Suburban Journal: The Dead Bird

We had just arrived home from Oklahoma after visiting my parents for the weekend. As we got ready for the new work week, my thoughts went back to the visit and seeing my grandma for what might have been the last time. She was living in the nursing home near my parents’ house, was 90 years old, and was dying. My Mom and uncle had made the decision to take her off the machines and let her die in peace, something which my grandma had wanted for a long time. Now back home in Fort Worth, I could only periodically call my parents and ask on my grandma’s status as every hour left me wondering if she were alive or dead. As we went about our chores to get ready for the week, I felt numb and tired from the emotional turmoil of the weekend. As I prepared my satchel before I went to tutor students at the university, my wife and twin sons went outside to hang clothes to dry.

“Wade, come quick,” said my wife Jeab as I my sons cried out in astonishment. As I went out into the back yard, my mind reflecting on my grandmother who was dying two hours away, I wondered what was wrong.

“It’s a dead bird,” she said, pointing at a still body lying near the back porch. For a moment, I just stared at the dead bird, looking at it as if it was the first time I had ever seen something dead. Getting a plastic bag, I carefully picked it up with a paper towel and peered at it for a moment. As my children asked questions about why the bird was not flying, I looked into its eyes, which reflected like glass. The bird was colored a dark brown with an off-white under plumage, and for a moment I imagined the bird was just sleeping, taking a rest from a long flight. But I knew I was just dreaming, and quickly I placed the dead bird in the plastic bag, tied it up, and went and put it in the garbage can. Going back into the house, I tried my best to answer my kids’ questions on what happened to the bird and if it would be all right.

“The bird is just sleeping. It needs to rest,” my wife and I said, not ready to explain the concept of death to our toddlers just yet.

Looking at my children, I thought about the dead bird and my grandmother. Just a day ago, my sons had hugged and kissed her for what was probably the last time in their young lives. They had no idea they were actually saying goodbye to a person they would vaguely remember from their childhood years later. But the bird brought that reality closer to home as I tried to emotionally accept my grandmother’s impending death. All I could do was wait and see, and try to let the process of grief to run its course. Because letting go of the person who I was closest to in my childhood was not something I could accept overnight. And I thought the bird was an omen of what was going to come in the next couple of days. I just wish it were so simple to let go, but I knew it wouldn’t be.

father and son silhouettes at sunset


This is an article in my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:

A Budding Tree

An Encounter With a Falcon

The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by jes2ufoto

Suburban Journal: A Budding Tree

On Thursday, I went to my first Tai Chi class. It was at the local recreation center during mid-morning, and I got there a few minutes early. Sitting in the darkened classroom, I stared out across the empty floor, my eyes taking in my surroundings until I saw the large bay windows on the far wall. Looking out the windows, I could see the cold grey sky, a view of the winter morning, and I clearly saw the posts and green fencing of an enclosed tennis court. Besides the tennis court was a large tree, an oddity in my subdivision, my view only catching a few branches and part of the main trunk. Sitting there alone, I stared at the exposed tree, trying to see it for the first time.

Thebranches of tree against a building first thing I noticed were the buds forming on the branches. Sprouting out, but not yet ready to open, the buds were green and looked out of place on the tree branch in February. That was strange. I don’t think I had never noticed tree buds before in my entire life. I always passed by them without really seeing them, only noticing if they were with or without leaves, depending on the season. I had never noticed the first buds forming, so out of place in the winter cold, but it was only a few more weeks before spring came about in all its muted glory. Staring at the tree buds, I focused on them further, counting the number of buds on the branch I could see. One, two, three, four, I kept counting until I was up to ten total. Staring at the untapped potential of the tree, it was like I was seeing the present and future all rolled into one. What the tree was in the present, and the potential of what it would be in the spring. As I sat mindful of the branch, I enjoyed the silent moment I had there before the class began. Leaving the class later, I knew I would come back again and again to train. Each time I train, I will make sure to look at the tree branch.

Maybe I’ll even get to see it bloom.


This is the third article my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
An Encounter With a Falcon
The Carrying of Sounds

The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by zanozaru

Wind Memories

Before I moved here, I never really noticed the wind. When I was younger and living in Oklahoma, I only noticed the wind on cold days; most of the time it seemed calm in my memory. But here in the Fort Worth subdivision, the wind blows constantly. Whether warm or cold, I notice the wind every day I go outside. Around here, the wind blows hard with no large trees to block it, and the numerous houses do nothing to stop it. Going outside in the winter and summer, the wind is most noticeable, whether blowing north or south, whether cutting cold or warm and arid. When I look at the sky, the clouds drift by at a speed I can’t fathom, my gaze watching as they drift beyond my line of sight.

Walking with my sons, the stroller handle gripped in my hands, I am always fighting with the wind while we walk around the subdivision, it buffeting my body while I pull the canopy down to shield the twins. Most times I try to ignore it as best I can as I push, and on cold days the wind cuts razor sharp, speaking in a way I can’t ignore. But there are those days where the wind isn’t so unkind, blowing softly, warmly, like an old friend to visit. It is then I try to embrace it as best I can, to take notice and watch as it touches everyone and everything.

Walking on the creek path under a grove of cottonwoods, the wind rustles low hanging limbs, leaves shaking and calling to one another in hushed whispers. It is that sound I savor the most, the sound of the wind blowing through trees. When I hear it, I become a boy walking home at night under a large pine tree in a neighbor’s yard. Enjoying the night air, the sound rustling the pine needles made me think I wasn’t alone, that some great being was watching overhead, keeping me company as I safely made my way home. That sound carried with me until now, and every time I heard the wind blowing through the trees, for a moment I am a child and everything is good in the world. Pushing my sons, I hope I can share this with them with words when they’re older. For now, I can only share the experience and hope they feel the same way.

young boy watching sunset clouds


This article is from my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
An Encounter with a Falcon

The Carrying of Sounds

The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo by Jasmin Merdan

Dream Bigger

boy walking on a path in the dark woods into bright sunshineOn clear and kind days, I would often go for a walk into the forest sanctuary near my house. Submerging myself in a world that is both filled with unimaginable beauty and wonder and fraught with a hint of danger. The only way to experience this world is to fully immerse yourself, listening out for a sound of a bird calling, echoing through the wilderness. On one occasion a deer call did just that; bouncing off ancient trees, it could be heard from a great distance, as if nature itself was trying to communicate through a long forgotten connection that once was. To me, this time of isolation in the undergrowth brought clearer thoughts that I would’ve never had if I was surrounded by brick structures and sounds of car horns. Nature gives you a sense of appreciation, filling you with an immense wonder of what surrounds you. Not many young dreamers these days would say they would like to be a naturalist or an explorer. That is sad, because there is so much more to explore and experience. We need to dream bigger.


Photo by Angela Waye

An Encounter with a Falcon

peregrine falcon flying in a cloudy skyThe morning was grey; black rain clouds were fast approaching as my wife and I were putting our two toddlers in the back seat of our SUV. As I guided my son Ivan to his car seat, I looked to the west to see the black clouds, the north wind blowing hard with a hint of winter. Looking at the clouds stretch in the sky above our subdivision, I saw a large bird fly quickly by. At first I thought it was a buzzard; they are a common sight in our subdivision where they circle the wooded areas looking for the dead. But gazing at the bird’s fast flight, not the drunken, lazy glide that usually characterizes a buzzard’s style, I saw it was no vulture, but a bird of prey we rarely see in our development. The bird was large and flew aggressively, his destination set somewhere to the west, beyond the skyline of trees. Pointing up to the flying predator, I told my son Ivan, “Look at that falcon!”

He looked up in the direction of my finger, his brown eyes gazing with the attentiveness of a child who has seen his first bird of prey. Yelling in delight, he said “Wow! Look at that bird, Daddy!”

I looked with him at the falcon, in that moment, and it was like it was the first time I had seen a falcon when I was a child. Never before had I paid such attention to the flight of a bird I barely recognized, but now I did as I shared in my son’s brand new experience. It was like we were children for a moment, gazing in wonder as the falcon flew and flew, its large wings flapping with strength and precision. Soon the falcon was gone, beyond the sight of both old and young, and as my son talked about seeing the great bird, I placed him in his car seat and buckled him in. As I got into the car and started the engine, I was glad I had been mindful of what the moment held, and how hard it is to catch such moments, like chasing butterflies in the dark. My hope is I can keep doing it until my sons are old enough to catch those moments to share with me. For this, I hope.


This is the third article my Subdivision Journal series. I am trying to use mindfulness to observe nature in my neighborhood. Other articles in the series:
The Carrying of Sounds
The View from My Window


Author PhotoCarl Wade Thompson is a poet, essayist, and the graduate writing tutor at Texas Wesleyan University. He has published poetry and memoir essays in The Mayo Review, The Concho River Review, One in Four, Anak Sastra, The Galway Review, The Blue Collar Review, Piker Press, The Eunoia Review, Blue Minaret, Nebo Literary Magazine, Alphelion Literary Webzine, and Labor: Studies in Working-Class History of the Americas. He lives on the outskirts of Fort Worth, Texas. His poems explore the link between the urban and the rural.

Photo of Peregrine Falcon by rck953