Janet Sheridan: Plans take flight
Last fall, my husband, Joel, and I examined our yard, deciding which perennial flowers and shrubs we would praise for their perfomance, transplant to a better spot, divide for increased vigor, discard without mourning or threaten before granting one more chance.
Plans made, we vowed to complete them before snow fell but then decided to travel to Illinois to claim our grandparents’ bleacher-badge for outstanding attendance at a plethora of sporting events played with various degrees of skill.
Upon our return home, our commitment to fine gardening was undermined by Broncos football and Cardinals baseball — yes, Rockies fans, we watch the Cardinals. Having lived within 50 miles of Busch Stadium during his formative years, Joel grew accustomed to a winning team.
As fall yielded to winter, we suffered through a disappointing World Series, a humiliating Super Bowl and an unkempt yard, but we managed to ease our sports pain and garden guilt by vowing that when our trees began unfurling their new leaves in the spring, we’d be outside tackling the chaos.
When spring arrived, its warm radiance sent us into frenzied yard work. Then, two days later, cold winds announced winter’s rally. Snow fell with intent, and the sun despaired. We sank into unhappy immobility, overcome by surprise and disappointment, the annual spring emotions in Northwest Colorado.
As one unwelcoming day followed another, we forced ourselves outside again, determined to accomplish something and did so: We stood shivering in our fleece and looked about in befuddlement, unable to resurrect the plans made eight months earlier.
Did we plan to divide the hostas or the peonies? Was the bee balm to be moved or the blue globe thistle? Surely, we didn’t decide to discard the lively barberry bush. And finally, whose idea was it to fritter away valuable time watching as the Cardinals, the Broncos and our grandchildren lost critical games?
We would have hung up our trowels, turned on the TV and atrophied had birds not rescued us. Several plucky robins began bathing in our ice-rimmed birdbath, unabashedly grooming in public, and lured us back to our windows.
Soon, purple finches, goldfinches and sparrows began to bustle about, completing their home improvement activities, undeterred by the weather. Needing fuel, they haunted our empty bird feeders until guilt forced us away from “Fargo” and sent us outdoors to open our diner for wayward birds.
Next, the show birds arrived. Five cedar waxwings provided the opening act, swaying on whip-thin aspen branches, casually dining on seedpods, their burnished bodies catching the light. Buntings then took center stage, landing in the platform feeder, looking like birdie bobble-heads as they bobbed for sunflower seeds. Two days later, orioles, festive in their brilliant colors of orange and yellow, flew in for our fruit buffet. Joel, happy to have something to think about besides the erratic weather matched by his inconsistent golf game, modified a hummingbird feeder by removing its plastic flowers to give the orioles a Big Gulp. He then placed orange halves around the yard and laced some with grape jelly. Soon, we had five of the Zorro-masked birds feasting in our yard.
Finally, a yellow tanager paid us a brief visit and confused me: “There’s a red-headed goldfinch,” I said before quickly correcting myself. “No, it’s not a goldfinch. Goldfinches don’t have red heads.”
I knew the birds had taken us to a happier place when my husband responded to my inanity by saying, “But when goldfinches do have red heads, we call them western tanagers.”
And our yard chores? Well, maybe we’ll get around to them next week, when the birds have settled down. Right now, it takes all our energy and time to keep the feeders full, the birdbaths clean and the squirrels from sampling the oranges before tossing them dismissively aside.
We only can do so much.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.