The Ladies Page

COUNTRY ECHOES

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2, Brandon, Wisconsin 53919

There is a possibility that I should wait a few days longer before I start writing this column. Perhaps some one has found my wild myrtle in their woods at one time or another and haven't had time to write to me about it. Already one letter has come from a lady who helps 'to get the Iron Men Album in the mail' and I surely appreciated getting it. But she did not know anything about my wild myrtle.

It is amazing how unexpected things come into our lives, however. I have not given up on this at all. On a recent Monday morning I looked out of my south window, and here were some strange dark birds in the flowering crab tree. They were gorging themselves on the little dried-up apples which were still clinging to the tree.

'What,' I said to myself, 'are those?' Here was this crest on the head which could only belong to the family of waxwings, but this was no cedar waxwing, I decided. Our daughter Mary was at home for semester break and she was as interested as her mother. So here were two women who went walking most carefully on a winter morning, creeping up to these unknown birds with the stealth of an Indian on the path of a scalp he wanted.

It must have been a strange sight but this didn't deter us in the least. We were so afraid they would take to their wings as we approached but we found them not the least bit wary. I wondered if, perhaps, they were a bit groggy from the over-ripe apples for I had read where robins occasionally get a bit intoxicated from eating berries which have aged on the wood. They posed for us with their crested heads cocked saucily to one side. We decided they liked us.

Mary, becoming very brave and exceedingly friendly moved to a spot directly underneath the tree. 'Oh Mother,' she said, 'There is a light brown patch underneath their tails.'

'Well, we have something to go on now,' I remarked, 'Now for the bird book.'

The bird book revealed that they were the Greater Waxwing and that they have roving, erratic personalities. They travel in groups and are often spotted in trees with left over apples. However, you see them, and then you don't, and I, for one, feel richly blessed to ever have seen them at all.

It was on a Monday morning when the mail brought something even more exciting than what we had just been watching.

In July of '66 a letter came to our rural mailbox from London, England. I was quite curious as to its contents. Hurriedly I slit the envelope open with my husband's letter opener and the contents were soon in my hands. It was an invitation to enter international competition in poetry. One was to write under a pseudonym and put your real name in a sealed envelope. The poems were to be a matching pair of poems on freedom and captivity. Could I do something like this, I asked myself? Well I tried, and on the same day the Greater Waxwings visited us I received a book award from England. It is a book of poems by Taras Shevchenko and is entitled SONG OUT OF DARKNESS. He was a Ukrainian poet who lived between 1814 and 1861. He was a writer for freedom throughout the years of oppression and his poems warm the heart.

Upon looking over the enclosed papers I learned that I had received seventh place in 'the matched pair' class and had come out twenty first in the final competition. I was overjoyed that I had accomplished what I set out to do, write a pair of matched poems. And the prize book is a positive jewel to add to my library.

Sorrow came to us as a family in early January. One Sunday morning I was called out of Sunday School to learn that my mother had quietly passed away. So another chapter in life has ended, but as I go over the diaries she kept faithfully for over forty years what a wealth of memories flow back to bless me. She left us a heritage of cultural interests, old fashioned honesty, ambition, cleanliness of mind, and a hundred other things we can never quite enumerate. How does one evaluate a good mother? I don't think it can be done, for their price is 'above rubies.'

I shall not try to evaluate, only count my blessings, and by no means is the end in sight. They continue to flow from day to day. She was eighty nine years of age and had been unable to be on her feet since last April. But she was so sweet and cheerful the last half year, like a happy child, -so shall I remember her. And as the book I am writing takes final shape I find her on page after page. She was my 'Mama Maaike',-this was her Holland name, and I cherish it in remembrance. She kept this same house I am now living in for seventeen years, and the old one which it replaced for seventeen previous to that. Now we have been here for thirty years. The roots are deep, and pleasant, and fruitful.