Bread for the Birds

Bread and water – two things we cannot do without in life. Let’s make bread: white, wheat, oatmeal, even pumpernickel with a hint of chocolate, or rye with the bitter touch of caraway.

Stir together the flour, water, salt, oil. Whatever else it calls for. Check your recipe, mix, knead, let it rise.

Punch it down, shape it, bake it. See, I have it all written down for the different kinds right here.

Then set out the butter and the strawberry jam. They’ll always eat their fill.

Sometimes you make so much that even after everyone eats it for several days (toast for breakfast, ham sandwiches for lunch, butter-bread with soup for supper) the last pieces go stale. Then it sits on the counter, a few slices in a bag until, finally, there’s a little spot of mold on the last piece.

You might be inclined to throw that last slice away when it turns green. But don’t do it. One must never throw away bread or waste water. Bread is the staff of life. Never forget that. And never throw away even that slice of days-old bread that cannot be toasted or rejuvenated as bread pudding. Put it out for the birds, but never ever throw it in the trash.

We waste too much these days. We really must be more careful.

The author's grandmother (at center) saved bread for the birds, and taught her daughter to do the same.

The author's grandmother (at center) saved bread for the birds, and taught her daughter to do the same.

- Hope Nisly is Acquisitions Librarian at Fresno Pacific University and a writer who lives in Reedley, California where she still tries to cut down on what she throws away. Her writing has been published in Mojave River ReviewFredericksburg Literary and Arts Review, The Esthetic Apostle, and DreamSeeker Magazine. Her stories have aired on Valley Writers Read, a program of the local NPR-affiliate radio station.

Dancing on Egg Cartons

Once upon a visit to my childhood home, my grandmother winced to watch me toss into our kitchen garbage bin an emptied Styrofoam egg carton (remember these? the shapely squeaky cups seemed to ask, no matter how matter-of-fact you fondled them).

I winced as I watched her reach under our kitchen sink, into the stinking trash to retrieve the carton—to bring it back into the light of use, but differently.  For she then set it on the floor, and stepped to it—stepping on it—each squelching shell popping beneath her small feet dancing, until the carton was a cartoon of itself, flattened. 

Now it could be trashed better, and she laughed to see me stunned by the world more neatly wasted.

(Of course she died—and as I write this I do believe she liked dancing this way: to think how much more good could come to fill the space [she] left behind.)

photo by the author

photo by the author

Years pass and compression complicates the matter.  Landfills rise to the surface of someone’s memory, sometimes beautifully.  My wife, born and raised in Tokyo, never met my grandmother of the farmlands of Cambridge, Ohio.

But in the first weeks after living together in an apartment, I laughed to see my wife better sort what I threw away: out into the same sun of my childhood came the egg carton (no longer Styrofoam, but cardboard compressed).  And down on the kitchen floor she danced over it, the same unlikely steps matter-of-fact, exacting the past and the future, the East and West of the curve, shaping the heaping land filled to bursting with the collective stuff of memories—

She danced this way over-and-all-through the thing, laughing.

"Universal waste like batteries and lighting equipment should not be mixed in with regular trash,” Terence Huber learned lately, and removed lighting equipment from his usual curbside pick-up in Lakewood, Ohio.  Out of the darkness, other works of his will appear or have been published in American Letters & CommentaryDenver Quarterly and Great Lakes Review.