Birthdays in May, Drawing Mice, and Kooser Sightings

Little Mack and I don’t agree on everything, but we do agree on this point: May birthdays really are the sweetest, though all birthdays are nice. I think somebody wrote a poem along these lines, probably. You’ve guessed that little Mack and I both are blessed with May birthdays. I’m so glad that we share this. And I’m glad, also, that we are of the same “get me outta here” ilk, concerning indoors living. Particularly in May.

You know how it is. In January, it’s pretty nice to be inside by the fire, with a cozy quilt and a hot cuppa tea and a seed catalog to dream over. In February, the inside/fire/hotcuppa schtick is okay, too. Considering what’s going on outside: bitter winds, ice, snow, the color gray. But by March, the cozy inside is beginning to chafe. Little things, like dust and clutter and other people that you live with (cough) are starting to get to you. And yet . . . you have a good two months of gray and cold(ish) weather outside, before it’s finally MAY. At least that’s the rhythm of the seasons here in Nebraska. We spend long, cold, forlorn days just standing by the window, looking out, wondering how much longer winter will last.

At least, little Mack and I do.

And then . . . May comes, in all her glory! The mind clears in May. The winter cobwebs, thankfully, flee in the face of such sweetness. You don’t think of gray skies, or icicles, or indoors dust, or even irritation at fellow housemates in May. You no longer have to. Besides, your spirit is too full of the smell of lilacs, and the lush colour green, and the softness of surprise baby chicks, and fluffy white clouds and how good it feels to really stretch your legs, and wield a hoe, and go for a bike ride again.

May. The sweetest month. I’m sure there’s a poem about it someplace. I wish I could put my finger on it.

I just had a thought. I have a friend, a poet with the most perfect curly hair. But her hair is not the point. I just always think of it when I think of her. Her smile is also spectacular. She is just blessed in so many ways. Anyway. She has asked me to do a drawing for her, of some dead mice that I found in my goose’s water bucket one morning. I mean I’ve already made the drawing, but she wants a copy . . . I’ll show you just a glimpse of it. These mice were just in perfect little attitudes, dead of course, drowned, yet they looked just like somebody had set them up in this sweet position. Like they were begging for something to eat, or perhaps asking for the remote so they could change the channel. I couldn’t get over it. I brought them into the house, and the kids and I, of course, set them up carefully in the middle of the school table, and drew them.

They just stood there, just like this, in the middle of the table.

You don’t get that kind of drawing instruction in the public school. 😉 (cough)


Anyway. I didn’t mean to go down that rabbit trail, but there I went. My point: maybe I could talk my sweet and beautiful friend into writing a poem about May, with a promise of the dead mouse drawing that she so (strangely) wants.

And that reminds me . . . you know who Ted Kooser is, don’t you? You can look here if you need a refresher. He lives in our area, a fact which tickles me to no end. We see him often, and I’ll always jab the ribs of whoever I’m closest to (even a perfect stranger, if that’s who is next to me) and whisper exitedly “TED KOOSER SIGHTING!” and grin like an idiot, taking in every little detail of him. He wears faded overalls a lot. He is small and solemn. He looks serious and kind. He has great hair.

Do all poets have great hair, I wonder?

File:Robert Frost NYWTS 5.jpg

Robert Frost’s hair is very nice.

File:Christina Rossetti 2.jpg

You can see how lovely Christina Rossetti’s hair was.

File:William Wordsworth 001.jpg

Hmm. William Wordsmith’s hair was nothing to write home about, sadly. My friend’s hair trumps all of these poets’ hair, hands-down, anyway. 🙂 I wish you could see it.


One evening last week, we went to a Mexican fast-food place and ordered some nachos and tacos for dinner because Bryan suggested it and I was too tired to protest, and as we were standing there, waiting for our order, who came up and ordered a dinner right there beside us, but Ted Kooser, the former poet laureate himself.

Trembling, I watched him order. The nice fellow behind the counter (it was John, ya’all) said politely “Can I get a name for that order, sir?”

My mouth fell open, quite indecorously. Was he kidding? Of course he knew who Ted Kooser was, right? Everybody knows who Ted Kooser is. Maybe he was just giving the man his space? Being . . . discreet? But no. I studied John’s face. He really didn’t know who Ted Kooser was. Incredible. I grabbed Amalia’s arm, to steady myself. I was faint with disbelief, Gentle Readers. Faint. Maybe, even, just a tad nauseated.

Mr. Kooser leaned forward, and said, quietly, “Ted.” He must be the most humble man I’ve ever seen. There he was, standing in his overalls at the counter, the former poet laureate of the United States and a many-times-over-published poet and all-around really talented fellow, buying himself a taco and trying to just fit in with the rest of us dumb yahoos and rednecks. Bless his heart. And the guy behind the counter didn’t even recognize him.

“Okay, that’ll be a few minutes, ah . . . ” he glanced down at the note he had scribbled to himself “Ted,” said the boy. For Pete’s sake!!

I wanted to reach over and give him a quick hug (Mr. Kooser, not John) and let him know how much I absolutely love his poetry, but my daughter Amalia gave me a dressing-down with her eyes. “Don’t you dare bother that sweet man, Mom, and especially don’t you do something that will embarrass ME.”  That is what her eyes said. She’s a good girl, my daughter, but she can give the Evil Eye like you wouldn’t believe. Honest. She can.

So, I guess asking Ted Kooser to write me a poem about May is out, hmm, daughter? I asked. With my pleading eyes. “Absolutely not,” she said. With her stern mouth. And her Eye of the Tiger.

Anyway. This post started out about May birthdays, and I’m hoping to rein it in to conclude with that, too. I dearly love to take canoes down the Big Blue River near our place, so that’s what we did to celebrate my birthday. And yes, I know that the Big Blue River is actually a Dainty Green River, but nobody asked me, when they went about naming it. Actually I believe it was big, and blue, years ago, before irrigation of crops around became such a drain (no pun intended) on it.



Bryan and little Mack were in one canoe, and the girls and I were in the other. It was a perfect day, just cool enough for a jacket, and (uncharacteristically) not windy at all. The guys started out leading, and though Amalia and Bethie and I tried our best to catch up and assume the coveted Lead Canoe position (you get to see all the wildlife in that position, and then you scare them away), we were forced to make stops along the way, so we stayed in the not-enviable-at-all Back Canoe position the entire day. Oh well. There are times when you really need to stop and gingerly climb out of the canoe, trying very hard not to tip it, to look at something more closely. Or take a close-up picture of something. Or to retrieve something very intriguing.


For example, I just had to stop and pick up this dandy enameled pot. One of the first porta-potties, I’ll bet. Cute, eh? I set it firmly in the back of the canoe, to put our treasures in. And . . . just in case we needed it. 🙂


We stopped to have a picnic. The guys doubled back and joined us, since we were carrying all the food in our canoe.


The air was swirling with these beautiful maple seeds.

For little Mack’s birthday a couple of agonizingly-slow-moving weeks later (sigh) (“HOW MANY DAYS UNTIL MY BIRTHDAY NOW, MOM??”) , he wanted to spend the day fishing, so we went to our favorite fishing spot and settled in. We took one of our canoes, giving ourselves more choices on how to spend our time. In the middle of the day, when the fish weren’t biting, Amalia and I went paddling around the lake. We saw two families of geese with new goslings, and turtles! Lots and lots of turtles!


I wish you could have seen it, Gentle Reader. These logs were completely covered with turtles when we first saw them. As we drew near, though, one by one they slipped off into the water. Plop. Plop. Plop . . . If I had remembered to pack my camera battery instead of just my camera (with the telephoto lens, natch’) I would have gotten some great shots. Alas.

I am buying a back-up camera battery today.


We caught several little bluegills from the banks, but the guys got the best catch of the day: they took the canoe out to the middle of the lake and caught three nice-sized channel catfish. Little Mack was ecstatic.


It’s hard to beat battered and fried fish for supper, especially around the campfire. Yum. And I don’t think fried foods are so bad for you when they are eaten en plein air*. Right??


We made souped-up s’mores for dessert (Amalia’s invention: s’more with warmed-up licorice inside: it was a bit strange, honestly, in my opinion, but still quite edible).


Timothy never met a tree he didn’t want to climb, and this huge old oak that soared above our campground was no exception. He got up so high, that he admitted that even he was actually a bit spooked up there. “What?” I panted. “Don’t get nervous! Just climb down–NOW! . . . please?” Nervousness, after all, could lead to lightheadedness which could lead to fainting, which could lead to . . . . *me, swaying* 🙁

“Mom, I’m okay,” he said, soothingly, from 100 feet up. “I just haven’t felt this irrationally fearful in a long time.” Irrational fear? That’s not a good sign! That’s MY schtick, not yours, son!

“It’s not irrational fear, honey! It’s completely RATIONAL fear! PLEASE CLIMB DOWN RIGHT NOW THIS IS YOUR MOTHER ASKING!” I pleaded up to him, like some crazed, hysterical, frightened loon.


He just grinned at me. Though I could barely see his grin, he was so high up. “I’m not gonna fall, Mom,” he called down, matter-of-factly.

“I hope you have six sons who climb trees and scare you silly!” I cried up to him, before, oops, realizing too late that that would mean they would be my grandsons and that I’d be scared silly by them, too. “I take that back!”


“Now how exactly did I get up here?” he said aloud, looking down, down, down the very long trunk underneath him.

At this, I took deep, calming breaths and went to study these seed balls on the sycamore trees, instead of watching his descent. No wonder I have high blood pressure. *sigh*


It’s a wonder that not more mothers have high blood pressure. Perhaps we all do have high blood pressure, just not all of it is diagnosed. He made it down safely, by the way. And as he always assures me, he always does.

Here’s your treat for making it through another long, rambling post. A poem that Amalia and I composed as we sat fishing and not getting any fish. Or any nibbles. Or nuthin’ for long stretches. Just soggy worms. The occasional mosquito bite. Sometimes it’s good to have long stretches of boredom, isn’t it? Sometimes you’ll come up with creative thoughts that will amaze you.

Other times, you’ll come up with something like this:


Hey, Gentle Reader, have you entered my Nebraska raw honey package giveaway yet? You can enter every day! Click here to do that.

And have a great day, you! I hope the fish are biting at your place!


Oh! *En plein air is a French expression meaning “out in the open air” usually referring to producing art in the out-of-doors.

Oh! One more thing: I’ll be sharing this post with the great folks at The Prairie Homestead. Come on over and join us!

14 thoughts on “Birthdays in May, Drawing Mice, and Kooser Sightings

  1. Anita-Clare Field

    Love this, I wholeheartedly agree about the birthdays in May. I too have one in May. Also my wife is a hugely accomplished poet and author and has the most amazingly wild and fabulous curly hair ! Who knew? Lovely lovely post. Thanks for sharing Amy

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      I know, right, Anita-Clare? Now that I know about this correlation, I’ll be wondering, whenever I see somebody with great hair, if they happen to be a poet, too. 🙂 What day is your birthday in May?

  2. Vinodini Iyer

    I agree, May birthdays are indeed sweet though mine falls in June and I don’t mind that either. Lovely pictures. I was drooling over the fried fish 🙂
    Wishing you a Happy Birthday!

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Erzsebet (what a pretty name!),
      We’ve taken this canoe trip many times. One other time, my daughter and I ended up in the water too, AND my brand-new Nikon camera. 🙁 We were fine, but my camera didn’t fare so well.

  3. Gene

    Amy – you outdid yourself with this posting! I read it twice. Totally love it. If you are into Ted Kooser, have you discovered his friend Jim Harrison? They did a slim book of poetry together: Braided Creek

    1. dramamamafive Post author

      Thanks Gene. 🙂 I’ve noticed that Mr. Kooser mentions Ted Harrison in his writings, but I didn’t know about their book! Thanks for that, I’ll check into it!

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