MY LIFE - A matter of conscience

MY LIFE - A matter of conscience

My overactive parochial school conscience is troubling me.¬?Not an unusual thing since my conscience frequently pokes and prods at me over all kinds of things.¬?But then what else can you expect when once a month without fail for nine of my formative years the classroom would be darkened and I would be instructed to put my head down on folded arms upon my desk, close my eyes, and troll my conscience for sins as the nun read through what seemed like hundreds of possibilities for us to contemplate before marching us off to church for confession.¬?

Not that I was an angel by any means, but since real "sins," even of the venial kind, were few and far between and we needed not only a plausible list of infractions but specifically how many times we had infracted with each one, digging deep for transgressions that would pass muster became a deeply ingrained thing.¬?Forgetting to say my bedtime prayers, talking back to my mother, lying (only by commission, however, since I hadn't yet figured out the whole lying by omission thing that so often served me well), and maybe delivering a well-deserved smack or two to one of my sisters were my usual laundry list of offenses since thinking dirty thoughts or dancing evil dances (intriguing though they may have sounded when the nun had reeled them off from her list of sins) were still way out in the future somewhere. All very stupid I know, but there you have it.

My current crisis of conscience centers around birds, those delicate, prettily feathered creatures who, except for occasionally fouling cars and clotheslines, give us great pleasure with their song and sometimes their antics.¬?I love watching them, and I enjoy feeding them, but I have recently fallen down on the job.

Forgive me father for I have sinned. I cannot tell a lie.¬?Back in April or May I put up the hummingbird feeder, filled it with freshly prepared nectar and was thrilled to see the tiny little ruby-throated beauties flitting in and out ... and then I neglected them shamefully. The feeder ran dry and although I kept thinking that I needed to refill it, it didn't happen.¬?I eased my conscience by telling myself that they had flowers aplenty to be sipping from, and they did, but the feeder that could have supplemented their diet prior to their incredibly long journey back across the Gulf of Mexico as autumn approached remained empty.¬?Even as we speak it continues to reproach me from its perch right outside my kitchen window.

As if that wasn't bad enough, yesterday at my sister Bev's I sat watching an endless parade of birds coming to her feeders.¬?Swarms of sparrows flew in never ending streams from the shrubs along the back fence to both the large feeder full of sunflower seeds and the mesh bag full of Nyger (more commonly called thistle) seed, with an occasional brightly hued blue jay or brilliant red cardinal adding color to the mix.

And where are my feeders?¬?They are hanging empty right where I left them last spring; out in the garden that looks more like an abandoned weed patch than the idyllic spot it could and should be.¬?

The sunflowers of summer that so delighted the birds that came to feast on their seeds have sadly turned to drooping, decaying stalks. Asparagus plants long since gone to thick ferny growth are tangled with the weeds that invaded in such numbers that I threw my hands up and ceded to them months ago and are now taller than I am, triumphantly waving great plumes of seed heads in the breeze.¬?Within this nasty jungle-like morass I can barely even see the black shepherd's crook pole with its three different kinds of feeders hanging empty.

Yes, my conscience is troubling me.¬?And although the garden is destined to be cleared out and returned to lawn next year, I can't stand looking at it in its present state any longer.¬?My task for today, should I choose to accept it, is to get myself dressed, put my work shoes on, and haul my sorry arse out there as soon as I finish writing this column.¬?

I will pull up the sunflowers, rip out the weeds, and then I will wash the feeders and fill them with fresh sunflower seed, thistle, and suet.¬?I will repent and say three Hail Mary's (I'm not sure the apostrophe goes there but it doesn't look right the other way and I flat out refuse to feel guilty about THAT, too), promise to do three good deeds, and will try my best to do better in the future, world without end, Amen.

Rhea Bouchard Powers is a writer from Cumberland.