Apparently Birds and I Have a Thing Now

It seems my life has come full circle.

Last week, I shared a story about finding a helpless baby crow/raven/black thing and how it challenged my view of parenthood.

And as of yesterday, that’s all been flipped on its head again. By another winged creature.

(Is my life secretly a Darren Aronofsky film?)

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June and summertime are here in full force. TIME FOR NOMMING ALL THE FRESH STRAWBABIES!!!

Last summer, I caught the last 3 weeks of Driediger Farm’s berry season. I worked my butt off sorting berries, weighing berries, selling berries, standing in fields making sure other people properly picked the berries without STRAYING INTO THE GOSHDARN PARTS OF THE FIELD THAT ARE VERY OBVIOUSLY TAPED OFF FOR A REASON.

It was really fun.

I was overjoyed when they hired me back this summer, for the entire season. Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries galore. Juice-stained fingers and happy smiles and puppies.

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I am not even joking.

I got paid to do this for 10 minutes yesterday.

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Did I say this story was about a bird? That’s weird.

For approximately one hour of our shift, we go out to the fields with a cold water bottle (and a black umbrella if it’s really a scorcher) to walk up and down the rows, making sure all the berries are getting picked and the customers are happy.

Yesterday, I’d been fielding for 20 minutes, when I saw one of my co-workers walking towards me, holding a blue strawberry carton in one hand and covering the top with her other hand.

“Hey Carly, I’ve got something for you!”

I was excited. I thought maybe it was an ice cream bar we couldn’t sell because the wrapper tore prematurely, and she was protecting it until it got to me.

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Nope. Definitely not an ice cream bar.

“Some customers found him flopping around half-flying on the road, and we DON’T know where he came from, and we DON’T want him to get hurt, but we CAN’T have him in the market. Can you watch him until we figure this out, and make sure he doesn’t fly towards the road?”

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Obviously this face just screams “BIRD WHISPERER.”

So I held the box very delicately as I walked gently through the fields. He chirped constantly. Bro was MAD.

And then he started getting ballsy.

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One millisecond later, he pooped.

 He tried to fly off of my hand into the trees and ended up just flopping into the field and squawking. It was pretty pathetic. I very quietly and subtly chased after him, saying, “No, precious! It’s not safe! Come back to me. GET IN THE BOOOOXXXX!!!”

 We did this for a couple rounds. No one else in the field even noticed, so consumed were they in the passionate hunt for strawberries.

The third time he left the box, he fluttered onto my shoulder. Everything so happened so fast after that.

From my shoulder, he decided that my hair looked like it would make a nice nest, so he hopped onto my noggin and declared it HIS with much pomp and deliberation.

My feelings were a little muddled.

Oh, um. Okay. There's a tiny ruffled bird in my luscious locks.

Oh, um. Okay. There’s a tiny ruffled bird in my luscious locks.

Should I panic?

Should I panic?

Aww, look at the cute little baby squawk!

Aww, look at the cute little baby squawk!

OMG please don't poop in my hair too.

OMG please don’t poop in my hair too.

And then…(what I can only assume was) the MOTHER showed up.

She was flapping. She was dive-bombing. She was swarming. If her mouth hadn’t been bursting with fat, green worms, she would have been screaming motherly obscenities at me.

Now. I like birds. I really do. But if they start to do that flappy-screamy-possibly peck your eyes out business near my face, I always very calmly try to GTFO as quickly as possible.

This is it. This is how it ends.

I called my co-worker. “Baby bird is stuck on my head, and its mother found me, I’m pretty sure she’s angry, and Idon’tknowwhattodoHAYULLPP.”

She rushed across the field. Mother Bird gave up on me for a moment and soared into the nearest tree. Probably spewing out those worms to save room for my eyes.

Gracious Co-Worker untangled Baby Bird from my head, and he took off – as was his habit.

But this time — I kid you NOT — Mother Bird and another Bird swooped down on either side of Baby and helped him FLY into the nearest tree.

I don’t know if I almost passed out because my Personal Nightmare was over, or because I was pretty sure I’d just witnessed a Miracle of Nature.

And STILL, the berry pickers never noticed a THING.

It’s gonna be a good summer, my darlings. A gooooooood summer.

It Takes a Village…And A Bird

Since Sunday, there’s been a quiet revolution at the Button Bungalow. We cleaned out our fridge and shelves, bought fresh mostly-clean food and two crates of water bottles (Steve refuses to drink the tap water…he’s lived in this city his entire life; maybe he knows something I don’t) — and since the sun hasn’t quit shining all week, we’ve been outside, cleaning up the trailer in preparation for camping and going on long walks.

It feels good. I’m going to be in a wedding for the first time at the end of the summer, and I want to look good too.

Yesterday, we drove down to Crescent Beach to walk along the ocean and attempt the 1000 Steps — which is exactly what it sounds like. A bunch of twisting stairs that start from the beach, going over some train tracks and winding through a hill that has absolutely no view or anything rewarding at the top, like an ice cream truck, for example. Just the self-satisfaction that you did it. (Also, we saw Mike Reno from Loverboy walking his dog, and heard a rumour of a nude guy making a presentation, but that’s another story for another time.)

We’ve done the 1000 steps once before, but this time, after watching a mother-daughter duo who’d committed to climbing it up and down five times, we decided to challenge ourselves to…twice. 4000 steps.

Needless to say, the legs are a little hurty today. But we figured that the only way to keep going was to keep going. So, another sunshiny day, another walk; just around the neighbourhood this time.

I forgot to wear my glasses, but Steve is always a faithful guide for bumps and dips that my clumsy self is bound to naturally locate. We found a concrete path between two houses, and something caught my eye.

A little black bird (raven? crow? I’m blind) dead on the ground.

I gasped, and Steve stopped. Taking a closer look at it, we determined that it was NOT dead, just laying there. Eyes blinking, mouth opening and closing occasionally, wings flat on the ground. My heart was pretty sure it was crying out for help in a language we couldn’t understand.

We couldn’t leave it there. But do we pick it up? Take it home? Did it have diseases? Would our cat disown us? We couldn’t just leave it.

Steve remembered that his mum and sister had found a baby bird in their yard a couple of years ago. He called them to ask if they had taken it anywhere.
Sister said that they had, but that we shouldn’t do anything because the bird shelter gets countless calls from people this time of year about the same thing: baby raven/crow/blackbirds helpless on the ground.

And what people don’t know is that this time of year, EVERY YEAR, they are kicked out of the nest by their parents, who will let them lay on the ground for days until they learn how to fly.

Sure enough, we looked up at the closest tree, and there was a big black bird sitting and cawing away.

I’m not savin’ them and you ain’t either! But if you touch my baby, I take your eye!

Uh why WOULDN’T this mama bird was a chain-smoking prison warden from the Bronx?

With great hesitation, we walked away. I hate it when I feel bad and good simultaneously.

It hit me that we had just witnessed a prime example of nature vs. nurture.

And it’s messed me up.

I assume crows, or whatever the hell these things were, have been around for a long time. They know what they’re doing. We call them the rats of the skies, yet we would have stepped in and saved that baby’s life if it needed done. It’s not in our nature to not want to nurture. But very much so, that little bird needs to learn how to fly, and we don’t have wings. Saving it would only hurt it in the long run.

It got us talking.

From the time I was 8, I’d been required to live life as a little adult. Childhood ended early for me as I struggled to keep my mom and myself safe from an unknown future in the wilderness.

Steve lived at home until he got married at 33, taking care of and being taken care of by his family. (Some might think that’s weird, but YOU try living in the Vancouver area by yourself and see how long you last.) His grandparents lived with his family once they couldn’t care for themselves any longer, until they passed away. A full house.

I am the prodigy of self-sufficiency, and he is the testament of “It Takes A Village.”

What will our children know?

Because it can’t always be about “Who are you gonna be?” or “What are you gonna do?” — when all the stuff of early parenting and passing milestones and getting “good grades” burns away, what do I want them to know at their core?

That they are capable of anything if they work hard and treat others with kindness and respect. That if they wait to take the leap until they’re ready, they’ll never jump. That wings only come after the cocoon of time and squeezing. That we will pour ourselves into them day in, day out until we work ourselves out of a job because, hey, they can fly on their own now.

“I want to encourage them to not be afraid to take adventures, see the world and change it for good, and for them to know that we’ll always be waiting for them if they need us.” I said to Steve.

He nodded and smiled. “And while you say that to the kids, I’ll be standing behind you, smiling and shaking my head and mouthing *Be afraid, be very afraid, stay here with us please* and then I’ll actually say, ‘If you go to Europe, remember I’m not Liam Neeson. I don’t have a special set of skills, so DON’T get kidnapped.”

Deep down, that’s probably why we chose and need each other. Opposite sides of the teeter totter. If we work together, the balance will come. The children will play. The Village will have a park.

And hopefully I won’t have to push anybody out of a tree.

 

That Time Motown Tried To Kill Us All

Music.

Ahhh.

Even just the word itself holds such warmth for me. It’s always coursed through my veins, been as much a part of me as my own thoughts.

I hum without thinking about it, to the annoyance of some. For the brief amount of years I was in school, my report cards always referenced my “special” humming in some way.
If I hear someone say a phrase that has been used in a song, my brain will immediately scan the archives and locate the “file”, so I can break out in spontaneous song for absolutely no reason.

I came by it honestly. My mom always had a guitar in the house, playing her originals and teaching me how to keep a beat and hear harmonies.

At the time I thought she was weird, but now I totally appreciate both of those abilities. Also, this  vinyl record cover of hers from 1980.

I had very little formal education (one year lessons each of piano, voice and bass guitar), but I was always exposed. In the right place at the right time, up for anything.

One Christmas season, I was in 3 different choirs, learning the Soprano AND Alto parts of The Hallelujah Chorus and going on to perform it no less than 11 times. (After that, we spent some much needed time apart. I now love it again.)

I’ve done solos, duets, trios, quartets, talent shows, choreography, sign language, school choir, church choir, community choir, musical theatre. Gospel, Christmas, Madrigal, Worship, Pop, Musicals, Songwriting, Recording, and Lullabies For Children Who Just Won’t Sleep.

But until last month, I had never done…

Some friends in Coquitlam were having a Ballroom Fundraiser at the Italian Cultural Centre, trying to raise money for the St. Francis of Assisi school to build a new gym. They asked us to join one of the live bands (Steve playing electric guitar, and me as one of 3 back-up singers) and we said “sure!” BEFORE we knew the evening’s theme was “Night At The Apollo.”

We had no idea what we were in for.

For 8 weeks, we practiced. And for almost every single one of those, husband was a little, shall we say, done.

He’d been sick, had a tooth broken, had said tooth REMOVED surgically and horrifically, was teaching ukulele to children, working long days putting in floors for high-maintenance customers, and now we needed to pack up all his guitar gear for a 2 hour practice, while paying a bridge toll and driving half an hour each way. (Never fear, we were later reimbursed.)

To commit to this for music you love is challenging; for music you know nothing about is slightly torturous.

Such is the life of a musician.

The day of the gala arrived. Steve worked until 3 since we had to be at the ICC by 4pm for a sound check.

It was one of the first hot days of the year. Steve’s truck was in for repairs, so we had to take my car – the one without shocks or air conditioning.

By the grace of God and mid-afternoon traffic, we found the Italian Cultural Centre. We opened the doors to find someone we knew, and it was like swaaaaaaank.

 

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Our crowd

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Our stage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here are some cra-mazing things that happened.

1.) The two of us got all the gear inside and set up with ONLY ONE argument and mini-breakdown in the parking lot.

2.) We had a sound check, and one of the other back-up singers (Nina) asked me to “sing something from Frozen” for her little girl (Sophia) who was watching us. So, in a child-like voice, I sang “Do You Wanna Build A Snowman?” while Sophia alternated between dancing in delight and watching me carefully to make sure I got every word right. Whatever,  I nailed it.

3.) I applied my own make-up without looking like a painted whore.

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4.) Since we didn’t go on stage until 9pm, we went to Brown’s Social House for dinner after the sound check. I’d never been before, and everyone was like “Don’t order anything too creamy or weird cause it’ll mess up your voice” and I was like “screw that, I’m in a new restaurant and I’m going to ENJOY IT” so I ordered some Chipotle and Lime Chicken Fajitas with pico de gallo and guacamole and oh my gosh. To die for. (and now it’s coming to LANGLEY!!!!)

5.) As we were getting ready to leave Brown’s, the other back-up singer (Josie) told us she didn’t feel very good. We waited for her outside while she used the bathroom. When she came back out, she said, “Soooo, I probably shouldn’t have eaten that Filipino food for lunch. Can we stop at the drugstore on the way back for some Pepto-Bismol?”
Uhhh, one of our strongest singers was experiencing hard-core diarrhea mere hours before the show — OF COURSE we’re gonna get her some Pepto. She was a trooper; she survived the entire night gulping back doses of the Pink Stuff every half hour while joking, “Good thing I wore sturdy bike shorts underneath this dress!”

6.) I drank a whole cup of wine while playing poker backstage — all without flinching.

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7.) Our set of 13 songs went smoothly and quickly and rather funly. Well, except for one minor thing…you’d think it was that I fell off the stage after trying to sing and remember our choreography while wearing an itchy feather boa and high heels, but I actually survived that…

Weeks ago, our lead singer/director of the band, Tami, told us that the last time she’d been a part of something like this, she’d thanked everyone involved in the event but completely forgot to thank her husband who’d been taking care of their 5 kids the entire time. So THIS TIME, she wanted us to learn a medley of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”, “Upside Down,” and “I Say a Little Prayer For You” as a way of dedication and apology for the last time.

The moment she’d been waiting for had arrived. Her husband was in the crowd, the people were listening, the band was ready.

She told the story of why she was dedicating this particular piece to him.

And then the rest of us started panicking as we realized that she’d forgotten the order of the music; it was not, in fact, time to make a dedication to her amazing husband. We started to scramble through our music; realizing her mistake, she finished her public dedication, and then told us to just continue the song order as planned.

But the crowd didn’t know how things were supposed to go. So all they heard was a touching dedication and then….

“We could have had it aaaaalllll, rollin’ in the deeeEEEeeeep….you’re gonna wish you! never had met me! tears are gonna fall! rollin’ in the deep!”

After we finished rocking the Adele, Tami goes, “And NOW it’s time to sing for my husband.”

8.)  To close out the evening, one of the school’s bus drivers crashed the stage as an Elvis impersonator. We knew he was coming, but nobody else did. For the first time that night, everyone got up from their tables and crowded the front of the stage, screaming and taking what I assume were really blurry photos. I wanted a photo with him after the show, but he ran away too fast to change out of his clothes, cause he thought he was gonna die of heat exhaustion. So here he will remain in legendary mystery.

 

9.) Steve and I didn’t break up.

 

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These are the faces of  2 people who used their talents to entertain, and help children get a gym, and who are so hitting McDonald’s as soon as they can get everything back into the sauna–err, car.

Aretha, I hope you are proud. Justa-justa-justa–justa-justa-justa-justa little bit.