Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Spring is Sprung?

We have snow on the ground again. Lots of heavy, wet stuff, clinging to tree branches and telephone wires. Very pretty, but after all, aren’t we supposed to be suffering from global warming? Where’s my daffodil? Where’s my crocus? The robins are back, they make the mornings dance with their lilting songs, poor things. Where are their worms?

The robin is probably my favorite bird – though the chickadee gives him a run for his money. I claim the robin because when I was about ten or eleven years old a robin sat on a tree branch over my head and very patiently taught me his song. It happened in Chicago. My parents and siblings and I had gone down from Milwaukee to visit our Uncle Clark and his wife, Norma, and their son Dick. It had gotten kind of noisy in the house so I went out in the back yard and there was a robin singing his heart out. I fancied myself a whistler (though I wasn’t, or not much of one), so I tried to whistle his song back at him. After a few tries, he flew over to this young tree near the back door and whistled the first few notes. They sounded something like “cheerio!” So I whistled they back at him. Not very well, I guess, because he whistled them again. We went back and forth until he was satisfied, then he added the next notes: “Cheerio, hey-there!” Very slowly he taught me the entire song, a few notes at a time, until I had the whole thing: “Cheerio, hey-there, cheer-roo, cheer-ray, chariot,” or something like that. Many years later I learned that birds sing to warn others off their territory and I was sad to think we’d been having a quarrel, not a lesson. But more research and reading convinces me I was right the first time, and had an almost-transcendental experience in which a cock robin taught me his song. What’s more, fifty-odd years later I can still set a neighborhood of robins whistling back at me while walking down the street. Did you know that there are regional accents in the robins’ song? Minnesota robins have a kind of gurgle or choke sound in their song that Wisconsin and Illinois robins don’t.

I can also whistle at cardinals and get a reply, but they’re easy, just the old wolf whistle with the second note repeated three or four times.

Chickadees are even easier, just say “Chickadee-dee-dee-dee-dee!” in a teasing voice and he’ll generally come back at you. My brother-in-law, Thomas Manuel, is a hunter and chickadees like suet. So when he’s up on his deer stand the chickadees gather, even going so far as to stand on the bill of his cap, waiting for the gun to go off and the field dressing of a deer to take place so they can have a feast on the fat. He claims they get impatient and start to scold when a deer is not forthcoming. He also claims they get pushy when he eats his lunch time sandwich, saying (in chickadee, of course), “You gonna eat all of that?” But Thomas is a great story-teller.

I’ve got two appearances in a single weekend coming up. The first is at the International Quilt Festival in Rosemont, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. It’s a huge thing, people arrive in busloads. The quilts are beyond amazing, well into astonishing and moving. I’ll be there Thursday evening, April 10, when the show opens, then all day Friday. I’ll be sitting at The Craftsman’s Touch booth – Linne Lindquist sells every imaginable book on quilting, and some fiction related to stitching. On Saturday the 12th I’m going to Trinity Christian College in Palos Heights, another Chicago suburb, for a gathering of stitchers, where I’ll give a paid talk after a luncheon.

I am very relieved to announce that the notated manuscript (that means my editor took a couple of swipes at it and suggested some changes) of Thai Die went in the mail on March 31, barely under the deadline wire. This has, for some reason, been an extraordinarily difficult book to write, and I’m glad to see the backside of it. In a few days I'll get out the synopsis of Blackwork and begin writing again. I think Blackwork won't be as difficult.


Terri Thayer said...

Oh, I'm so jealous you're going to the Chicago show. Enjoy! That's a lot of good energy.Quilters love your books. Take in the love!

Monica Ferris said...

One of the unexpected pleasures of writing this series is the sweetness of stitchers. They are kind, good, generous, wonderful people, and I just lap up the love and energy at these events.

Camille Minichino said...

Congratulations on Thai Die, Monica ... I would think you'd need more than a few days break! I try to take a couple of weeks, even at two books/year. I might do some short pieces, but not another novel!
Am I lazy??
(that's rhetorical!)

Monica Ferris said...

Camille, normally I'd want a longer break between books. Am I lazy? Absolutely! But this book has been nibbling around the fringes for several months, and I think if I don't start it pretty soon it'll get stale. Does that make sense?

Kathryn Lilley said...

I love the story about chickadees. I remember as a child feeding them in the back yard of our house--still my favorite birds in the world!