Saturday, April 6, 2019

Article in "Your Country Neighbor" in April

Come Walk With Me 
by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

After months of trying unsuccessfully to hibernate, I was lured outside by spring. Two days of cold, driving rain had conquered huge drifts of snow. Now uncovered, the earth could breathe again. Warm sunshine and intermittent breezes soothed the winter strain from the landscape and my face.

Birdsong drew my eyes to bare branches, but I couldn’t locate the source of their cheerful twittering. Just as well. A stumble on cracked sidewalk reminded me to watch my feet. They instinctively tiptoed through clear, shallow pools beside leftover shimmering ice. They avoided muddy puddles entirely. Most of the pavement was dry, though, strewn with sand and stray brittle leaves along the curbs.

The sunshine beckoned to others, too. A long stream of helmet-capped cousins cycled by. A few smiled at me. One dared to wave and then quickly re-grasped the handlebar.

A young lady, pony-tailed and trim in black yoga pants walked her color-coordinated lab briskly. On the opposite side of the street an older lady in rain  boots shuffled slowly down the walk. Her two dogs of greatly different sizes kept a practiced pace with her, stopping to wait when she needed to rest.

An elderly neighbor patrolled his yard for fallen sticks. He veered off course to check the mailbox. He examined each envelope and headed back inside, leaving the twigs forgotten in a pile on the brown lawn.

A young boy with three Huskies ran past, panting as hard as the dogs. The echo of a bouncing basketball wafted from a school playground. A couple in matching running pants with a white stripe down all four legs ambled past, hands in pockets, strides in sync, in deep conversation.

A brown squirrel ran across a pine branch, leaped for a maple branch just a tad too far away. It was saved from a 15-foot drop by one claw. It dangled for a moment, then pulled itself onto the branch and scrambled headfirst down the trunk.

Very few cars drove past. It seemed everyone preferred to be out enjoying this first glimpse of spring. Low-hanging cotton clouds in the distance served as a reminder that more spring rain will come. But for today, at least, the perfect blue sky soothed away the stress.

See the April issue of "Your Country Neighbor".

Article published in "Your Country Neighbor" in March

The Wildlife Are Watching
 by Janet Sobczyk, 2019

I’ve suspected that the birds and squirrels we enjoy watching, spy on us, too. Now I know it’s true! My recent encounters with the wildlife prove it to me.

In my new house, the kitchen window faces the bird-feeders situated beside an ash tree. It’s a popular spot for the squirrels, sparrows, cardinals, chickadees, and woodpeckers. The squirrels take turns stretching from the crotch of the tree to reach the black-oil sunflower seeds. In that spot they are at eye level with me watching from the window. Sometimes it becomes a stare-down contest as a squirrel nabs seed after seed, watching to see if I’ll chase it away. I simply watch and smile at the antics.

When the feeder is empty, the squirrel resorts to hanging upside down by back feet from a branch to reach the suet feeder dangling nearby. At those times I could swear the look on its face is telling me, “See what I have to go through when you forget to fill the seeds?!”

Sometimes when a squirrel comes and the feeder is empty it looks directly at the window, (is it glaring at me?) then turns tail in disgust and dashes off. I dutifully fill it, but more for the birds’ sake than the squirrels. The woodpeckers seem oblivious to me during their daily visits to the suet. They focus on the food, not caring if a squirrel is nearby or not. The sparrows, on the other hand, seem aware of everything around them. It must be their survival instinct to startle at every little movement; it’s fascinating to watch.

They fly in to pick at seeds on the ground that a squirrel is dropping, while waiting for their turn at the feeder. A flick of the tail sends them flocking to a nearby bush. They perch, watching for another safe moment, then return, and get scared off again. Back at the bush they hop from branch to branch nervously, hungrily. Watching their apparent anxiety gave me the idea to start throwing handfuls of tiny seed under the bush. Now the sparrows can feed in safety. And I have a close, clear view of them from the window above. It’s a winwin!

One day after I started tossing their food into the bushes, I was doing dishes at the sink by the window. I looked up to see eight sparrows lined up on the deck rail watching me. I had just enough time to quickly count them before they flew off, startled that I’d noticed them.

Then, one morning I left to run errands and returned at lunchtime. I noticed a lone set of bird tracks through the fresh snow on the deck that came right up to the sliding glass door. It appeared that the bird had hopped up to peek inside then flew away. The tracks served as a reminder to fill the feeders, so I headed to the back door. Right outside the door, again in fresh snow, were more tracks that looked like the bird had been pacing. I quickly filled the feeders and tossed some into the bush, hearing bird calls that sounded like, “She’s here! Dinnertime!” (Okay, I probably imagined that.) Then I headed back into the garage to grab a shovel and tackle the snow in the driveway. As the large door rose, I saw many more bird tracks right in front of the door. The poor things must have been frantic, waiting at every entrance.

Since that encounter, keeping the feeders full has become a higher priority. What used to be a cheap form of entertainment for me, now seems like a matter of life and death for them. As I sit in the warmth of my home, watching the wildlife endure this bitter winter, I feel good providing food for their survival. And it doesn’t bother me at all to be watched back.

See the March issue of "Your Country Neighbor".

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Poem published in YCN

 View of city geese last summer. We're all still waiting for the trail to re-open.

Flight Path
By Janet Sobczyk, 2019

I’m a lousy bird watcher
can’t claim to know much about them
seldom use binoculars
don’t keep a record of birds seen in my lifetime
can’t tell a bird by its call
but their sounds and movements fascinate me. 

At our old home I placed a feeder in a pine tree
nestled between boughs next to a window
sparrows gathered, flitting branch to branch
waiting turns impatiently
scared off by a loud jay or acrobatic squirrel
delightful entertainment.

New home, same feeders, placed in an ash tree
attract different entertainers
black and white woodpeckers with red caps
pink-breasted tiny blue birds I can’t identify
cardinal couples
and squirrels I’ve named.

Another new delight… geese!
Not attracted to the feeders
but residents of this part of town
their squawks distinctive 
capture my attention through closed windows 
a wonderful sound.

Early in the morning they make a v-line
rising from roosting grounds
to stretch wings, find food, socialize 
as humans head off to work 
geese begin the day 
heading south over my house.

At day’s end they commute home
pass my way again heading north
routine predictable
could set my watch by them
pause to listen, watch
it’s pleasant living under a flight path.

See the February issue of Your Country Neighbor that this poem appears in.

Friday, January 4, 2019

Not a Total Loss

This story about my two daughters' t-boned vehicles, appeared in Your Country Neighbor  this week

Not a Total Loss
By Janet Sobczyk, 2017

Time to clean out the car. It should have been no big deal.

The repairman directed us to the back lot and brought out the key. He removed the plates from my daughter’s t-boned, black Prius as she unloaded her possessions from the interior. An ice scraper, blanket, registration papers, sunglasses. Andrea left the empty coffee cup in the holder. Its mocha brown contents stained the passenger floor.

She turned to me and I hugged her, tears welling up. Sadness clouded our faces at the loss of her first, self-paid car. The insurance company deemed it a total loss, but she yearned to have it repaired and returned to our driveway.

My tears were a mixture of sadness and relief. I knew how fortunate she was to walk away with only whiplash. The t-boned car next to hers had suffered much worse, and so had its owner. The door smashed far into the driver’s seat. The fabric streaked with a dried substance, much darker than a latte. I turned away with a shudder, to load her things into my van.

As I walked past the line of crushed cars, a flashback took me to a similar lot, several years ago. The sight of my oldest daughter’s smashed silver Santa Fe. She, too, walked away with whiplash, from a head-on collision. The other driver had led police on a high-speed car chase through Kansas City and ran off after the crash, with the police in hot pursuit. Meanwhile, paramedics checked Carolyn, an innocent bystander on her way to work. The tow truck driver kindly offered her a ride home.

As we traveled from Omaha to KC to be with her, news of the chase permeated the radio broadcasts. My stomach lurched at each replay of the event until we could see she would be okay.

My mind raced back to her other t-boned vehicle, a black Mazda. That time a plumbing truck didn’t stop at the red light. Its driver was heading into the setting sun and talking on his cell phone.

Three vehicles totaled. Three times our girls walked away. Three miracles. I cried with gratitude. Then wiped my tears to drive Andrea to work. She pointed out the row of waiting, crumpled vehicles. “Look! They’re all either black or silver!” Just like the three cars we lost.

Without a doubt, the next one we buy will be… red!

Postscript: Andrea's new car is a bright blue. And Carolyn bought a tan one. Good enough!

Monday, December 17, 2018

Christmas Tree Goes on a Diet

My blog's featured post this month was the first draft of a poem recently revised and published in the December Your Country Neighbor. Both the blog and publication include before and after photos of our Christmas tree. This far into the holiday season, with all of its sweet temptations, I'm already planning my next diet, too.

Christmas Tree Goes on a Diet
by Janet Sobczyk, 2018

Dressed in green
bedecked in red bling
white lights, white angel
carols in the air
eggnog for sweet sipping
multicolored presents
invited children to shake and peek.

Years passed
angel perch broke
children grew
long legs needed space
a tree so full and fat
hardly fit the room
time to buy a new one.

Brought it home
dressed it the same
stood back, admired
new tree was much thinner
seems over the summer
dear old tree
went on a diet!

Monday, November 19, 2018

Missing Him

Missing Him

A memorial poem
by Janet Sobczyk, 2018

She wandered the house, looking
for him, lost, alone.

He’s gone, she didn’t understand
why, why was he taken?

She laid down, weary
with grief, sleeping the day away.

His scent lingered, drawn to it
at night, waiting for him to return.

She knew he was ill, fading
into a skeleton, barely able to eat.

Everyone thought, she’d go
first from the stroke, but she rebounded.

 He succumbed, nothing
could be done, it was over.

Lacey mourned her constant
companion, her litter mate, Tanner.

Lacey and Tanner holding paws.

Lacey alone.

Postscript... Lacey mourned Tanner less than 2 months before joining him. 
It's hard to lose two beloved dogs in such a short time.

Monday, July 9, 2018

In July YCN published "Trespassing" and "De-feathering My Nest." Thanks for allowing me so much space, Editor Stephen Hassler! 

"Trespassing" is my blog's featured post this month, but "De-feathering My Nest" is too long to reprint here.
Please check out the complete issue online at: