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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. [Read more…]

What’s Your Spirit Bird?

 

I sit at the kitchen table preparing to read the NY Times. I separate the front section from the rest of the paper, and then pause.

I get up, go to the fridge and grab the remains of yesterday’s leftovers.

I turn to the Opinion Pages, my first stop, and scan the titles. My eyes spot an essay by Margaret Renkl.  I’m a fan-boy of Margarets. I see that her piece is titled “Spring is Coming“…well that’s a bit aggressive on January 5th, no Margaret? 

I read on.

“There’s a New Year’s tradition among bird-watchers: The first bird you see on New Year’s Day is your theme bird for the year. Your spirit bird, the bird that sets the tone for your encounters with the world and with others, the bird that guides your heart and your imagination in the coming year. It’s hardly a serious ornithological exploration, but there are plenty of birders who will wake before dawn anyway, no matter how late they stayed up on New Year’s Eve. They will drive off to some wild place teeming with avian life, all to increase the sunrise odds of seeing a truly amazing first bird. Who wouldn’t love to be matched for a year to the spirit of the snowy owl? What a gift to be guided for 12 months by the soul of a Bohemian waxwing!”

I pause.

Yea, OK, it’s January 5th, it’s well beyond New Year’s Day but there’s no reason I can’t find my bird now. I need my spirit bird Now.

I stop nibbling on my sandwich. Get up. Step out the back door, watch, and listen.

Silence.

I wait a few moments longer, in my short sleeve t-shirt, in 38° F temperatures.

Nothing. 

Perhaps some encouragement. Come on Red! Where’s that Red Cardinal? There are four bird feeders in the backyard. All hang on their poles silently. No breeze. They don’t swing. They are Still.

Nothing.

I step back into the house, pull the sliding door closed, and finish up Margaret’s essay.

No Bird. Wonder what that means.

I reach for the remaining quarter of my sandwich, and look down…

Chicken Sandwich…

What a gift to be guided for 12 months by the soul of a Bohemian waxwing!


Photo: Ostdrossel

Walking. With Memoir (or Musings) of a Madman.

4:05 a.m. I step up to find that my digital scale is still on the fritz. First a lost wifi-connection, which I fiddled with for 30 minutes yesterday.  And now, it just flashes and stares at me. I step off and on again, but it will not read out my weight. Now if that’s not telling you Something...I stand on it, staring down at it, a few body movements away from heaving it out the 2nd floor window. I step off, stare at it again, and leave it alone (for now). I’m not done with you yet.

Here we go (again.) 799 (!) consecutive (almost) days on my daybreak walk to Cove Island Park.  Like in a row.

Humid. Breezy. 72° F. Low tide. 25% cloud cover. Few humans. Magnifico.

I walk.

And, there she is. A Black-Crowned Night Heron. For some reason, I’ve being seeing these birds everywhere. Like they are plants by Someone or Something extraterrestrial trying to send me a message. Look at her dummy.  Pause. Wait. Stand. Look. Watch. Contemplate. What’s the rush?

She’s certainly not my spirit bird, the cormorant.  But the anti-me. So patient. So stoic. So calm. Standing there in water up to her ankles waiting for breakfast.

So, I do. I stare at her.  But, there’s something else gnawing at me. It’s that super thin, long white plume growing from the back of her head.

And the question is why?

Who decided it needed to be white? And not blue, orange or black.

Why super-thin and not a feather?

Who decided there needed to be a plume at all?

And, of the billion things to look at this morning, why are you locked in on this plume?

Flaubert continues in Memoirs of a Madman and November (1901), and he didn’t have Google or the internet:

Madness is the doubt of reason.
Perhaps it ‘is’ reason.
Who can prove it one way or the other?


Notes:

  • Photos from Daybreak walk at Cove Island Park this morning, @ 4:52 am. to 5:45 am. July 13, 2022, 72° F.  More photos from this morning here.
  • Post title inspired by: “But for the man who watches the leaves trembling in the wind’s breath, the rivers meandering through the meadows, life twisting and turning and swirling through things, men living, doing good and evil, the sea rolling its waves and the sky with its expanse of lights, and who asks himself why these leaves are there, why the water flows, why life itself is such a terrible torrent plunging towards the boundless ocean of death in which it will lose itself, why men walk about, labor like ants, why the tempest, why the sky so pure and the earth so foul – these questions lead to a darkness from which there is no way out.” Gustave Flaubert, Memoirs of a Madman and November (Hesperus Classics, 2003)

Walking. In Strawberries.

4:23 a.m., or so.  Yesterday morning.

It’s been 772 consecutive (almost) days on my daybreak walk at Cove Island Park. Like in a row.

And, I’m walking.

This is after moon shots at 1:43 am, 3:35 am, and now – – all posted yesterday in Let us taste the Strawberry MoonWhy, am I still up? Because Christie told me about the Strawberry Moon. And when my WordPress friends tell me to do something, I do it. So I chased her.

Who’s Christie? Mimi from her post last night: “There are people who I have followed (or who have followed me) on WordPress for years. Never met them, never spoke to them, and would likely not recognize them if we passed on the street. And yet, they are my friends…We commiserate in comment sections, check in with each other on email, rail at times, commiserate other times and occasionally marvel at our common ground. Ground that we walk in figurative step, covering invisible miles through the ether, yet as firm under my feet as the street. There is wonder in this.”

There is wonder in this. I’m nodding my head in agreement. Yet another awesome Human who can put into words, what I can’t, and so beautifully.

I walk. Bleary-eyed. Bone tired. Exhaustion fully set in.

I can see her out of the corner of my eye. She’s Giant, my Strawberry Moon, hovering, and whisper quiet as she hangs overhead, illuminating the earth in her warm glow.  All, I’m sure, to protect me from taking a header as I make my way to the North point of the park.

I walk.

I twist my Air Pod snugly into my right ear, and then my left.  I cue up a Chill playlist, randomly selected by another giant fruit, Apple.

I walk. My feet are moving under their own propulsion, on the same track that I have now passed hundreds of times.  “Siri, turn up the volume.”  Henry Green in “Shift” …I feel movements under my skin…” [Read more…]

Walking. With Moment that Sticks.

4:33 a.m., or so. You are so damn precise with your clock.

I pulled into the Cove Island Park parking lot, my headlights illuminated her…sleeping. Hold that thought.

It’s been 770 consecutive (almost) days on my daybreak walk. Like in a row.

I was going to share a different story.  A running story. I page through the dates of my prior posts to find my last running post: June 6, 2020! MY GOD. It’s been 2 years! And, this back and these legs carrying 12 lbs more. Yep, I decided to lace up the shoes and run. 2 days in a row.  My body is so tired, that it couldn’t lift my fingers to the keyboard to tap the words out. So, we’re going to hold this thought for another day.

Back to this morning’s walk. A spectacular morning. 60° F. 5 mph breeze.  And it had the three elements of a perfect morning. 1) Low tide. 2) 30-60% cloud cover. 3) No Humans. So we have ALL of this going for us.

And I spotted my Swans, George and Grace, feeding.

And I spotted a black-crowned night heron, a mime, frozen in place; this morning’s twilight, the finest, lightest bulb, illuminating its thin, light white plume.  “Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.” — T.S. Eliot, from La Figlia Che Piange.

And then there’s my spirit bird. Plural, Birds. A flock of cormorants. Must mean that I’m going to have a great day.

And on the back side of my walk, I stalk a white-tailed deer, and snap a few shots of her. It’s a her I think. In this world of pronouns, I’m sure I stepped into it again.

So, you can pick any number of these moments, and hold them, for a moment, the day, into next week. Yet…one moment stands alone, higher above the rest.

It was 1 hour after I had first spotted her, and she was still sleeping, in the same exact position, undisturbed.

I’m going to remember this. [Read more…]

Walking. With Sun Rising in the West.

4:35 a.m. Cove Island Park morning walk. 445 consecutive days. Like in a row. This train just keeps rollin’.

If there is a Heaven (and God, I hope so) it would be here, not in La Jolla, right here.

63° F. Low humidity. Gentle breeze at 5 mph off Long Island Sound.  And no Humans (yet).

Summer breeze makes me feel fine…blowin’ through the jasmine in my mind.  Go ahead, I know you want to. Lip sync it. I’ll wait for you.

It’s inevitable. When you trudge around in semi-darkness (aka daybreak), that sh*t will happen.

Circa 1 year ago, left foot plummeted down a 18” hole. It’s flat earth, and then there’s a Hole, out of nowhere. Down I go. Hyperventilating, thinking this Hole, was refuge for a wolverine, or a rabid raccoon.  I yank my foot out, rocks scrape knee, calf, leg —F*ckin’ H*ll.   [Read more…]

Walking. With the Spirit Flock.

It was Tuesday.

Another morning walk. 140 days, 140 consecutive days in a row.

My 5 mile loop to start each day. Same time. Same path.

I’m crawling out of bed a bit slower now, and wondering, “Maybe I take today off?” Days are getting shorter. Mornings darker. The sheen of watching daybreak, the first light illuminating the horizon, do I dare say, is becoming boring?

But we keep it going. If nothing else, it gives me something to boast about. Work that fragile ego. 

And Tuesday morning was setting up to be a replay of so many other mornings. Few surprises. My Swan sleeping alone at the edge of the cove. My Spirit Bird, the cormorant, fishing solo. That’s a photo I took of her —  her elegant curved neck, the matte black finish of her back, her gulping a breath before diving again.

I keep walking.

My camera goes back in the bag, and doesn’t leave the bag. Been here. Done that. Seen it before. Not worth the energy to pull it out of the sling.

I reach the Park and I approach the break wall. I’m looking out on Long Island Sound.  It’s quiet this morning. Few walkers. Calm. No wind.

I re-grip my camera bag to hoist myself up on the break wall and at that moment a flock of ~20 Canada Geese lift off the water, and surge low over my head. Those in the back honking to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.  It was one of those moments — the beat of 40 wings, the urgency of their calls.  I’ll knew that I’d remember this. Write about this.

I keep walking.

I’m thinking about why that moment was a moment. I was startled…a break of the silence. An interruption of the thoughts banging around in my head.  A piercing of the quiet, almost to say: Awaken Man. Look around you.

I keep walking.

I see another Cormorant feeding.  2 Spirit Birds in one Day. Now that’s Something. I take my camera out of my bag and snap a few shots.

I keep walking.

I notice another flock across the pond, but its not Geese. Smaller, darker, flying lower, wings flapping with greater urgency.

I stop to watch.

I swing my sling around to grab the zoom lens. Heart beating.  Come on Dave. Come on.

It was another Moment.

They were too far out even with the zoom.

I turned to walk back to the Park to see if I could get a better shot.

Hand shake. No time for tripod. No time to adjust camera settings. Blurry! It will be blurry!

25? 50? More?

[Read more…]

Miracle. All of It.

My eyes graze his binoculars and without a word he passes them over. And like that the birds are no longer smudges, but elegantly detailed and purposeful and real. They steal my breath as they always do, these creatures who think nothing of having wings.

Charlotte McConaghyMigrations: A Novel (Flatiron Books, August 4, 2020)


Notes:

  • Photo: Cormorant. Spirit Bird. Sept 7, 2020. 6:48 am. The Cove. Stamford, FT
  • Back Story: Walking. In Search of my Spirit Bird.
  • Post title Inspired by Albert Einstein’s quote: “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Riding Metro North. With ‘My’ Little Bird.

So, let’s back up the bus a bit and set this up.  It was a New Year post titled What’s Your Spirit Bird where Margaret Renkl explains that “There’s a New Year’s tradition among bird-watchers: The first bird you see on New Year’s Day is your theme bird for the year. Your spirit bird.” 

So, I’ve seen many birds since Jan 1, but not my bird. Not the right bird. And I don’t want to hear from you rule-sticklers that it’s not keeping with the “first” bird rule.

And the mind slips off the rails to a rabbit trail in Gail Honeyman’s” Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine: “I don’t need anyone else — there’s no big hole in my life, no missing part of my own particular puzzle. I am a self-contained entity. That’s what I’ve always told myself, at any rate.” No Hugely Holes. Not Bigly anyway. Trump’s infiltrating the mind. God, I do have problems. Bigly problems. OMG. Help me.

Monday, was, a long day. 7am flight to Dallas. 4 hour flight. 5 hours on ground. 4 hour flight back.  4 hours of sleep. (I don’t know if this math adds up. Who cares?)

And then, it’s Tuesday. I’m sitting in the warming hut waiting for a off-peak 10:00 am train to Grand Central. Light snow is falling.  Darien Schools have closed for the day. 2-3 inches, and the world stops these days. (When I was young, I used to walk to school in 2 feet of snow – I’m sure, it was in bare feet, I was that tough.  Snow days? WTH is that? The world has gotten soft.)

I shift on the steel bench, the train is scheduled to arrive in 4 minutes. I flip through my messages. And out of the corner of my eye on the ground in front of me is movement.

I lift my head.

And there she is. Has to be she. Just has to be.

Sparrow. Fluffy. Furry. Staring at me. Me staring at her. Spirit Bird? You? [Read more…]

Scraps

Running / Walking

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