Suburban Journal: Meeting With Magpies

magpie holding peanut in beakWe went to the Target shopping center today, trying to get out the house for a little while and stay out of the cold. As my family shopped, I went through the aisles and departments looking at things I didn’t want but knowing we would buy something anyway. Going through the checkout line, I thought of how hard it was to go a day without buying at least one thing, no matter the cost, for the sake of buying something. This instinctual consumerism that seems to be a part of American mentality is one of things I think about time and again. Walking to the car through the gray day, my free hand holding my youngest son’s, my thoughts were broken as I scanned the empty parking spaces near our car, and I saw an unusual sight on the dirty concrete.

A dozen blackish-brown magpies were pecking at the ground, eating scattered popcorn kernels someone had spilled. It was strange to see so many birds out in one place this time of year. Most of the time I saw them in ones and twos, Now, here they were, a dozen birds all together in the cold, eating an errant spill on the parking lot that was once a pasture.

“Look, look at the birds!” My sons cried, pointing in wonder at the flock.

“Yes, look at them,” I said, wishing I had the same degree of newness and wonder for the world around me.

Most of the time I walk through life with my mind either looking forward to what I’m going to be doing or to the past. I’m not mindful of what I’m doing, of the action in front of me as I try to do half a dozen things when I should be focusing on the one task. But here, now, I was focused and mindful, not passing judgment, but merely being aware of what I was experiencing with my family.

Looking at the magpies, birds I have traditionally paid no attention to, for once I could clearly see them as they ate the kernels of corn. I could see them, be mindful of what was transpiring, and I knew I was making progress with my practice. For that I am thankful. As we got in the car and drove off, I knew the picture of the birds was one I would carry. Let mindfulness set my consciousness free.


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:
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
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 Micha Klootwijk

Going Home

After working a long nightshift,
the owl is up late.
Light that just now touched me
glints on no-nonsense feathers,
three or four shades of brown.

His flat face shoves the air aside,
unhindered by its resistance
like a ’47 Jimmy cab over truck.
And behind those eyes, a bone-weary
homunculus steers toward home.

By Don Thompson


Don Thompson was born and raised in Bakersfield, California, and has lived in the southern San Joaquin Valley for most of his life. Currently the poet laureate of Kern County, he has been publishing poetry since the early sixties,including a dozen books and chapbooks. For more information and links to his publications, visit his website San Joaquin Ink.

Suburban Journal: The Remnant

neighborhood road in snowy winterFebruary had been a strange month for weather. It was like the weather couldn’t make up its mind on whether it was going to be warm or cold, changing every few days like hypomania, never going the full extreme into full-blown mania. Yesterday it had been 70 degrees, a taste of what late spring would bring, but today the temperature dropped, and the day was cold in the 40s, the north wind blowing with a bitter chill that told its true nature.

My parents and I had just finished watching Circus Soleil, and walking out of the big top, the wind blew across our faces like a straight razor. Standing for a moment in the parking lot, where 500 yards away stood an immense mega church, I turned my face straight north and let the wind hit my brow, rubbing across as it were barber ready to give me a shave. The wind had come hundreds of miles down the long plains, hurtling down Kansas and Oklahoma that unfurled in North Texas, a winter remnant reminding that spring was not here yet.

Overhead, the night was clear, stars shining eons away as we walked in the cold toward our car. A few hundred yards away, I could see some trees and the incline of a hill, and I thought about what this area must have looked like a hundred years ago. It was probably prairie, a small farming community, all of that gone now, progress moving forward with urbanization, remorseless in its precision and expansiveness. All that remained native was the wind, the North Wind from the plains.

It had blown cold and hard each winter, each gust crossing the years as change came in the way of a booming economy. The land would change, people would die, but the wind would be the witness to it all, for now until the end of time. Getting into our car, the wind lingering on my hoodie’s shoulders, I know it would be with me until I passed. With that, Nature ran its course in one way or another, even with so much change. And that thought gave me comfort. We drove on home through the night, and the wind kept his company all the way home and into Morpheus’ sleep.


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:
The Tree Blossoms
The Dead Bird
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 Pavel Cheiko

Touched by the Spirit of Life

plants, pond and cat in backyardNo matter how small, nature is everywhere, and no matter how large, nature can always find a special corner in our hearts. The prevailing concept of nature is vast acres of untouched, Earth-made land that stretches beyond the horizon’s end. Yet, we often overlook the smallest, yet most apparent essences that create the natural world that envelops us. In the grand scheme of the biosphere, or an ecosystem, or even my backyard, it seems queer to adore something like a lowly bush. In our surroundings, however, a bush is anything but lowly.

Soft tabby paws pad through the stretch of open, yellow-grassed yard, making their way into the undergrowth near the bush. Inside, four mewling kittens squirm restlessly, revealing their off-white undersides as their mother strokes them. Hazel-green eyes gaze around at the shadows of the dense brush, and sometimes I can observe little flashes of brown with black stripes darting around while I pry a bough aside to peer inside. One kitten, however, bears a jet-black pelt with bright peridot eyes, tantamount to the dark night and shimmering stars that we can no longer appreciate.

Trekking through meters of 5-inch snow, the mother and her train of four kittens brave the harsh weather outside the bush, which has been masked in a blanket of white. Pursuing them would lead me to the barren woods behind my neighborhood lake, where these feral cats have nestled near the felled logs and deemed this their summer home.kitten walks in grass

However, the late February snow and departure of the cats could only remind me that spring is right around the corner. The snow melts, and flowers take root in the fertile soil around the bushes. A robin couple chirp as they collect twigs and other scattered miscellanea to rebuild the nest that had been destroyed by the cold and the inquisitive kittens. Soon the female will lay eggs and tend their three peeping fledglings, watching them grow up within a short 13 days. Sometimes, I cautiously hoist a bough to explore the ten different species of flowers, twenty species of insects, the robin family, and occasionally a fleeing rabbit or a flitting blue jay.

As I pull open the shades to take a peek at the bush outside my window, I can’t help but smile at how much diversity and wildlife a mere unprotected shrub can behold. My bush has its very own calendar, its circadian rhythms, and its circle of life. Every day, we rush to school, extracurriculars, and other places, paying no mind to these beautiful beings. Once a while when we pause and observe nature, we can always be surprisingly touched by the spirit of life. The bush is one of nature’s finest keepsakes; it always reminds us of how wonderful life is.

I watch my cats depart in the chilly February morning, thinking about the new season just beginning.


Top photo by tlorna

New Tenant

The back door left ajar
was the perfect invitation
for Bossy to enter
and make herself at home.
When I returned, I witnessed
a trail of cow pies
all the way into the bedroom,
and there was Bossy,
sprawled out on the bed.
I was flabbergasted,
to say the least,
never dreaming
my new bedmate
would utterly be a cow.

By Harding Stedler


After graduating valedictorian of his high school graduating class, Harding Stedler went on to earn his B.S. in Ed., M.S in English Education, and his Ph.D. in English Education as well. He taught writing courses under the umbrella of the English Department in universities where he taught. In 1995, he retired from Shawnee State University in Portsmouth, Ohio, with 34 years of service. He now makes his home in Maumelle, Arkansas, and is an active member of the Poets’ Roundtable of Arkansas as well as the River Market Poets in Little Rock.