Walking. In Search of my Spirit Bird.

4:25 am. I’m out the door. Dark Sky app recap: 74° F, 100% humidity, cloud cover 89%.

It’s dark. A wafer thin haze hangs below the street lamps.

I walk.

A firefly flickers, gets caught up in a light wind gust, and disappears. And at that moment, unexplainably so, I felt Small, Little, against the backdrop of the World. This flickering, illuminating, little miracle. “What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” (Crowfoot, the Blackfoot warrior, 1890)

Me and Crowfoot?  Crowfoot and me? Crowfoot and I? Oh, for God Sake, let it go.

I walk.

Same route. 5-mile loop. Since May 5th, daily, without interruption. Same camera bag sling, slung over my right shoulder, camera affixed with strap to right wrist. The Autonoman

Raccoon up ahead, picking away at the remains of road kill. He skitters away as I approach. Sprinkler systems fire off at 4:30 am, hissing as water hits the street.

I walk.

I note the silence. This narrow slice of time, before daybreak. Nocturnal creatures and me. Afraid of horror movies, the dark and tripping in a pothole and taking a header, I march through the suburban streets on my way to the waterfront.

I take my first shots of The Cove, high tide.  And 78 additional shots that morning.  Little did I know, that 90 minutes later I would learn that all but 10 photos, would be blurry because of some dial I inadvertently depressed. Fuming, at my desk panning through the photos, rubbing my eyes, thinking it’s my f*cking eyes going, because it just can’t be this expensive camera. I move closer to the screen. It’s not my eyes.  My God. You are an Amateur. What a waste.

I walk.

I look for my Swans. I find them. Snow white feathers illuminating the dark, heads tucked under their wings. They sleep, floating peacefully. Wish I could do that.

Canada Geese, quiet. Several flocks. Some preening. Others feeding.

I look for my Cormorant(s). Can’t find her.  “What’s Your Spirit Bird?” My Spirit Bird? I found it. She’s it. Always working. Always eating. Frenetic. Never pausing to enjoy the scenery, or the moment.  Dives deep, holds her breath for extended periods of time. Comes up gasping for air, before diving back down again. Matte black finish, dark, dark, dark. Where the hell is the Light? Her feathers, not waterproof, allow her to sink and dive more efficiently. Down, Down, Down, Down, into the deep darkness. Me and my Cormorant. I can’t find her. She’s a no show.

Clouds heavy, so little Light today. Dreary day. No spectacular sun rise. Meetings, calls, Zooms fire up in 120 minutes. Heaviness piles on.

I’ve got 500 yards of water left before I’m back on asphalt and heading home. My eyes hungry for any bit of inspiration, and here they come. Mama and her brood, little ones scooching behind her. Heaviness lifts for a moment as I watch them swim away.

Rebecca Solnit wasn’t telling me anything that I hadn’t known.

“In the experience of walking, each step is a thought. You can’t escape yourself.”



  • Photo: Daybreak, in Formation. 5:28 am. July 10, 2020. 74° F. Humidity 100%. Wind: 5 mph. Gusts: 10 mph. Cloud Cover: 89%. Weed Avenue, Stamford, CT
  • Inspired by: “Henry David Thoreau, who walked more vigorously than me on the other side of the continent, wrote of the local, “An absolutely new prospect is a great happiness, and I can still get this any afternoon. Two or three hours’ walking will carry me to as strange a country as I expect ever to see. A single farmhouse which I had not seen before is sometimes as good as the dominions of the King of Dahomey. There is in fact a sort of harmony discoverable between the capabilities of the landscape within a circle of ten miles’ radius, or the limits of an afternoon walk, and the threescore years and ten of human life. It will never become quite familiar to you.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking (Penguin Books (June 1, 2001)


  1. David, David, David…. I wish I could tell stories like you. Allow me though to offer two bits of advice….watch the “Blackfoot Warrior” reference ….. we don’t want your blog canceled for cultural appropriation, do we? Second, even the most expensive cameras typically have an amateur setting for mornings like this. Find it, but I warn you, it’s not the “A” setting, which is for aperture….mess with that and all bets are off. ( just being a bit lighthearted, yet snarky). I look forward to your morning photos and stories. As a gift from your friends in SC, we’ve sent you a tropical storm to enjoy this weekend.


  2. the Birdman of ny, I’m guessing the birds have begun looking out for you each morning now too

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Did I ever tell you that it was you who got me into daily long walks 6 years ago?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am walking
    in the dark, before the light breaks. I stop a stranger/friend’s home. My own.
    I walk from there,
    the logical , the Clinical place
    where my heels, my wings are monitored, measured.
    We toast and drink to numbers. Clink! Ah Yes, the real numbers.

    I escape the peaceful peacemakers
    a child pulling out her crazy hair, what what what what tell me….do you see me, do you feel me? I’m trying to find the escape door under the long adult legs. Beautiful labyrinth, horror images of trapped girls faces wearing too much lipstick.

    5:45 a
    MY visitation is over.
    Moments…a taste, baby, just a taste of artifice but now
    I return to the pure asphalt under my feet — running It in
    or Out,
    Running .

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Good. Good. GREAT for you.


  6. A glorious post. Thank You. And I’m just pushing out a little cry of Schadenfreude, because obviously YOU, the tech freak and obsessed controler of yll your beeping, blinking equipment, you can’t control it all…. Now you know how it feels to be me; having a perfectly good camera /(which I don’t use any longer because I simply can’t see what I’m doing) and ‘shooting blurs, rubbish’ with no idea How come and Why ! Don’t feel bad, I’m sure there is a perfect explanation for it.
    And REALLY, the Cormorant is your spirit bird? THAT is asking a more in-depth comment from my laptop because this iPad is truly on its last leg and just might break down if I don’t treat it with gloves….
    Watch this space!


  7. Vera Kanigan says:

    Love your posts, Dave! Learn something new and inspiring each day. Also love your blogging friends’ posts Will have to check out “Cormorant”, perhaps one of them sings in our yard.


  8. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    You take me where you go!! … “My eyes hungry for any bit of inspiration, and here they come. Mama and her brood, little ones scooching behind her. Heaviness lifts for a moment as I watch them swim away. – Rebecca Solnit wasn’t telling me anything that I hadn’t known. “In the experience of walking, each step is a thought. You can’t escape yourself.”

    Liked by 1 person

  9. nice one, Autonoman… 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Nothing is ever a waste, Mr. Nailbiting-Perfectionist. So now, thanks to Ray, you know what you did inadvertently. Next time you’ll check. And sometime in the future, you’ll hit another button in error and another lesson will be learnt.
    That said, I love these introspective walks of yours. And the links you provided as I wasn’t in the picture during your “Autonoman” thing. Susan really is a tough one to put up with you, isn’t she? (I say this in a most loving manner…)

    Liked by 2 people

  11. I agree with Dale. “Nothing is ever a waste.” We learn from our mistakes (well … most of us do) and so it’s not a complete waste to have blurry pictures because of some slip. I’ve done the same thing. Mistakes are how we learn. Fortunately most of them are small and not costly. I think you are on the right track when you notice the detail as you walk. You know how I feel about being “out in nature” with ear buds in your head. That is one of the saddest things I see – people out in beautiful nature and they don’t even see/hear it. I think you are beginning to take it all in – every little treasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Hi David, Just the words “100% humidity” already tell me a great deal about the morning. Another goosebumpy quote, and from 1890. I ‘get it’ on how I sometimes inadvertently depress a button. The other thing is when I find I had a spot/smudge of moisture on my lens. Now all of my photos have this spot. Interesting about your spirit bird. I also whole-heartedly agree with your experience of walking. Thank you for a thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m at my laptop now and can write fast (and furious! 😉 …..)
    It’s funny, I very vaguely thought that cormorants were ment. in the bible but I didn’t know why. And yep, they are…. so they are by no means latecomers. They are not universally well liked as they eat about a pound of fishes per day, and fishers hate them for ‘stealing’ their catch…. Also, many cultures consider cormorants a symbol of nobility and indulgence.
    In more recent history, the cormorant is considered a good luck charm for fishermen, or a talisman that will bring a fisherman a bountiful catch.
    Now YOU tell me why you think this might be your spirit bird….

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Valerie Meluskey says:

    Thinking of Thoreau’s style of “walking” and the incredibly beautiful Walden Pond. He also kept exploring and learning from his mistakes. [How funny that Ray guessed the “A” setting for aperture might have been relevant!] Thanks for taking us with you to your lake.

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I came too late to the conversation, I’m afraid. I wonder though if your spirit animal would abide such negative self-talk. My hunch is it wouldn’t – they are gorgeous, proud, wise, insistent…

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Like Mimi, I am hopping on the last car of this train (sometimes a post slips by me…) I think your spirit animal would celebrate your persistence and singlemindedness. Pretty sure she doesn’t catch *every* fish she dives for. Tomorrow is another day…. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This is so good David❣️I did get in the treadmill after catching up today. Too darn humid outside to walk.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. the 100% humidity remark did my head in; I sometimes think I’d simply die with such humidity saturated air – how’s that even possible? I gather I’d do way crazier stuff than you did – so, go on Cormorant, have all the fish you want!

    Liked by 1 person


  1. […] I love all birds (long story detailed why here).  And I’ve come to seek out Cormorants, my spirit bird. (More on that here). […]

    Liked by 1 person

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