In Birdland, the air is cool and crisp, but ... .
Are you tired of my whining about the drought? I am. The corn is drying, and the beans are suddenly golden. And we never did get that rain that would swell the beans in their jackets.
Since I had so much time this summer with my feet up, I got a lot of knitting done. Sitting longer stretches, I got bored with washcloths and started on slippers and socks.
Late fall begins our family's birthday season, with a quick succession of parties requiring a quick succession of gifts. I'll be ready, I think.
The slippers are felted, made with odds and ends of leftover wool. To felt a woolen slipper, you wash it in the washing machine. Since my washer doesn't agitate, the felting process is gentler.
I have to wash them several times, but I don't have to be as careful. In fact, I just toss them in with the regular wash. Each wash shrinks them just a little, so I wash them over and over until they're the right size.
All that shrinking means that when I knit them, they are pretty gigantic. Great big clown slippers. It takes awhile, but you may remember how long I was laid up letting my foot heal from surgery.
I finished four pairs of slippers, and then, getting the hang of turning a heel, I started with a pair of socks.
The slippers are complex but go pretty quickly. I knit them with great big (size 13) needles, with a double strand of yarn, so you see the progress right away.
When I switched to socks, I switched to tiny needles (size 2), and it requires more concentration and a bit more eyestrain.
But here's the gift I found in tiny needles and eentsy beentsy stitches: I'm making all this footwear for some very special people, and so naturally, while I'm knitting each slipper or sock, my mind turns to the one who will wear them.
With the tiny stitches, I have even more time to think about all the wonderful qualities of each person. As I knit, I nurture warm thoughts, so by the time I'm finished, my heart is warmed as I hope their feet will be.
Somewhere in all the knitting and meditations, I nurtured my curiosity about these special people, and I stumbled onto a question. I started carrying that question to the people in my life. It's kind of a weird question, but that's OK.
It bubbled out in archaic language so that's how I ask it: What is your heart's desire?
I usually get the same response the first time I ask: embarrassment and reticence. But I don't let that stop me.
Rephrasing the question usually doesn't change the response, but I do it anyway: What is your dearest wish?
I wait a bit, in that atmosphere of awkwardness, and then I'll share one of my dearest wishes. Now, it almost doesn't matter what I share.
My wishes and plans and hopes and dreams change every day. Sometimes I'll share a project I have in mind for Birdland: building an aquaponics system, or transforming the whole yard to a path that meanders through native flowers, or setting up a hive of honeybees, or saving the world in tiny ways.
Whatever I share, I make sure it is specific and detailed. Then they get it. They understand my question. Their answers always surprise me, even from those I know very well.
The answer itself doesn't even matter. Listening to the answer is like watching a flower unfold, petal by petal, or witnessing a chrysalis in the moments of its opening. As I listen, I glimpse the divinity in each of these people I love.
What is your dearest wish?
What is your heart's desire?
Knit in beauty; aspire to peace; blessed be.
Mary Lucille Hays lives in Birdland near White Heath. She is interested in nurturing the aspirations of the people on her path. You can read more of her writings at http://www.letterfrombirdland.blogspot.com. Mary can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or via snail mail care of this newspaper.