bloody stump.”

Makes me think, I might be the one lying stunned on the deck had I tried to drag her out of the living room.

The bell is to warn humans, as well as birds

The Bird and Cat Game

February 17th, 2011 No Comments

The whole day was blustery, rain and winds so strong that my window started to hum with the vibration. That is why I was surprised to find when I came out to cook, that someone here had opened all the windows and left the door open to the deck.

Exit Strategy!

Then I saw the cat, Sally, who clearly had her eye on a bird.

Sally knows where the bird is, even if I don't

Sally is keen hunter. Even at the age of seven, she’s pretty fast. Her disadvantage in the hunt is that her owner hung a bell around her neck. It’s a huge bell, the kind they put on sleigh horses and it’s very loud. Otherwise, he said, the bird population around The Barn would be decimated. Before she had the bell, she’d hang around the redwood trees near the waterfall in the garden and wait for the little birdies to come to take a drink. Then she’d leap from the trees and snatch them up. With the bell on, at least the birds had a millisecond to react.

As I looked around for the bird, I saw she and Sally and tangled at least once, but the bird had survived.

Evidence of a previous battle!

Suddenly the bird, wherever it had been hiding, lit out for the kitchen and found a perch in the pantry.

That doesn't seem very safe to me, bird

I wanted to go in and grab it and shove it out the nearby window, but I didn’t know how or where to grab it. And Sally was right on her tail.

Sally spots her prey

Then the bird took a mad chance and fluttered to the floor on the other side of the kitchen island. Sally crept silently to the opposite corner, planning a sneak attack.

The bird doesn't know where to turn

The bird must have sensed something, because she came hopping around the far corner, as if to make her exit via the other side of the island. That was until the bird saw me. Stupid me, to fancy myself a benign presence, a savior, when I just looked like another enemy. The bird saw me, turned and started hopping back. Back to where Sally was waiting to kill her.

I screamed and ran to stop the cat, and the bird lit out for the rafters.

Dumbo, the door is the other direction!

I had to re-assess my involvement in this. My actions were making things worse. All my running around was spooking the bird, blocking escape paths. I returned to the kitchen to continue cooking, hoping that the bird was getting a little rest. When she had restored herself, she would sense the wind blowing in from the open door and beat it out of here.

When I went to the deck to trim some mint for my salad, I understood I had bet on the wrong outcome.

The little bird was upright and still, not breathing, while the cat licking her lips in triumph.

I felt like I’d killed the bird, with all my inept moves. I had been at once too involved, and then too neglectful. I hadn’t known how to protect it. I’m a city girl. What do I know about getting birds out of a barn?

I returned to the chopping block, abusing myself for my actions and looking out at the stormy bay. What chances did the bird have, anyway? She was wounded, one-eyed, stunned from running into walls, and exhausted. When I looked out at the bay, I thought, well, it would have been better to die making one last attempt at freedom than cornered behind a flowerpot on a dirty deck in the paws of a cat.

Then I looked up at the deck and saw the bird! She was smarter than the cat, just playing dead rather than being dead.

She made it to the Camillia bush, which was swaying wildly. I heard the cat’s bell, as she roused from her seat cushion and hit the floor, and jangled loudly as she sprinted out the door to the deck.

The bird hopped from the Camillia bush, on to the deck railing and then off toward the south, sure to die making a last dash to freedom.

The piers at the Hunter's Point Naval Shipyard


February 17th, 2011 No Comments

After that, I had to get out of The Barn. I think I was about as exhausted as the bird.

I had an errand to run on the ocean side of San Francisco, so I thought I’d take a walk on the beach in the storm. That’s my favorite moment on the beach.

The storm seems on its way out

It was low tide.

Low tide

What a relief to be there. Thought of this poem, but harder.

The Writer

By Richard Wilbur

In her room at the prow of the house
Where the light breaks, and the windows are tossed with linden,
My daughter is writing a story.

I pause at the stairwell, hearing
From her shut door a commotion of typewriter-keys
Like a chain hauled over a gunwale.

Young as she is, the stuff
Of her life is a great cargo, and some of it heavy;
I wish her a lucky passage.

But now it is she who pauses,
As if to reject my thought and its easy figure.
A stillness greatens, in which

The whole house seems to be thinking.
And then she is at it again with a bunched clamor
Of strokes, and again is silent.

I remember the dazed starling
Which was trapped in that very room, two years ago;
How we stole in, lifted a sash

And retreated, not to affright it;
And how for a helpless hour, through the crack of the door,
We watched the sleek, wild, dark

And iridescent creature
Batter against the brilliance, drop like a glove
To the hard floor, or the desk-top,

And wait then, humped and bloody,
For the wits to try it again; and how our spirits
Rose when, suddenly sure,

It lifted off from a chair-back,
Beating a smooth course for the right window
And clearing the sill of the world.

It is always a matter, my darling,
Of life or death, as I had forgotten. I wish
What I wished for you before, but harder.