Tabatha Deans

Bringing Integrity to the Written Word

May the Bird of Paradise Fly Up Your Nose

May the bird of paradise fly up your nose, may an elephant caress you with his toes…” Those were the lyrics of a song by Little Jimmy Dickens that my parents used to listen to when I was growing up. I’ve always remembered the words to this song, and as an adult I realized this song was all about Karma. And if ever there was a time to call upon Karma, this morning was it.

I hiked to the bus stop on Broadway to catch the 0 bus to work, and as I approached the bus shelter I saw a man I have come to refer to as our local Camper. He’s older, and sleeps along the canal road in a small shelter he made for himself out of branches and logs. He’s always been respectful when our paths cross. He’s never asked for money, and is always up early to break his camp and get on the road. Usually I see him tramping up Broadway with his backpack, I suspect heading nowhere in particular.

Occasionally he was at the bus shelter before I arrived, and was always courteous as I approached. If he was smoking a cigarette, he would step around the back of the shelter so I wouldn’t have to smell it. If not, he would stand up and move out of the shelter, insisting I take the seat to wait for the bus. He never spoke, but I got an occasional grunt and nod in response to my greeting.

Today he was standing next to the shelter, and two young men were sitting on the bench inside the shelter. I greeted the camper as I approached, and he nodded silently. He seemed out of sorts, at least as out of sorts as a stranger can be. I noticed immediately that the two young men also appeared to be homeless—their several layers of clothes were filthy, as were their hands and the white plastic bags that held their belongings. They sat on the bench inside the shelter, smoking cigarettes and talking. Their conversation was laced with expletives, and they acted as if they hadn’t noticed my arrival. I wondered how, and why the Camper came to be hanging out with these two. Clearly they were not of the same caliber of people he was.

The Camper seemed frustrated and a little embarrassed at the behavior of his two friends, and avoided making any eye contact with me. I stood to the other side of the shelter, trying to avoid the cigarette smoke, vulgar conversation and general stink of these two youngsters. When the bus arrived, however, the Camper stood up and took the front of the line, they motioned for me to get on first. I thanked him, paid my fare and took a seat near the front.

The stinky young men flashed their transfers and headed to the back of the bus, where they continued their awful interaction. I was glad they hurried to the back and hopefully, after putting on my headphones, I wouldn’t have to listen to them anymore. After fishing my headphones out of my bag, I looked up to see the driver and the Camper in a discussion. The Camper’s eyes narrowed, and he hollered at the two men in the back of the bus.

Hey man, I need that transfer you promised.” That explained a lot. He was hanging with them because they promised him a free bus ride, probably downtown to a food bank or shelter where he could get something to eat. I suspect he traded cigarettes for the promise. Downtown was a good five or six mile walk. I couldn’t fault him for that exchange.

Dude, sorry. We only have one for two of us.” The two laughed at having fooled the old man. The Camper’s eyes glowed with rage, and I could tell he would love to get them alone in a dark alley. And I kind of hoped he would someday. He couldn’t mask the shame he must have felt, as everyone on the bus looked at him, knowing he would be put off the bus because of lack of fare. The pride on his face at that moment reminded me of my father. A man who was proud of who he was, regardless of circumstance.

I pulled out my book of transit passes and walked up to the driver.

I’ll pay this fare.” I said. The Camper looked me directly in the eyes and gave me a slight nod. I don’t know which was harder for him to accept—being duped by a couple of stinky bums, or having to accept my help. I smiled at him and hoped he would go directly to the back of the bus and confront the little snots, as their laughing had died down when they realized he would be riding the bus with them after all.

But he didn’t. He took the first seat at the front of the bus, placed his backpack at his feet, and silently faced the front.

I, however, invoked the power of Karma. “May the bird of paradise fly up your snotty, stinky, horrible little noses.

January 13, 2016 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment



            I have lived in Denver for nearly 2.5 years now, and just this morning I felt like a true Coloradoan. I headed out for the office on my bicycle early, relishing the weekend commute when there are hardly any cars on the road to contend with, and the bunnies, squirrels and prairie dogs are out in force. Clad in my padded biker shorts and Columbia jacket, I sped along the bike path with reckless abandon.

            Initially I feared riding too fast, and most of my ride was filled with thoughts of crashing, and which body parts would I want to sacrifice as I tumbled into traffic. Today I enjoyed the thrill of the speed I achieved riding downhill, peddling faster and racing around turns and through empty intersections. The cool wind whipped at my jacket, and Natalie MacMaster blasted her fiddle music in my ears as I whizzed along, ringing my bell and darting around the morning walkers who were out enjoying the trail.

            I no longer felt like a foreigner, I felt that this is my home. Every intersection and every park I rode through was familiar, and I cut through several neighborhoods without fear of getting lost. I couldn’t help but smile each time I rang my bell at those in front of me, and issued an enthusiastic “good morning” as I passed them. One elderly gentleman apparently couldn’t hear my bell, and when I noticed he and he dog were not moving aside I slowed down as I approached. My “good morning” startled him, and his dog, and they both turned with looks of sheer terror on their faces. They immediately melted and smiled back when they saw that it was merely a middle-aged, grinning, goofy-looking white lady hoping to pass.

            When I first moved to Denver I was not impressed with the hospitality of the people, and still have found few individuals that I would consider friends, or even close acquaintances. But having spent a great deal of time in the outdoors lately, I have indeed fallen in love with Colorado. I never imagined an average day for me would entail 15 mile bike rides or 10 mile hikes. And I certainly never imagined waking up every day excited to see what the day would bring.


August 10, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Book of Life

The Book of Life…
I kind of like the urgency middle age has thrust upon me. This unexpected thought came to me after realizing that 2012 is nearly over, and I have not quite filled this year’s Book of Life. I start each year with a fresh, new journal. I have always had a love of journals, and usually fall in love with a new one long before I’ve finished the one I’m writing in. It kind of motivates me to finish the current one, and gives me something to look forward to each year. Honestly, I seldom complete every page of a journal, but I like to think that generations to come will use the blank pages for their own notes. Plus, I was once told by an authoritative 8 year old, “Don’t feel guilty about the unfinished journals.”
But I felt a small panic at the thought that this year’s journal was only ¾ full, and the year was nearing the end. There was a time when I could write in the same journal for several years, without filling the pages, but over the past few years, as I’ve gotten older, I feel an urgency not only to write things down so I don’t forget them, but also to actually do more things. When I was in my twenties, I assumed I had my whole life ahead of me to travel, try new things, eat ethnic food and fall in love. Now, my biggest fear is that I’ll wake up tomorrow and be 80.
But a look back through this year’s Book of Life reminded me that I have indeed embraced every opportunity to try new things this year. I’ve traveled to San Francisco, Vernal and Spirit Lake, where I spent time with family and loved ones. I’ve hiked a 14’er (technically) and scaled several other mountain trails to bask in the beauty of the summit. I’ve written stories to help the homeless, and stories that spotlight the diversity of ethnic groups. I became a certified Community Action member, with the ability to spot a terrorist, or maybe just a crazy neighbor. I’ve played Snooker, although I did not get snookered, and I’ve fallen in love.
So, although the year has flown by, and I still fear I’ll wake up and be 80, I can’t spend too much time worrying about it. I do, after all, have ¼ of a journal left to fill in the next two months. I’m starting with going to the zoo today, since it’s free admission day. And maybe I’ll end the year with fencing lessons….

November 5, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment