Lightly Child, Lightly.

All we ever talk of is light—
let there be light, there was light then,

good light—but what I consider
dawn is darker than all that.

So many hours between the day
receding and what we recognize

as morning, the sun cresting
like a wave that won’t break

over us—as if  light were protective,
as if  no hearts were flayed,

no bodies broken on a day
like today. In any film,

the sunrise tells us everything
will be all right. Danger wouldn’t

dare show up now, dragging
its shadow across the screen.

We talk so much of  light, please
let me speak on behalf

of  the good dark. Let us
talk more of how dark

the beginning of a day is.

Maggie Smith, “How Dark the Beginning


Notes:

  • Photo: DK @ Daybreak. July 14, 2021. 4:45 a.m.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

Shazam for bird songs

…Birds can be secretive creatures, staying high in the treetops or deep in the underbrush. Even those in plain sight often move startlingly quickly, appearing as hardly more than a flash of color, a blur of wings. Except for the background sound of birdsong, many people are never aware of how many birds — or how few — they share the world with.

Apps like iNaturalist from National Geographic and the California Academy of Sciences help to close that gap, functioning as both electronic field guides and vast data-collection devices. They learn as we learn, improving with every photo and map pin we upload, helping experts understand a planet undergoing profound change. But what of the vast number of birds we never see, those we only hear? To offer that feature — one that accurately and consistently recognizes birds by sound alone — would be the birding equivalent of finding the Holy Grail.

Identifying birds by their songs has always been difficult, for computers and humans alike. Every species of bird has a range of vocalizations, sometimes an immense range, and those vocalizations can have regional inflections, just as people speak with local accents. In some species, individual birds put a unique spin on their songs, too. A mockingbird is the avian equivalent of a jazz musician.

Last month, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology released an updated version of its Merlin Bird ID app, which allows users to identify birds by song. There are other voice-recognition apps for birds, but they are accurate barely 50 percent of the time. Though Merlin doesn’t claim to be 100 percent accurate, it comes very close. Drawing on a database of notes and recordings contributed by tens of thousands of citizen scientists through the Lab’s eBird initiative, Merlin listens as you listen, in real time, and tells you what you’re hearing. The app can identify some 400 North American species so far and will keep expanding. It’s an immense achievement, a quantum leap forward, nothing less than “a Shazam for bird songs,” as an article in Fast Company put it.

Naturally, I had to try out the new technology. I am far from an expert birder, but I do know my avian neighbors, and I figured a good way to test Merlin’s accuracy was to try it with birds I can already recognize by ear.

The first test didn’t bode well. I was reading on the sofa when I heard a Carolina wren singing just above my head. It was hopping around in a hanging basket barely a foot beyond the glass and singing its head off. That wren was as close as any bird was ever going to get, but the app was stumped. “Merlin has no matches,” it reported. Merlin fared no better in the two other recordings I made indoors.

But outside, something magical happened. I set my phone down on the table on my back deck, opened the Merlin app, chose “Sound ID” and hit the microphone button. Immediately a spectrogram of sound waves began to scroll across the screen. Every time a bird sings, the sound registers as a kind of picture of the song. By comparing that picture with others in its database, the app arrives at an ID.

I watched as Merlin rolled out the names of bird after bird — tufted titmouse, European starling, Carolina chickadee, northern cardinal, American crow, white-breasted nuthatch, eastern towhee, house wren, American goldfinch, blue jay, eastern bluebird, American robin, Carolina wren, house finch. It didn’t miss a single one.

What amazed me was not merely the accuracy of the ID but also the way the app untangled the layers of song, correctly identifying the birds that were singing in my yard, as well the birds that were singing next door and the birds that were singing across the street. If the same bird sang a second time, the app highlighted the name it had already listed. Watching those highlights play across the growing list of birds was almost like watching fingers fly across a piano keyboard.

Then I started seeing the names of birds I’d never seen in this yard before, birds that for me have existed only as undifferentiated sounds in the trees: Kentucky warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, yellow-breasted chat. The new bird I’d been hearing but not seeing all summer long, the one whose song sounded to me like, “Here, here, do you know my name?” turned out to be a magnificent summer tanager. Merlin also picked up the song of a yellow-throated warbler, a bird the app identified as uncommon for this area. I knew two were here because one of their babies fell out of a nest onto my son’s car — it was safely reared by the wildlife experts at Walden’s Puddle and released back into the wild — but I had never heard them sing. At least, I didn’t know what I was hearing when I heard them sing.

This enchanting app is aptly named. Watching those birds appear on my phone screen in response to the sound of their voices in the air was a kind of wizardry — like watching the notes of a song become visible, like having fairies or angels suddenly embodied before me. Merlin made me see what before I could only imagine.

—  Margaret Renkl, from “This ‘Shazam’ for Birds Could Help Save Them” (NY Times, July 26, 2021)


Photo: DK @ Cove Island Park. June 27, 2021

Insomnia

All over the world people can’t sleep.
In different times zones they’re lying awake
Bodies still, minds trudging along…
some are too cold, some too hot…
Some under bridges…
some hungry, some in pain…
Some get up
Others stay in bed
They eat oreos, or drink wine
Or both
Many read…
Some check their email
They try sleep tapes, hypnosis, drugs
They listen to their clocks tick…
hoping to catch a ride on the steady sleep breath of the other
to be carried like a seed on the body of one who is able.
Right now in Japan dawn is coming, and everyone who’s been up all night is relieved;
they can stop trying In Guatemala though the insomniacs are just getting started
and have the whole night ahead of them.
It’s like a wave at the baseball stadium,
hands around the world.
So here’s a prayer for the wakeful
The souls who can’t rest
as you lie with your eyes open
or closed
May something comfort you—a mockingbird, a breeze,
the smell of crushed mint
rain on the roof,
Chopin’s Nocturnes
your child’s birth
a kiss,
or even me—in my chilly kitchen
with my coat on—thinking of you

~Ellen Bass, from “Insomnia” in Mules of Love 


Photo: “Insomnia” by Alice Rose Photography. Poem, thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (Let’s Go!)

 


Notes:

  • Rachel’s Sully visiting for the weekend.  (Thank you Eric for the video)

110 times, like in a row?

Noah Kalina: “I photographed the view from my bedroom 110 times between October 2020 – June 2021 for the @nytimes Check out ten of them in the Arts & Leisure section today.”

 

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…]

T.G.I.F.


Scarfolk Council

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Watching the first sunlight
touch the tops of the palms
what could I ask […]

I dream I am here
in the morning
and the dream is its own time […]

There I am
morning clouds
in the east wind

No one is in the garden
the autumn daisies
have the day to themselves […]

I needed my mistakes
in their own order
to get me here […]

I call that singing bird my friend
though I know nothing else about him
and he does not know I exist […]

In my youth I believed in somewhere else
I put faith in travel
now I am becoming my own tree. »

W.S. Merwin, “Wild Oats” in The Moon Before Morning


Notes:

  • Quote via Alive on All Channels via exhaled-spirals. Photo: Jose Kevo – Caribbean Sunrise
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Guess.What.Day.It.Is?


Notes:

  • Thank you Friend for sharing. (Darlene? Christie? Sawsan? Sorry, I don’t recall)
  • Background on Caleb/Wednesday/Hump Day Posts and Geico’s original commercial: Let’s Hit it Again.
%d bloggers like this: