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Kathy Bradley - Wrens for the win
Kathy Bradley
Kathy Bradley

The windows to my study are shaking. The water hits them with a force that makes me think, for just a minute that they may shatter.

It is not rain that rattles the glass, but the pressure washer I hired to give Sandhill a bath. A much needed bath. Water and some kind of soapy something will wash away the dust and algae and bird droppings and whatever else has settled on the roof and walls around me since I last had it done.

I wasn’t here the last time. I was still spending my days in a courtroom. But today I get to listen to the rattle, see the tiny rivers run down the glass, feel in my bones the rhythm of the shush shush shush. When I go outside I will smell something like bleach. It is a shame I can’t taste anything. I would like to say that home maintenance is a full sensory experience.

When the shushing stops, I walk outside to find puddles on the front porch, shaking like Jell-O in the spring breeze. The cement of the carport is — rid of its clumps of red clay and yellow pollen — the color of cement, flat gray. There is not a spider web to be found in any corner of any window and I can’t help thinking, as I walk the perimeter, that my humble little house looks like a movie set. I want to freeze this moment.

A couple of days later a friend comes to visit. We are going to walk toward the river, to watch Owen look for something to chase, to cut eucalyptus and maybe some tiny mimosa blossoms. As we open the front door, a handful of dark birds swoop across the porch like it is a runway. The barn swallows are back.

It’s only been in the last couple of years that barn swallows have found Sandhill and the nice high corners of the front porch roof. I love watching their acrobatic tumbles through the yard as they attempt to divert my attention from the nests. However, those nests are messy and, glancing at the shiny white rocking chairs and the shiny white columns, I can’t help but grit my teeth a little at how quickly my movie set house is going to go from pristine to polluted.

In a recent episode of one of my favorite television shows, the plot revolved around the patriarch navigating a difficult season with one of his adult children. The conflict was, in the way of television, resolved by hour’s end but not without the relationship undergoing a significant shift. In response to the son’s comment that he was glad the conflict had been resolved, the father, not so quick to, replied, “With every win, there comes a loss.”

It stopped me cold.

Winning and losing are not limited to fields and courts and courtrooms. We exist in not only a physical world, but a psychic one as well. And in both of them Newton’s third law applies. “Equal and opposite reaction” holds true not only in mechanics but also in mortality, for engineering and for emotions, in rocket ships and relationships.

The win is when children grow up and create homes of their own; the loss is that they no longer need us in the way they once did. The win is when the friend moves into her dream house; the loss is that she is no longer just down the street. The win is when the wrens build their nest in the eaves and grace me with their dancing; the loss is when my movie set house turns back into just plain Sandhill.

With every win there comes a loss. And with every loss an opportunity to see wisdom in letting go.

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