Winter Around

Today I will look for God.

Just like I do everyday, at least on the days I’m not too harried.

It is easy to find him in spring with new life imminent.

It is easy to find him in summer with its long, lazy days.

It is not hard to find him in autumn, with its glorious bursting colors.

But winter.

In winter I find him on the branches of seemingly dead trees glistening with ice.

I hear him in the birdsong as they bravely carry on, encouraging one another.

I find him in the crunchy blades of grass under my boots.

I feel his breath on my cheeks and nose.

I see him in a multitude of grackles pecking a frozen ground.

I hear him in the heavy silence all around. Be still and listen.

In the winter season, he is still there.

Seek, then find.

Feeding the Big Chickens

We recently had a family picnic at the park.  It was a beautiful September day and we were in the big city, so we decided to grab a couple burgers and enjoy them under the treetops.

The park has a big lake with walkers and joggers circling it.  A few fisherman had cast their poles into the water and were waiting patiently in their lawn chairs.  A sweet elderly couple sat at a picnic table, his arm draped around her shoulders, enjoying the day.


We sat right at that other picnic table fighting off the flies.  I watched  that little old couple and my thoughts turned romantic.  I smiled at the idea of  how sweet and long-lasting their love is.  Like something Nicholas Sparks would write.  And then as I eavesdropped a little more, I discovered that they weren’t an old married couple after all, but new companions.  He was telling her about the time when he was twelve and they visited Wisconsin.  He talked about the war.  She asked questions about his former marriage.  As we got up to leave, I snapped their picture, glad to know that new love exists.  That little white-haired couple lifted my spirits and reminded me that no matter how old you are, there is still time to make new friends.

We saved a little bit of our hamburger buns for the ducks.  Is it just me, or do you get a little wigged out when all the ducks start surrounding you, crowding into your space, honking and quacking?  I was attacked by a duck once, I guess you could call it that, and ever since that experience, I’ve been a little gun-shy.  Or duck-shy.

EK has a way of expressing her delight.  She OH’s.  When she sees that little black baby boy on the Pamper’s box, she says Oh, Oh, Oh, but drags it out.  She Oh’ed at the ducks and the swans.  I wonder what her little mind was thinking of those gigantic birds.  Maybe something along the lines of “Whoa man, that is one big chicken.”

She was just as curious as they were and when it mistook her bare toes for bread crumbs, she didn’t cry, she just Oh’ed at it.

When all our hamburger buns were either eaten or growing soggy in the water, we took a little stroll around the lake and enjoyed the moment with dreams of many more to come.





In Memory of my Dad #14

Gremlins sit at my elbow, grinning inanely at me as I try to work. Try to be interesting and hold the reader by the hand, leading him or her through a myriad of words.

Sometimes I think writing a column is the hardest form of work there is. Certainly, it’s harder than laying pipe. It’s harder than working on a drilling rig. It’s even almost as hard as the stoop labor that the nurserymen do.

Believe me I know, having done the aforementioned things to earn my daily bread. Suddenly and without warning these small imps can evolve into full grown demons that make me want to do nothing except stare out the window at the trash bins.

Is that a fly I hear?

It’s early in the year for flies and I spent the whole of one day during the warmest days of late October ridding McClure Avenue of its sole remaining fly.

Yet that is the unmistakable drone of a fly. I try to ignore the droning, but this one has the sound of a Huey gunship. Loud and annoying.

I rise and stalk the fly. As usual it vanishes and cowers in silence. Just as I’m getting my thoughts back in some semblance of order, here comes the droning again. Still loud and annoying, and the gremlins are still lurking, keeping me from my work, so it went this fine, almost spring day in March, 1996.

I figured, what the heck? All God’s creatures need a break from each other “mas o meno”, so I’ll just take a little break from the invisible fly and go to the post office.

I notice two small grayish birds just outside my window, the bigger and more gaudy of the two, I surmise to be the male. The female has a small bit of feathery fluff in her beak. Some sort of soft flooring for the nest they are going to construct. I suppose that is what will happen, because the male of the species has a whole beak full of grass, twigs, and a brightly colored ribbon. I talk to the birds, you know, so I’ll just ask them what type of bird they are on the way to the post office.

The female seems to have the bit of feather stuck in the side of her beak. Hung in her eyeteeth, as it were. All she would have to do is put one of her tiny bird feet on the feather, rear her head back and she would be free of the bit of clinging fluff. The male, impatient to begin construction on the nest mutters under his breath, trying to hurry the female along.

False spring is the sort of weather we have been having. False spring is when it is unseasonably warm and then turns off cold once more. I think I heard that in an old John Wayne movie, The Shootist, or something like that. Do these birds then know something that the weathermen have not hit upon? It looks as if they do, because now they have elected to build their nest in a neighbor’s abandoned boat.

It is getting close to noon now, and the gremlins have field day in my head. I try to think of an idea that will fly (pun intended). I walk around the town trying to come up with an idea. Fathers, sons, mortgages, responsibilities, anything. But now the fly has returned droning louder than ever.

I sneak another quick peek at the birds. The female is taking her own sweet time about selecting a spot in the boat where they will build the nest, while her mate scolds and hops all around. I’m amazed at how the human aspect enters into this little drama, but right now I have trouble of my own and cannot stop to commiserate with the birds.

Besides there is no difference in their predicament. The female still has the bit of feathery fluff hanging from the corner of her beak, while the papa wren still carries the load of grass, twigs, and bright ribbon. The little imps that were once gremlins by now have grown into full-fledged demons, and the day is fading into eternity as I sit here and try to tap something out on the old Smith-Corona.

It has now been about five hours since I first started to observe the male and his ditzy mate with the feather hung in her beak. I see the tail feathers emerge from under the power trim section of the boat, and I’m glad that the male has finally began construction on the nest without his companion who can’t even get rid of a tiny fluff of feather.

But wait, that’s the female emerging from the recesses of the boat, her beak as clean as a whistle.

The male still hops around importantly with, you guessed it, a beak full of grass, twigs, and a bright bit of ribbon.

~Bob Briggs

A Nest

Spring is coming.  It’s just around the corner.  As soon as I utter that old cliche’, tomorrow we’ll all probably get snowed thirty feet under.  But I am remaining hopeful about the coming spring.  The tulips and daffodils are poking their green heads out of the earth and birds are building nests.

Unfortunately the owner of this particular dwelling will have to rebuild.  I stole this bird’s nest from a tree out at “our place” for two reasons.  1) I found it fascinating and wanted to show somebody, and 2) I could reach it.

In my nearly 36 years, I’ve never studied a bird’s nest, and in my shallow storybook mind, I thought they were only made from twigs and sticks.  But just look at this.  (I only wish my photography skills would enable you to see this better, but I take pictures almost as good as I write my name in the snow, if you know what I mean.)

  This bird has a heaping helpin’ hodgepodge of nesting materials.  Including but not limited to: carpet strands, cotton from a nearby field, weed stems, grass, and sticks.

At a closer study, you’ll see:

Seeds from a cotton plant,

A long strand of something plastic,

A possible wad of toilet paper, but optimistically, a paper towel,

Perhaps pieces from a Clorox wipe,

A hair from a horse’s mane or tail,

and a dadgum lollipop stick!


To think the places this bird flew to gather her supplies is beyond my understanding.

My first reaction to this bird’s nest was amazement and fascination.  Even still, when I gaze upon on, I’m in awe.  I want to share it with everyone I know, so I took it to my classroom, naturally thinking that my student’s would feel the same way as I, holding it and examining it with a child-like wonder and disbelief.  Instead, to my utter disappointment, most of them were grossed out.  Several “eeewwww’s” went up from the crowd, others wouldn’t hold it, and the ones that did squirted their hands with hand sanitizer afterwards.  It caused me to pause and reflect, “What is this world coming to?”  that the first reaction of 8 year old’s is repulsiveness instead of curiosity.

While being married to a man who sticks his arm inside a cow’s booty,

who organizes a birthday party contest for cow-chip throwing,

who lances bovine abscesses to drain bucketfuls of puss,

I can’t fathom being grossed out by a bird’s nest.

A sweet little bird who used her resourcefulness and hard work to build a nest in which to start her family.  

Suddenly as I think of what I’ve done, thieving the home of one of God’s creatures for educational purposes, I feel like a wretch.

I’m going to put it back.  I know she won’t accept it, after being touched by so many (germ-sanitized) human hands, but I’m going to put it back anyway.

I’ll be able to sleep better at night.