She’s the place you came from, your first home,
and she’s the map you follow with every step you take.
She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy,
but nothing on earth can separate you.
Not time, not space, not even death.

Out early on a walk with the dog,
I catch sight of the pale pink flowers,
hiding behind a clump of yellow iris,
the delicate petals gracefully dancing in the morning breeze.

Marguerite daisies, I think,
the name, coming unbidden into my head,
an unexpected gift
from my mother, the gardener.

A few weeks later, a flutter.
The sound of a slender branch
scrapping the window outside my home office,
followed by a flash of crimson and chestnut brown.

A surveillance visit it turns out,
the small male bird returning with his partner
each bringing bits of coarse grass and smalls twigs,
returning over and over until the nest is built.

Now they come and go without supplies,
tending the nest, I assume.
Every now and then, the male will land on the windowsill instead,
cocking its head at me as if to say, “Hello. Are you all right?”

Such a gorgeous little bird, I think,
pausing whatever I’m doing to watch him
until he’s ready to fly off
or burrow his way back into the bush.

Now I understand why House Finches were my mother’s favorite.
The male with his rosy red breast and streaky brown belly
building a hidden home with his mousy brown mate.
And I wonder at my ability to recall that name, too.

I was so rarely interested when she tried to teach me
about the birds and plants she loved so much.
Yet here are two little gems
I hung onto despite myself.

My mother is seven years gone this year,
and there are days when all I can think of
are the questions I never asked,
and the answers I no longer remember.

She taught me how to go on without her,
although I never wanted to.
Not the path to take, but how to pick one.
Not the outcome to strive for, but what mattered in the choosing.

When to lay low and when to speak up.
How to be seen and when to remain invisible.
Why children are often the most interesting conversationalists
and how much is lost when you ignore the elderly.

The importance of being pleased what you have,
instead of looking around at everyone else’s haul.
How to see behind bravado and around arrogance, and
find the hurt that’s hidden there.

I feel her small, soft hand on my forearm,
reminding me to keep pausing
and trust the memories to return.
And to forgive myself when they don’t.

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