…because once you commit to living with a parrot, the given is that he or she will rule your day, much as children will. Desirée is a rainbow lorikeet, about the size of a blue jay. I’ve had her for seventeen years.
First, the commitment to the bird: it’s not the feeding and cleaning that are most critical, it’s time. Between when she wakes and goes to sleep, she will need at least an hour of quality eye-to eye time, divided into chunks of time for meals, petting and treats. She knows the schedule better than I do, and holds me to it.
After Desirée and her cage have been attended to, she wants/needs her time with me, which involves scratching her neck feathers, sometimes plying ‘hiding’ games, or string games using a certain leather shoelace strung with toys. When she’s had enough of this, I’m free to write or work on some part of catkin press business. Desirée is free in the house but now that she’s older, she sleeps much of the day.
Writing and publishing fit around her chunks of time. When I wake before she does, I read in bed, usually from the poetry books stacked beside the bed. Through the day I make notes on strips of scrap paper, culled from what I read in books or on the net, thoughts that come to me, observations and perceptions that I find interesting enough to keep. When these scraps pile up I enter them into a Word file called, for some reason I don’t remember, ‘april objects’; I often refer to these notes when writing, highlighting ideas if I’ve made use of them. That file is 327 pages long at the moment and goes back about five years. Writing takes precedence over my press; if I am not writing, I get itchy, frenetic and bored.
I do like the internet. And though it might be better use of my time to ‘socialize’ after my work is done, I’m at peace knowing what’s going on with family and friends, and I keep in touch often, usually by email, with poets while I’m publishing their books or chapbooks. While writing comes first, I like to get details of a project cleared up and out of the way. A favourite part of publishing for me is designing book covers, my artisitic breaks.
The business of being a writer, of submitting my own poems and manuscripts, of writing, editing and preparing work for a critique group such as The Ruby Tuesdays or Other Tongues can grab good chunks of any day. When I’m into reading or writing poems, it’s intense, and I’m easily startled if Ted calls me, or the phone rings. I forget to get dressed most days, comfortable in housecoat and slippers, and am a bit embarrassed if I have to answer the door at 3:00 p.m.
Participation in the poetry community―facilitating poetry contests, attending board meetings or organizing poets for the KaDo presentations at Versefest, and going to readings―grabs other chunks of a day.
The actual process of getting books made means I’m in constant touch with my layout person or the printer. Depending on the stage of the publication, I’m at the printers, or getting estimates, discussing details, sending out invoices, checking proofs and paying bills. There’s no money in being a small press publisher, which may surprise some people. It’s an investment with various alternate modes of getting paid. I am fortunate to live with someone who puts food on the table.
If I’m working at home, the day will be broken up by Desirée who keeps track of when it is time for lunch, (she likes to eat when I do), or mid-afternoon treat time, my tea breaks. If I am reading, she might curl up in the crook of my elbow and snooze a bit, but if she decides I shouldn’t read, she’ll do anything she can to distract me, sit on my book, hang in front of the words, angle her head against the corner of a hard cover, scratch her head against it. Cuteness wins. She might want to dance to whatever is on CBC radio. She especially likes the more contemplative slow movements of requiems or choral music. Watching her dance settles me into the moment and I’m ready for whatever happens next.
As soon as dusk begins to fall, Desirée wants to go to bed. She agitates, hopping on my arm or squawking until I get her special towel, put it in her cage for her to crawl into. I cover her cage, and suddenly the evening is all mine.
I can keep on doing what I am doing on the computer or do things with family. We have a large wilderness of a yard. There are cardinals and nuthatches and woodpeckers in the evening and an hour or so in the swim pool with some wine, especially if there’s a huge moon out, either puts me to sleep or brings on the muse, which means I spend these late quiet hours on the making of poems or reworking them. Or reading poems. Or escaping into lighter reading, like my Nordic mysteries, or novels that take place in Central Europe during the second world war.
You may have noticed that no chunk of time labelled ‘housekeeping’ has been mentioned.
Well, it’s after noon, and the parrot wants to nibble on sandwiches. I’d better go.
Claudia Coutu Radmore is Ontario’s rep for The League of Canadian Poets. Her series sea oyster leaf, sea olive: Fogo was short-listed for the 2017 Malahat Long Poem Contest. Selections from the series will be published by Alfred Gustav Chapbook Press, Vancouver, in the spring of 2018.