It was 54 years ago today that I slid and slopped, shouldered and plopped my way out into the world, saw my first daylight, wailed my first cry against fate, lost my umbilical cord and felt hunger for the first time. I was born at a hospital in Montreal. My father was earning his masters in economics at McGill. My mother, well, she must have been in pain and ecstasy, overwhelmed, exhausted, and thrilled at the birth of her first child. I can only guess, for she never talked to me about the experience. More than a decade ago, she passed into the great beyond, but she returned months later to visit me as a ruffed grouse, or so I’ve supposed in a poem, “My Late Mother as a Ruffed Grouse.” By chance or by fate, my friend, Dave Holden, shared with me on this birthday an article from The Conservationist about a grouse causing trouble in the best way. It was the story of a hunter befriended by a grouse who flew up to join him in his tree stand. At first he felt surprised and honored by his feathered visitor, much as I had felt when adopted by one of these birds that normally takes off like a “feathered cannonball” when people approach through the forest. But this hunter discovered that his avian friend had more in mind than company. When, after a long wait, a deer walked into range below the tree stand, the hunter raised his bow only to have the grouse hop up onto the arrow for a perch, spoiling any chance of taking a shot. Was that bird my late mother, still doing her good works? As a birthday gift to myself, I’ll say, “Why not?”

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