Birdsong Co-Founder Tribute – Betty Komarek

[We are in the Poetry Friday Universe collected this week by Brenda. See the bees knees!]

Many of us who grieve for loss of life,
destruction of land & structures from the natural force of
winds & water powered by Category 4 Hurricane Michael, think of the Florida coast.

Hurricane Michael busted on from the Gulf & its sugar sands,
to scream through inland pecan groves & cotton fields – southwest Georgia’s farmlands & river/lake coves, including a tiny Georgia writing retreat I’ve loved, that my critique partner owns,
The Cove.  R.I.P to The Cove. But also …

Before the storm arrived I wrote here about Birdsong, in Georgia.
Today I share my poem set in 1998, & inspired
by Betty Komarek, co-creator of Birdsong,
just over the border of Florida, outside Thomasville, GA
Due to Hurricane Micheal, Birdsong postponed an Oct. 13 music fundraiser,to be rescheduled.

>>>>>>>>

Birdsong Summer

That summer she left the land
for Kay’s mountain cove
she looked long
across Horse Pasture
opened her screened porch door
smiled that eternal smile that says –
Praise and Thanks
Blessed Be

She bent, offered food to Skink,
scuttling back-step friend

She stood with deep-seeing eyes,
finding
far fields, deep woods, green swamp, farm pond

Her gaze remembered
flying squirrel, grazing deer,
zebra longwing,
bob white, towhee, wood thrush,
pileated woodpecker, indigo bunting –
all her feathered friends of tiny beating hearts

She crunched hot feet on dry peanut stone
felt cool moss on split rail
returned inside to the wide hall
stood at stairs in the center
of her universe
looked up through roof to her Sky

She stepped across the straw mat
to her Window
reached deep into her chest
drew out a part of her heart
fixed it on the handle
of the room’s screen door

That summer she left the land
all her planted friends
talked about change –
Nandina, mulberry, saw palmetto, yaupon holly,
liriope, pokeweed, quince, needle palm, loquat,
sweet gum, coontie, tea olive, wax myrtle,
crepe myrtle, yucca, pyracantha, pittosporum –
they rustled, sighed, bent their heads
not knowing if this was forever

That summer she left the land
the champion pecan tree from Shadrack’s time
with the excuse of a purple storm
split itself open
in a final crash into the west yard

That summer she left the land
bears walked into town
padding along South Madison Street
as if they still lived there

That summer she left the land –

A coyote yipped in Ginhouse field

Skink disappeared, reappeared,
disappeared, reappeared

A panicked juvenile cardinal
flew out from accidental entrapment
in the log cabin room
where it had battered itself against the window

That summer she left the land,
in front yard leaf litter,
one leathery brown leaf shape-shifted
into a perfect heart

Following that summer she left the land,
since she had got by without all her heart,
since Birdsong had got by without all of her heart,
she now knew –
both she and her World
would be all right
when the purple storm came again

She still
smiles her eternal smile that says
Praise and Thanks
Blessed Be

(a poem in celebration of Betty Komarek
January 29, 1914 – April 16, 2002)
c. 2002-2018 JGA/Jan Godown Annino
allrightsreserved

Birdsong Nature Center, Georgia

Birdsong Nature Center, Georgia/ Jan Godown Annino

Twenty years ago I spent days and nights strolling, stopping
and listening to the rhythms of life among Georgia pines and magnolias,
walking through fields and woods, as I watched over a natural treasure
known as Birdsong. This was a surprise – that Betty Komarek, co-creator
of an outdoors classroom of 500 acres, selected me to substitute for her.

I felt inadequate for the task, yet she decided that without a science degree,
without any field work to my name, I was the just-right caretaker to: feed
roaches to her back-doorstep pet; give a firm Scat! You! broom swipe to
squirrels and raccoons that dared to reach the bird window feeding station;
and, among other tasks, it seemed I commanded adequate enough hands to haul in
and freeze North Meridian Road road kill for someone’s elses examination
later (not me!)

In her 84th year, Betty would finally take a hot-weather break from Birdsong,
so I was in residence (un-airconditioned) in July and August of 1998. My supposed
eagle eye was to keep check on the before-hours and after-hours thrum of activity
around the wild land and weathered buildings, including the classic small
farmstead hearth and home, a listed historic property that is a musuem,
populated with numbered curios collected by Ed and Betty Komarek
during domestic and foreign adventures they created in
decades of marriage as premier traveling fire-management
ecology researchers and trainers.

c.2018JGA
“Birdsong Door”

My one flop was failure to prevent a small car loaded with college kids from
driving through a staff-only grassy path on a terraced old field, in order
“to make observations” (trespass) at a further-out cypress swamp. They mumbled
verbal permission, as colleagues of Professor So and So of University Such and Such.
That meant they should park and hike as every guest would.
Birdsong is not a drive-through scenic car route,
quite unlike Cades Cove in the Smoky Mountains.
I held my hand up while I said would make a call to check,
prompting them to roll past me, grinning, gaining vehicle
access into the wild footpath acres. No harm done, I guess.
At least, I was not relieved of my duties.

Treasured moments filled notebooks, including listening to
night songs of coyotes, the first I’d ever heard them,
side-stepping a coiled water moccasin (thanks to hiking partner
Susan Murowski), finding a small shiny brown magnolia leaf
shaped like a heart, when I needed it, during a moment I felt
Betty had erred in selecting me, finding a dead but still
lovely blackbird in the attic,
learning of the best food for the pet lizard named Skink
(roaches I was to trap for Skink and, did) and,
having Betty share surprises of a few other of her tricks of trade.

c.2018JGA
allrightsreserved
“Birdsong Charlotte”
Where E.B. White’s writing spiders live

When I later wrote a feature about Birdsong during my corresponding days for editor
Paula Crouch at the travel desk of The Atlanta Constitution,
I didn’t disclose those tidbits. And, as Betty Komarek’s spiritual colleague
in caretaking, to honor her memory, I’m not doing that now.
This week for Poetry Friday, I expect to share a poem, about Betty at Birdsong,
that I wrote in 2002 upon her passing at age 90. I hope you will return for that.

SATURDAY event Oct. 13, 2018
Depending upon how Hurricane Michael affects the region,
consider attending a family-friendly Birdsong music benefit
by Sammy Tedder and Mike Andrews
4:30 p.m. Saturday Oct. 13, 2018 at Birdsong Nature Center.