O, You Beautiful Birds; Fly By Me Any Time.

If not for watching the Blue Jays in my backyard, I’d be licking batteries, or kayaking, or whatever it is that people do to alleviate their boredom.


I used to think that I could never get tired of life because the world was so damn interesting that I’d have to stay alive just to find out what happened next. The tip-top height of my enthusiasm over the goings-on of this little rock adrift in the Universe was the fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989, when I watched my fellow citizens of Planet Earth tear down a hateful ideology, joyously, hand by hand, with the whole world tuning in on their TVs to be there in spirit and celebration. Wow, I remember saying to myself, with pride in and hope for humanity; The 1990s are going to be awesome!

I don’t have to tell you how desperately I mis-read the situation. The 1990’s sucked, the 2000’s sucked a thousand times worse, and the 20-teens’s are trying their best to convince me that life (in the words of memoirist Mary Karr) is really nothing more than a shit-eating contest.

Thank DoG for these cat-food eating Blue Jays with the collectible feathers molting in my backyard.


This is a Blue Jay choosing dry cat food over luscious sunflower seeds. The tiny little yellow pellets — millet? — are always the last to go.

You see, in addition to my weariness with current events, I am also still not writing a new book, meaning that I am effectively unemployed. And it’s horrible. I like to work. I’m happy when I’m working…or, I should say, I’m less un-happy when I have work to do — I’m a Capricorn. We are not life-of-the-party people.

So I spend my days trying to keep sane by finding things to do. I color-code teveryhing hanging in my closet. I find fault with my home furnishings. I wonder how closely related I am to Taylor Swift (who is perfect, so shut up). I research YouTube for videos of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking French (he’s perfect, even with his heavy Canuk accent, so shut up*****). It’s all very useful stuff, but it’s not real work.

Studs Terkel used his hammer-like intellect to hit the boredom-nail right on the head when he observed that work is about the search “for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”

I found that quote in the introduction to Dave Isay’s excellent new book about people and the purpose and passion of their work, called Callings. Who knew that to the guy at Zabar’s deli counter, slicing lox is his calling?

I don’t, as of this writing, have a book that needs to exist in the world calling out to me, but I do hear the call of Blue Jays. So until further notice, collecting Blue Jay feathers is pretty much my job.

And so, as this is Take Your Blog Readers To Work Day here in VivianWorld, I’m going to take you with me as I do a search for All Things Feathery and Blue, which is the only way I know how to not let the terrorists win.

Starting out, I know that those Blue Jay feathers are already out there — all I have to do is find them. And if mind-mowing my front and back lawns doesn’t yield a plume or two, I start eyeballing the fringes of my acre of Earth. This is a neglected patch of old mulch near the garage:


The camera lies.

Because to my eyes, that teeny little Blue Jay feather amidst all that dead brown stuff is glowing like bright, hot, blue-glowing thing:


Sorry this picture is out of focus. The camera, again, misses the point.

Then I walked across the street and examined the rubbish along the curb for the same phenomena, which was bound to happen:


See it now?

P1080226 (1)

Five minutes later, in the shade of a hemlock tree, it was pretty easy to be hit by another blot of tiny blue lightning:



If you are keeping count, that’s three in one day. But wait . . . there’s still the hideous late afternoon doldrums to contend with. So there I was, with Top Cat, sitting in our Adirondack chairs in the backyard, discussing whose turn it was to fetch ice cubes for the pitcher of vodka tonics we were working on, when I happened to look down into the clover patch that I have been defending for years now against Top Cat’s urge to go all fescue, and something not-clover swam into my ken:



There is no moral. There’s just, for the time being, four small reasons to keep the despair at bay. Plus, I haven’t found a tail feather yet (see: map of Blue Jay at the top of this blog post) and I WANT A DAMN TAIL FEATHER.

Before I go, I want to clear up the impression I might have given you, Dear Readers, last week, that I live amongst millionaires here on the north shore of the Isle of Long. Oh sure, there is the odd McMansion that goes for 1.388 million:


But this is the mansion directly across the street from me (and just two houses down from the cut-rate Tara of above):


One of my neighbors calls the local authorities about once a month to complain about this house, which he calls an eyesore (and it’s inhabited, by the way– by a bachelor who’s lived there since 1981), but I find it rather picturesque:


And, in keeping with my theme of what a slum I live in, I also recently discovered a bit of a Cat Lady situation three streets over:


I’ve been bringing food and water to these sweeties this past week, and have contacted the wonderful TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release) network about the 15 feral (that I’ve counted so far, and two are seriously ill)  who live on this property, but the TNR people are all about Getting Permission from the Home Owner, and I’m all about trespassing the hell out of the place.


This is the basement window (in the pic above) that the home owner has rigged up with a tiny kitty door so that the cats can come and go in and out of the house — check out the two white paws visible above the head of the kitten that is far right — and the lawn is kept and tidy, but the food bowls are always empty when I check and the smell is about what you’d expect when you have 15  + cats using your yard as a litter box.


I’ve knocked on the door many times, I’ve asked the neighbors, I’ve left notes. I think I’m going to have to stake out the place to get a moment with the Cat Lady here, but no matter what she says I WILL get these cats. I’ve gone rogue before. I’m a one person Cats Protection League.

I’m sorry if reading this has raised your blood pressure — I feel my heart racing just thinking of the neglect, pure and simple, of these dear kitties going on here. Which reminds me that it’s time to TNR our new friend, Denny Whiskerbottoms, who is nothing if not fetching on a Sunday afternoon in the shed:


Steve, as you can see below, has gone totally groovy since he was TNR’d last month; so groovy, in fact, that when I came across him sticking halfway out from under the holly bush in the side yard, I thought he was dead:


He was just doing his Steve Yoga:


He favorite time for getting all Zen is after diner, when the cement on the front porch is in the shade, but still warm from gathering the day’s worth of star shine:


This is a true story: I put this exact image of Steve in my mind when I was getting my blood pressure checked last Friday; my first physical in eight years. I wanted to do well on the cardio front even though wearing those idiot paper gowns at the doctor’s office stresses me out. So I thought Steve Steve Steve, and my BP was 104 / 75. I did the same for the EKG and the doctor said to me, Wow — you have a nice slow heart beat!

So, between the bunny-butted bliss of my Manx Steve and the ever-blue joy of Blue Jays, I guess life won’t tire me out yet, and I will go forth, panther-pawed, in the ways of awe and folly.


This is from Ray Bradbury:

Not smash and grab, but rather find and keep;
Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep
To detonate the hidden seeds with stealth
So in your wake a weltering of welath
Springs up unseen, ignored and left behind
As you sneak on, pretending to be blind.
On your return along the jungle path you’ve made
Find all the littered stuffs where you have strayed;
The small truths and the large have surfaced there
Where you stealth-blundered wildly unaware
Or seeming so. And so these mines were mined
In easy game of pace and pounce and find;
But mostly fluid pace, not too much pounce.
Attention must be paid, but by the ounce.
Mock caring, seem aloof, ignore each mile
And metaphors like cats behind your smile
Each one wound up to purr, each one a pride,
Each one a fine gold beast you’ve hid inside,
Now summoned forth in harvests from the brake
Turned anteloping elephants that shake
And drum and crack the mind to awe,
To behold beauty yet perceive its flaw.
Then, flaw discovered, like fair beauty’s mole,
Haste back to reckon all entire, the Whole.
This done, pretend these wits you do not keep,
Go panther-pawed where all the mined truths sleep.


For those of you who might not know, our own Dear Reader Monique, French-Canadian as all get-out and an amazing photographer, has been to Paris and her blog posts about her June journey are not to be missed. I LOVED the get-away I got just by reading all about it here.

Have a great Weekend, my velvet-footed Wonder Ones.

12 Comments, RSS

  1. Marg-o

    Classic! “Take your blog readers to work day” should be on every blogger’s TO Do list. I for one loved tagging along while you eagle eyed your way to four, count ’em 4, blue feathers. They call to you, don’t they?

    Bravo to you for stepping in and caring for that colony of cats three streets over. They all look to be cuties and deserve to have someone like you watching over them. and I have a crush on Steve, who is as cool and as well dressed as Bond, James Bond.

    Work: I think that’s why we Americans ask people What do you do? when we meet them. We’re not being rude. It’s not to get an idea of salary, but in this country where most of us have the opportunity to do almost anything, we want to know if you’ve found your calling, or are you still in search? And that’s something important to talk about. It beats the weather or the condition of the roads. It’s REAL.

  2. As I started to read your post..I thought..nothing you say is going to change her mind about work:)
    Like how it took me at least one year to NOT work..I had to stop..not my choice…so at least 1 year..was very tough..
    I did get into it..it took a couple of years..and now I cannot imagine working.
    But your job 🙂 is different..and you can tell you want to do it again..when you wrote your latest book..did you think it was your last? If not..I think it’s like having your last child and knowing it..so if you didn’t there may be at least 1 more there.
    I am sure you can dream up another book you would love to write..?
    I am a buyer:)

    re Justin Trudeau..loved his dad..PETrudeau..and I love him..I hope he turns out to be exactly the person I thought he was.
    President Obama was here and I think the world of him..he is such a class act..a diplomat..a born spokesman.Charming charming..and seems so genuine.I think he and Justin have formed a lovely friendship.

    Ok back to your next book..

    my BP is usually 110/75:)
    or 111/74

    Nurses usually say..oh you will live forever…..as if..

    but if it’s true..you should look into a few new books:)
    Have a nice weekend..
    I never got to Le Square Du Vert Galant:(

  3. Just sitting here with my coffee,, feeling guilty about feeling bored and BAM! I remembered – it’s freaking Friday so there’s a new post from Vivian Swift ! Boredom gone.

    That picture of the two white kitty paws in the basement window is the sweetest thing ever! Hope you get to the bottom of the Cat Lady mystery – hope she hasn’t conked off in there and left the kitties all alone.

    I love the down-in-the-tooth house across from you, being a lover of what you call decrepitude. Much prefer it to the McMansions ! And with a bit of paint and some flowers, the shabby one would be downright chic, while the McM will always be not-chic.

    Happy collecting – may there be a tail feather in your near future.

  4. Megan

    Nice post, funny birds, I guess dry cat food is tasty!? Steve is very cute, I still am a big fan of Taffy though. Steve does look terminally relaxed, my cat does a good impersonation of road kill and sometime you have to really look to see if he is still breathing! I actually like the bachelor house, a bit unkempt but it’s very charming, would be nice if it were a bit more loved and maintained, sadly the “Tara’s” are taking over a bit and while they can be attractive they don’t have the charm and character of a nice weatherboard house. McMansions are all the trend here in the newly opened residential areas, all house and no garden, apparently people don’t go outside anymore. I don’t think you live in a slum because of the cat lady house, it’s so neat and tidy, neatly edged lawns and all! The cats look very relaxed and the ginger and white trio look very cute, long angle lens or what, they look calm not feral. I will take your advice though you are there and can see what is going on. What do the TNR people do with cats, rehome them or what? Can’t think they’d just let them loose again to fend for themselves. It’s all too sad really, people get in over their heads adopting more and more when they can’t look after them. I used to work close to the CBD of Sydney Australia, at a very large broadcaster, we were happily (?) situated next to a waste transfer station and a lovely old cemetery and a very large hospital, so lots of places to hide for animals. People used to dump their unwanted cats, it was horrible. The RSPCA came and set traps and the ‘animal lovers’ let the cats loose again. INSANE, those cats had running eyes and who know what diseases and as a mad person who thinks a cat should be on a lap watching or snoozing in front of the TV I couldn’t really understand people wanting these lovely little creatures to go on eking out a living in these circumstances and worse still breeding. I do hope you have a great outcome and I do hope the cat lady isn’t dead (is that what conked out means) in her house. She is probably just trying to help and is a bit misguided. Thanks for the post and the photos of Steve.

  5. The cats are totally wonderful!
    Hope divine inspiration descends like the blue jay feathers….
    you will be so much happier when there is something you HAVE to do.

  6. I’m with Monique when I quit working full time I spent a DESPERATE year searching high and low for my “calling”, my passion. What I thought was going to be one of the best years of my life freed from the tyranny of trying to scrape together a living, was full of self-doubt, recriminations, and constant searching.

    Slowly, oh so very slowly I put the pieces of what felt like a broken life back together into a picture that made some sense. Looking back I wish I would have relaxed, read more, looked for blue jay feathers, played with kitties, even kayaked because here’s the thing: the Universe hasn’t lost track of you, sweet Vivian, or me.

    While you may feel lost, at loose ends, without work, the Universe is simply using this time to get you ready for whatever is coming next. We are such stinking Puritans, we think that work is the only valid way to spend time, but rest, recuperation, lying fallow has it’s USEFUL place. I think you are using your time very well indeed. Your next calling ,whatever it may be, will be taping you on the shoulder soon enough and this time wondering what you’re meant to do will make sense. Take care you wondering, wandering one.

  7. Thank you for TNR.And wonderful cat photos — those orange-whites melt my heart!

    Hey, when I retired it took me a good seven months to not feel guilty or feel like I would be caught if I went to Trader Joe’s on a Wednesday or a movie in the middle of the day. Which I don’t do but should. It comes. Meanwhile, enjoy the feather hunt and kitty crusade — we all need a project and they can change! A new book will come when it is good and ready and then you won’t be able to stop!

    Happy Summer. Yes, it really is here!

  8. Laura

    What we do each day that makes us feel human and part of this universe.
    Some write. Some paint. Some blog. Some teach. Some care. Some work the deli counter.
    Find that thing you do that makes you “sing” each day. It is each song that keeps our great galactic wheel turning.
    Thank you for the Bradbury poem, too.

  9. I am often wrong, so if I am wrong once again, please forgive me – but: Your very first book (oh, how I love it!) is a compilation of personal experiences, of “all things bright and beautiful” (as well as an occasional less-than-happy event) – in the life of a young woman, one Vivian Swift. Your second wonderful offering (which made me laugh and cry), is a retelling of your adventures in France during your long honeymoon with Top Cat. Your third delightful book is all about your journeys to unique and lovely gardens around the world. All of them are “your life.” Your experiences. Your journeys. Your discoveries. Your blessings. Your banes. All that you ARE.

    So, though you may not have a “book” screaming to be completed on your desk, or deadlines looming over your head night and day, or publishers snapping at your ankles – you do have a huge, daily task before you: Simply Living Your Blessed Life. Because it is YOUR LIFE that will fill Book Number Four. Collecting Blue Jay feathers is a worthy activity, if it brings you joy and a measure of peace. Saving neighborhood kitties is a wonderful way to make a difference – painting kitties, feeding kitties, educating an ignorant community about kitties … even finding humor in the many instances connected with aiding kitties – it is all fodder for your next book (but how delightful to be able to actually LIVE THE MOMENTS as they happen, instead of carrying around the weight of “having to produce” every day!). Helping at soup kitchens, driving a neighbor to the doctor, helping clean up a derelict park, petitioning local government to help fund a TNR program, volunteering at a local humane society (petting and playing with unloved kitties), sketching your favorite diner, or writing about meeting Top Cat, or your “most embarrassing moments” in life … whatever it is, it is fuel. It is life. It is material. It simply hasn’t all been lived yet. It just hasn’t been “complied” into a whole yet. But it IS there … right now. Every day. These all will fill your next book. I have to doubt about it, dear Vivian. So do not despair over not possessing an immediate goal. Instead, simply dare to experience your life … being fully “aware” every moment.

    Jeanie is right … after years of stress and daily pressure, it takes a long time to unwind, to get your mind off its usual frenzied hamster-wheel, and to realize, you are not a sluggard for actually LIVING your life. It takes time to “realize” that “real living” happens best, when we don’t have a feeling of impending doom (about not “meeting today’s quota”) stalking us throughout every day. I had to learn this back a few years ago. At first I felt I was a failure, or a lazy good-for-nothing, simply because I wasn’t tearing the skin off my nose, by keeping it firmly planted against the proverbial grind-stone every day. It takes time to actually start “experiencing” life again. It looks to me, by your lovely photos and your recent activities above, you are well on your way. So, relax. Breathe deep. Count your blessings. And give thanks. YOU, dear Vivian, right now, are being allowed to “live” – one day at a time – the material for your next book. So enjoy every moment. You have thousands and thousands of admiring readers – all of whom have delighted in reading, and seeing (through your art), your LIFE. And my, what a life it is!

    Happy Trails this week, Vivian, as you seek more and more the color blue.

  10. All those kitties! (but my favorite is still chilled-out Steve)
    Love the line “Not smash and grab, but rather find and keep”.
    Makes it all much more mindful.

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