bunt sign

Friday, September 12, 2003

Having just come in from watering the garden, I'm sitting at the computer looking through the screen door at the birdbath. There isn't much water in it, but the sparrow splashing happily isn't very big anyway.

I'm waiting for the bird to finish and fly off, so that I can fill the birdbath the rest of the way. That's the only way I can be sure on these hot days that there's any water at all by tomorrow morning. A quart pan full of water is sitting on the mat by the front door, waiting for my chance to empty it into the birdbath.

Now that there are two birds sharing the rapidly dwindling supply, I'll probably need more than a quart to fill it. But that can wait until they're done.

The garden itself is parched but still breathing. I water nearly every night, but it might not be enough. It's enough for the weeds, which are thriving, but maybe not for the other plants. Some will die, I know. They do every summer, no matter how attentive I am. But they always come back in the spring.

I've been neglectful of the birds, too. I haven't filled the feeder in days. Wait, weeks. I think it's been weeks. And still they come around. I guess I owe it to their persistence to take the time to feed them. They give me a lot of pleasure, and it's the least I can do.

It was hot today, but that's not the only reason it was hard to get any work done. It was hot last night, and I didn't sleep well. And I was a little distracted by the news. John Ritter, after all, was my age when he died last night. And Johnny Cash was only seventeen years older than I am. I know how fast seventeen years can go by.

John Ritter was the perfect television star. It's a different kind of talent, not like being a movie actor. A TV star has to be immediately likeable and has to connect easily with the audience. He was a comfortable person to invite into your living room every week. It was like having a friend over. I didn't even watch his show, but I'll miss him anyway.

And I haven't bought a Johnny Cash album since 1996 (I checked), but his passing leaves an empty space as well. There was something about the timbre of his voice that spoke of the hard truth of living, but with a force and spirit that can overcome anything. Maybe he'll even overcome death. His legacy definitely will.

A sense of loss was in the air today, as it was yesterday. Today's loss was fresh and palpable. These are people I know, familiar and easy to take for granted. They put a face and a voice to universal feelings. That's what artists do, and that's why we miss them, even though we've been taking them for granted. They enrich our lives in ways they don't even realize, and a little tribute is not our of order.

11 September 2003

Path to my front door.

The birds have left the garden, and I can now go fill up the birdbath. It's still light enough out that they may be back to splash around some more. I hope so. I don't mind filling it up as often as they care to empty it. When I allow it go dry, I feel as if I've let them down. I know they don't depend on me, that they'll do just fine even if I ignore them completely. But if I work to keep them coming back, we can help each other live a little better. That's a goal worth pursuing.

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When I remember John Ritter, I think not about his many years on the series Three's Company, but his role as a minor league baseball player in a television movie called The Comeback Kid, and as a menacing figure in an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And for some reason, despite all his accomplishments, the most vivid memory I have of Johnny Cash is of him singing a duet of "Girl From the North Country" with Bob Dylan on his old TV show. And then I remember "A Boy Named Sue" and smile.

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One year ago: Contented
"It's hard to explain how eerie it felt to see this creature appear as if out of nowhere and take up residence in my little corner of the planet. I couldn't take my eyes off it, until it disappeared for the last time."

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I wear the black in mournin' for the lives that could have been,
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men.