On occasion around here, the wind howls and shrieks as if the dead have been raised. More often than not, it happens as we’re trying to sleep. One such night a few years ago, in its rage, it ripped off part of a dying tree next to our house. Several branches the size of tree trunks fell into the jumble of blackberries and ivy and morning glories and nettles in the hillside next to our house. After the storm, we hired an arborist to come and remove the rest of the hulking tree. As the crew was finishing up, about to remove the base of the trunk, I stopped them. I couldn’t imagine eagles not sitting there, as they always do, next to my bedroom. Eventually that snag will have to go, once it rots enough to become unstable, but for now, it is a well-used perch. Earlier this spring, I noticed wood shavings on part of our deck below it. When I looked to find their source, I discovered the bill and head of a woodpecker sticking out of a hole in the snag. The home it made for itself is eye level with our bedroom window. Shortly afterward I learned that male woodpeckers make a lot of noise in their efforts to attract a mate. A neighbor told me “our” woodpecker had been pecking on the metal chimney of their house early in the morning. Her husband tried to get it to stop by turning on their gas fireplace, but the heat didn’t deter its efforts. Soon, perhaps, a whole family of birds will inhabit the nest. Every morning, when I get out of bed I look outside and I listen for the sound of babies, and I always see the woodpecker, sitting with his head and bill poked out of the nest, taking in the morning.
I realized the other day we’ve lived in this house longer than we lived in our first house. It always felt like we’d lived there forever. I asked Cal if he remembers it, the house we brought him home from the hospital to, and he said he doesn’t, really. Abbott used to crawl around the Caribbean green kitchen floor while I cooked. I would make conversation about the refrigerator magnets – “Where is the Q?” – and he would grab it, before he could even say the letters. We moved here when Cal was three and Abbott was in kindergarten, and now Abbott is about to graduate from fifth grade.
An aura of general surliness has developed around here while I make dinner. The boys have gotten a little edgy about doing their homework, with only three weeks of school left. For my part, I’ve gone a little crazy too. I make asparagus almost every night, steamed, boiled, roasted. And almost always, I envision it with fish, so that’s how we have it. A friend was over for dinner last week, and her baby daughter tried the halibut I’d made, but not the asparagus. I love knowing that she ate her first fish here.
Abbott, at 10 ¾ years old, is well on his way to becoming a teenager. He closes the door to his room, now, and expects people to knock. The little boy version of him is still around, too; he kept on his costume for his upcoming class play all afternoon, and was sure that if someone saw him take out the garbage in it they would wonder if they’d time traveled to the 19th century. He wore his dress shoes with it on the way to the garbage can, for good measure. Cal still asks the hard questions, as he’s done since he could form sentences. Alexi puts toothpaste on my toothbrush for me every night, as he has always done. No matter where we’re at, we have each other. Things change, and things remain the same. All of it is incredible.