Everything I Know is Like a Bird.

You-Know-What made a fine showing on the Long Island Sound this past Monday:



Steve, for one, was feeling it:


Something about the way Steve shows up regularly for breakfast and dinner on my front stone wall, and stakes out the front stoop in between meals to coerce me into handing out his favorite salmon-flavored kitty snacks, and gives me blinky-eyes like he’s practically domesticated, well, something about all that seems to hint that Wandering Steve might be ready to put an end to his free-agency, and come join the herd full time. Which would be my tuxedo kitty-dream come true.


Steve is a Manx, a breed of cat that is naturally tail-less, which I must explain because some people do not know that cats come in two shapes, Normal and Bunny Butt.

And speaking of bunny butts in my front and back yards . . .


. . . here are some recent sightings from the neighborhood:


P1080196 (1)


Just around the corner the other day, I envied these people (below) for having a magical, life-changing tidying up experience, which is what I saw in their mountain of joy-sparking de-clutter pitched onto their front lawn . . .


Built in 2002, 3410 sq. feet (317 sq. meters), 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths.

. . . but it was only (only?) a major clear-out for when, two weeks later, they put their house up for sale. So here’s your opportunity to be my neighbor, for $1.388 million!

Inspired by such spiffitude, Top Cat and Bibs decided to do some home improvements in our way under-1.388 million dollar manse:


One of the reasons that we are in the Less Than Million Dollar part of the neighborhood is because of this:


Yes, that is the “solution” to the gas leak of three weeks ago, when Top Cat and I absconded to the Jersey Shore to get away from the fumes. I didn’t mention it then, but it was me who called the fire department about the gas leak in the first place, which brought fire trucks and fire marshals and utility crews back to the scene of the crime (a botched installation of new lines). The upshot was that the second crew of diggers work well into the night, only to leave a bigger hole, which they covered with very large sheets of plywood, and these four handsome daleks as sentries, and new, additional ventilation holes drilled into the street:


We haven’t seen hide nor hair of National Grid since, and there are still, albeit faint, whiffs of gas wafting around the block. Sigh.

I’m just not in the mood to call out the troops and make trouble again, which is so not like me. Current events still have me spiritually drained. When it comes to doing my part to hold the bastards accountable (in general, that is, for gas leaks and etc.), I am weary. The dim-wits, the entitled, the cynical, the half-assed, and the self-absolved-righteous always prevail. I feel tired most of the time.

That’s why it’s more important than ever to get out there and Look For Blue Jay Feathers.


That, above, was last year’s haul of Blue Jay feathers, all from my own back yard (and a few from the front one, too). It was the Summer of 2015 and, having deposited with my editor my finished manuscript for Gardens of Awe and Folly, I was ready to re-enter the world of light and color after living in a three-year-old black hole of book-writing. During my time of darkness, I had been AWOL  as a collector of Blue Jay feathers, amassing only three or four a year — in 2014, I did not even bother to search: I have ZERO feathers to show for it. A lost Summer.

So, 2015 rolls around and I am trying to re-awken myself to the world, and I feel like a beginner in Being. I’m out of touch with the Blue Jay nature of the world. Still, I say to the Universe: Please, I’d like to find 5 feathers this year.

It was a big demand. Extravagant. Unrealistic. Totally presumptuous. I don’t know where I got the gall — five feathers! It was magical thinking at its best!

In the end, I found 40. See above.

(You can read all about the 40th Feather here.)

This year, I have a whole lot more on my mind. I thought things were bad last year, but they are even worse this year. It’s so bad that I have doubts, big and small, about Blue Jays. But, still, so far this year, even though it feels as if I am only going through the motions, I set up my Blue Jay Feather Finding Quest.

First, the mechanics of the Quest.

You have to give Blue Jays a reason to hang out in your back yard:


It’s as simple as that– a bowl of dry cat food set up on something that gives the Jays a look-out for cats. Even hyper-nervous Cardinals like this set-up:


You can mix sunflower seeds and bird food in with the dry cat food, if you fret about the menu, but the cat food is what Blue Jays really love.

My back yard is surrounded by tall trees, which is helpful because the Blue Jays flit in and out of them all day in order to swoop to the trash can buffet. But even if you don’t have trees, all you need is Blue Jays flapping their wings over your designated Questing Spot, because the more they flap, the more molt you will get = better chance of finding plumes. So that’s it for the nuts and bolts.

Next, there’s the mental game.

I like to watch the Blue Jays come and feed, but I also ask every bird that I see: Please leave me a feather. Preferably, a tail feather, please. I feel that this is an important part of gathering Blue Jay feathers: you have to let the Blue Jays know that you’re in the market for their cast-offs.

Now for the actual collecting:

On an ideal morning, I wake up half an hour before the rest of the house, which would make it around 5am. I’ve been up as early as 4:30 and it’s delightful to prowl in the last remains of night and watch the day break open, but you can’t quest for Blue Jay feathers in the dark, so any hour at the crack of dawn is best for feather-hunting.

Then I go to the kitchen and I make a cup of tea, black India tea, to which I add a tablespoon of honey and a drop of pure vanilla extract. You won’t taste the vanilla — but your cup will get a hovering mist of an almost angelic scent of meadows and roses.Vanilla puts me in a good mood.

Then I open the back door and step outside. It will be cool and dewy out there in the back yard, and I will take a moment to ask the Universe to Let me see the Blue Jay feathers that are scattered in the blade of grass before me. And then I remember to add, Please.

And then I start to walk, my eyes focused on the bit of Earth at my feet. I walk slowly, as if I am mowing: all the way across one way, and then all the way back the other way; repeat. My wanders. I think about other mornings, other Blue Jay feathers, and, more often than not, the latest song that is stuck in my head. I don’t try to think, or not think. I’m just paying attention, in a very relaxed way. I stop often to sip my tea, take a look around. This is the part of the day that reminds me to be happy to be alive.

I don’t visualize, I don’t expect. I just walk and wonder.

Even if you don’t find a feather every morning, it’s not a bad way to start the day.

But when you do find a feather — it is always the brightest shiniest fun moment! It’s as if the thing materialized out of thin air — as if it was dropped right there, in front of you, just for you!

The other thing about doing the morning ritual is that it puts it in your mind that you are now a Blue Jay Feather Magnet. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve completed my dawn mosey, found nothing, and then, later that day, I’ll be walking to my car or down the sidewalk to a neighbor’s — and BAM. Right in front of me is a Blue Jay feather, there on the concrete or asphalt, in the heat of day, when BlueJay feathers weren’t even on my mind.

That’s fun, too.

So I began my 2016 Blue Jay Feather Quest one week ago. And how many feathers have I found so far?


3. And none of them came from a dawn walking of the Earth.

And then again, all of them have come from a dawn walking of the Earth.


Go ahead, ask the Universe for something audacious. Unburden the heart, roam the mind, clear the eyes. It’s right there in front of you.

Have a great weekend, Wonder Ones.

11 Comments, RSS

  1. Carol

    Oh Steve! What a cool kitty you are! Those tuxedo boys really know how to relax.
    Our blue jays love peanuts in the shell.

  2. Love you and your kitties!
    Can’t even think straight in view of the sad news from England and the BREXIT
    in tears
    at the rise of STUPID
    do we get Trump here next

    need much booze

    Will try to enjoy the weekend…

  3. Casey

    Ooo, I want to do a dawn walking of the Earth. But I’d be on the watch for handsome tuxedo fellas. I think Steve is definitely applying for membership in the herd.

    I’m in shock too about the Brexit. I have a soft spot for traditional British culture, the bad food and the excellent humor, so I can understand that there are Brits who do not want a multi-cultural UK. It will be interesting to see how it goes.

    I’ll join Elizabeth in a Pimm’s, and console myself that Brittania is, was, and always will be Great.

  4. Bunny

    Absolutely enthralling blog this week, couldn’t put it down for a moment. Thanks for taking the time to keep us amused. Your writing should win multitudes of awards, with many prizes attached, and of course including millions of Benjamins for your efforts.

    Keep track of summer, cause if you’re not careful, it’ll slip right by, and I can just hear it now, where did the summer go, and how did it evaporate so fast? You got three months, ok?

  5. I have always had a knack of finding four leaf clovers. Walking across the lawn, or raking, whatever. I’m always looking down for any interesting free thing that is waiting for me – sometimes feathers or a really neat pebble. But when I find a four leaf clover, I play a game. It’s bad luck for me to reach down for it unless I’m absolutely SURE that it’s a four leafer, and not a normal 3 leaf clover that is borrowing a neighbor’s leaf just for show. When I determine it’s indeed a four leaf clover, I will take it for mine, and then I’ll linger over that patch of clover because, more times than not, there are more waiting there to be plucked. I can come away with 5 or 10 4 leaf clovers, but there are sometimes 5 leaf clovers and even 6’ers! These all get pressed for later use – I might tape one inside of a card or note, or make a picture with a number of them just to be impressive! So much to see when you look down, and wonderful things to find if you’re keyed into the patterns that Nature designs.

  6. Becky

    I absolutely love the picture of Steve on his back in such divine ecstasy. He looks so blissfully relaxed. It makes me smile just to look at that photo.
    My Katie lays the same way in the evening after a busy day of telling the squirrels and chipmunks off. There is a spot between the couch and big comfy chair and that’s where I can find her….usually her head is under the chair with feet propped up on the side of the chair.

  7. Deborah

    Thanks for sharing your feather-hunting tactics … You’re absolutely right, my dear – even if you find not one blue jay feather, it’s a perfect way to begin your day. Your secret to finding feathers lends evidence to the notion: If you look for a thing, and keep looking, you will find it … No matter how unlikely. Like Kate, we may have a penchant for finding four-leafed clovers, or beach glass, or sharks’s teeth, or blue jay feathers, or in my case, fossils. Whatever our personal prize may be, if we open our eyes to receive the gift, most often we find it. Grace abounds, even in the most unlikely places – and aren’t we glad?

    I love the fact your tuxedo kitty,Steve, is calming down into such a mellow fellow. It’s amazing, the wonderful changes once their fuzzies are removed. It never fails, especially with male kitties. They become such amiable, homey, and blinky-eyed guys. They suddenly take the personas of dignity, wisdom, and bon ami.

    Have a sweet, pleasant, and peaceful week … Full of gorgeous sunsets, perfect morning meanderings, and many quiet talks with Steve, Dennis, and friends. Happy trails, all week long!

  8. Megan

    Well you must live in the most wonderful place, a pipe band and Steve striking a very come hither pose. So gorgeous, Steve does look so happy. How is Taffy coping? Ah a magical life changing tidying up experience, sounds grand! Nice to see Bibs and Top Cat getting into the mood… I am very impressed. Congratulations on the Blue Jay feathers, looks like you will have an opportunity to collect some more with your bird feeder stations…

  9. I was struggling to ask for something audacious. Really audacious. (That is a delicious word isn’t it…almost like delicious but not.) But on to dark days and blue jays. Your blog post, as always, wants me to reply at least ten times in ten places from kitties to morning waking to feather finding to dark days and feeling tired. So may I say this. Thank you for having tea with me this morning. You can’t hear me, but I can hear you and audacious is my word of the day!

    We did have a nesting family of blue jays a few years back which brought molting of many feathers. Wish I could share a photo of the little one on the deck, all fluffed up and mom encouraging her to ‘wing it the hell out of there child!’ Finally, worried it was getting late I said, time to fly little one and out of fear, it did.

    When they have their heads plucked bald is often a good sign you can find feathers. But tail feathers…that’s special. Blessed by the bird Gods.

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