Memoir Writing


Thinking About the Birds


If you find the nagging part of your mind telling you you don't have anything interesting to write about, I suggest that you take a few minutes to think about birds. I don't know about you, but birds are very important to me. When I set back and remind myself how much I like birds and let my mind flow through the river of memories, pictures come to mind. Ducks swimming in a reflecting pond in San Diego. The robins, staggering drunk, from over indulging in the fomenting pyracantha berries in my back yard on Josephine Ave. Black birds filling the trees outside a bank in San Antonio. Maybe birds aren't that important to you. Maybe you like jack rabbits or cats. Monet loved waterlilies.

Below you will find an example of what I wrote when I tried this assignment.


Example: Aloha 25 +/-

I have never been much of one for anniversaries, surprises, or for that mater the seduction of the sirene call of far away places with strange sounding names. Bill, however, is something of a romantic and is, therefore, pretty much into all of the above. So that is how I found myself on a Delta Airline headed west out of San Francisco. As it tuned out that year, almost thirty years ago, our twenty-fifth anniversary fell somewhere in the midst of one of Bill's many business trips, that particular one to Australia. His being away for anniversaries, though not unusual, was always something of a problem to him. In spite of my questioning what difference it made what date we celebrated the fact that we had made it though yet one more year, his absence on the specific anniversary usually resulted in some overpriced floral offering being delivered to my door on the appropriate day. The twenty-fifth anniversary coupled with a Honolulu stop over triggered a scheme in his mind. Over my protestations, he made plans for me to meet him in Hawaii on his way back from Melbourne and bought a ticked for me. So, it was a done deal. The fact that the ticket was non refundable, coupled with the fact that if there was anywhere in the world outside of Texas that I was intrigued by, that would be Hawaii.

So there I was, leafing through the airline magazine, tying to keep my mind off the fact that I have never gotten over the surprise I experienced on my first commercial airline flight: For me, it is a fact that the big commercial airlines are nothing like the small Piper Cub type planes I had gone up in piloted by Bill. The small planes remind me of birds, swallows or starlings perhaps riding the winds, not so high over familiar, recognizable landscapes. Commercial flights have the unfortunate feel of a shoebox hurtling along over unrecognizable terrain, in the case of west out of SFO nothing but ocean. So, there it was somewhere toward the back of the magazine, a picture of the airline routs. Great arcing arrows heading toward a dot out in the middle of a vast blue ocean.

Remembering Amelia Aerheart, I wondered how one airplane could find that little dot of land way out in the middle of the ocean, let alone two of them rendezvous way out there in the middle of nowhere?

It didn't seem possible. Let us be real about this, I thought. It is the exception, not the rule, when Westinghouse trips achieved the Estimated Time of Arrival projections. I had long since resorted to denial that there was such a thing as an ETA. Denial is a useful tool with shifting schedules. The idea being I would meet him in Honolulu on his way back from Melbourne was quickly growing in the fertile "what if" section of my brain. What if I got there, only to find a message that the Melbourne generator had been more resistant to repair than expected? What then? How would I know?

To keep my mind off the unspooling thread of what if's, I tuned my mind to ticking of the list of things to do before setting off the parts unknown. And that is how I came to realize, that I had left the list of important things to see in and around Honolulu at home on the top of the bureau. So much for that bit of planning. Shabby planning though it might have been it gave me a sense of control. I spent some time berating myself for not having gone to the library. The things on the forgotten list were just things people had told me I must see. Mike Metty, my college advisor, would be disappointed in me. He, I knew would have boned up on the political structure of Hawaii, the history, the ethnic diversification and on and on.

And so, it came as some surprise to me when the airline pilot announced that the people on the other side of the airplane could see Maui if they looked out the window. The air plane had actually found Honolulu. And then it was our turn. On our side we could see Diamond Head and water a strange and beautiful shade of blue green I had never seen before.

When I finally stepped off the jet way, the first thing I saw was that the Honolulu airport must have been designed by a movie set maker. Walls fashioned of blocks of lava rock, verandas open to palm trees, bougainvillea hibiscus and got knows what else. And then there was Bill, in a bright blue Hawaiian shirt armed with a lei of vanda orchids.

There is that soft breeze that makes an agenda seem beside the point. Someone Bill knew in Honolulu had suggested a motel called the Pagoda. It was a place that could have been used as set for a Beograd movie. Arched bridges reflected in pools with Koi fish and water lilies. Louvered doors. The whole nine yards.

There is always that slight readjustment that we have to make from being apart to being together. Bill would like to tease. Having been the youngest of three children, I cannot abide being teased.

There came that strange sound. Something like a percolator. "What's that?" I wanted to know.

"A bird," he said.

"It is not," I retorted. Again the sound. Certainly no bird. Thinking Bill was teasing me, I angrily I yanked open the curtain, and there, standing on the air conditioner on our patio was a little dove like bird, making a noise just like a percolator. So now when we go to Hawaii, as we often do, we look for our traditional Aloha from the birds we call percolator birds. As nearly as I can tell the Hawaiian wild life book calls them zebra doves.


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