Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

It is astonishing how violently a big branch shakes when a silly little bird has left it.

~ Katherine Mansfield, from “Alors, je pars.” in Delphi Complete Works of Katherine Mansfield


Photo of Common Redpoll (male) by Larissa Datsha

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

There’s another world that has always existed both apart from and alongside civilization. While I was sick it changed, too, in the age-old turning of the earth itself. By the time I could walk outside again, springtime had come to Tennessee.

In our yard there are violets and spring beauties and stickywillys and buttercups. The invasive but lovely deadnettle has turned the ditch next to our house into a cascading drift of purple. Every year it reminds me of Alice Walker’s words: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.” Out in the woods, the trout lilies are opening near toadshade and bloodroot and mayapple, all of them reaching up from the cold soil to bloom in the brief sunlight of early spring, before the trees leaf out and the forest overstory draws in all the available light.

For now, the limbs are still bare, but the songbirds have registered the mild light, as well, and their courtship season has begun. The television may be full of terror, and the terror may be growing with every passing hour, but the trees are full of music. The normally cacophonous blue jays are singing their tender whisper song, and the quarrelsome beeping of the Carolina chickadee has been transformed into a glorious four-note song of love. Birdy-birdy-birdy, the cardinal sings. Birdy-birdy-birdy-birdy. He is serenading a female, and if you follow the song to its source you might be lucky enough to see him bringing his mate a seed or a grub, demonstrating his fitness as her partner. In the avian world, a grub is an engagement ring.

Alas for the poor grubs, and also for the earthworms struggling to the surface as they escape their tunnels inundated by spring rains. But pull up a weed from the wet soil of the water-drenched garden and smell the rich life the earthworm has left behind. Just a whiff of it will likely flood you with a feeling of well-being. The scent of freshly turned soil works on the human brain the same way antidepressants do.

Here is the alternate world we need right now, one that exists far beyond the impulse to scroll and scroll. The bluebird bringing pine straw to the nest box she has chosen in a sunny spot of the yard, like the chickadee bringing moss to the nest box under the trees, is doing her work with the urgency of the ages. She has no care for me at all. Even her watchful mate ignores me as I pull weeds in the flower bed beside our driveway.

The natural world’s perfect indifference has always been the best cure for my own anxieties. Every living thing — every bird and mammal and reptile and amphibian, every tree and shrub and flower and moss — is pursuing its own urgent purpose, a purpose that sets my own worries in a larger context. And the natural world is everywhere, not just on my half-acre lot in suburbia, and not just on my favorite trails at the local parks. You can find it during a walk on city streets and in the potted plants on city balconies. It’s in the branches of the sidewalk trees as they begin to split open and change the grayscape green. It’s in the sparrows and the starlings taking nesting materials into the cracks around the windows and doorways of commercial buildings. It’s in a sky full of drifting clouds, and in the wild geese crying as they fly.

I can scroll and worry indoors, or I can step outside and remember how it feels to be part of something larger, something timeless, a world that reaches beyond me and includes me too. The spring ephemerals have only the smallest window for blooming, and so they bloom when the sunlight reaches them. Once the forest becomes enveloped in green and the sunlight closes off again, they will wait for another year. Sunlight always returns the next year.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “The Beautiful World Beside the Broken One” (New York Times, March 23, 2020)


Photo of Bluebird: The Woodthrush Shop

Sunday Morning

The day after the waxwings appeared at my birdbath, I found one of them, its flock long gone, panting on the driveway below a corner of the house where two windows meet and form a mirage of trees and distances. When I stooped to look at the bird, it lay there quietly. Though I could see no sign of injury, I knew it must be grievously hurt to sit so still as I gently cupped my hands around it to move it to a safer place in the yard. It made a listless effort to peck at my thumb, but it didn’t struggle at all when my fingers closed around its wings, and I didn’t know what to do. So much beauty is not meant to be held in human hands.

~ Margaret Renkl, from “Masked” in Late Migrations: A Natural History of Love and Loss 


Photo: Livescience.com

T.G.I.F.: What?


Source: Fabulously Weird: A Jacana carrying chicks underneath its wings. Photo by Charl Stols Photography. Jacana Prime Time…With the floods arriving on the Chobe River fields of waterlilies and other water plants are forming, the nesting grounds for the African Jacana. Some of the males are still incubating the eggs while others have their hands or feathers full with looking after the chicks. In this image a male is carrying all four chicks under his wings just leaving their long legs and toes exposed. (Image taken on the Chobe River, Kasane, Botswana)

Miracle. All of it.

The bar-headed goose can fly at almost thirty thousand feet, allowing it to migrate over the Himalayas before sweeping south. Pairs of them have been spotted over Mount Makalu, the fifth-highest mountain on earth. In certain villages the birds are caught and the names of the dead are written in dark ink on the underside of the birds’ bellies. The geese are said to bring news of the dead to the heavens.

~ Colum McCann, Apeirogon: A Novel (Random House, February 25, 2020)


Notes:

  • Bar Headed-Goose Photo: “Bar-Headed Geese Slow Their Metabolism to Soar over Everest” from the Scientist
  • 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.”

Miracle. All of it.

The frigatebird is dark and stealthy, with a hooked beak and a deeply forked tail. It belongs to the family of seabirds found in tropical and subtropical oceans. Their wings can span up to eight feet. They cannot dive beneath water or even rest on its surface since their feathers will absorb moisture and they will drown. They are known to swoop beneath cumulus clouds where the rising currents of warm air pull them into the heart of the vapor. In the currents they simply open their wings as if in the tube of a sky vacuum, a thunderous swirl of air. As they ascend they sometimes sleep. They are hauled upwards, thousands of feet, like hollow-boned gods through the narrowing gyre. High in the air they finally break from the current and flap out of the envelope of cloud. For a moment the buffer shakes them, but then the turbulence ends. In the still air they can glide horizontally downwards for up to forty miles without even flapping, finishing often with an annihilating drop. While still in flight, they stay alive by robbing other seabirds for food, or skimming the ocean surface for fish and squid, snatching their prey from the water with their long razor-sharp bills.

A frigatebird can stay aloft for two whole months without touching down on either land or water…

~ Colum McCann, Apeirogon: A Novel (Random House, February 25, 2020)

 


Photo: Sian Ka’an

Driving I-95 N. Free the Bird in the Net.

Cervical spondylosis, was his diagnosis. December 19th. And the start of 30 days of physical therapy.

And a maniacal routine of daily stretching exercises. And tracking the activity on an IOS App. Because that’s how Obsessive’s roll.

The slow heal arrives. Then Relief.  And the bliss of pain-free days. Ah yes, Youth returns. A few days of lolling in Full Gratitude…I’m as Good as new!

This is followed by the suspension of physical therapy. The total cessation of daily stretching supplements. And the IOS App is dumped into a folder with other apps left to Die.

Then we have a slow roll back to habits, to Life, to Work, and The Return to Sedentary World.

It’s late yesterday afternoon. The commute home. I gently turn my neck to check for traffic in my blind spot, and find its motion restricted, followed by a lightning dart down the shoulder and down the arm. It’s back. Heaviness sets in – Mood darkens.

I return my attention to traffic, and sit frozen in place. Puffs of breath working to provide relief.

And, I replay The Week Day. [Read more…]

Sunday Morning (Feels like 21° F)

Q: How is the goodness of God manifested even in the clothing of birds and beasts?

A: Small birds, which are the most delicate, have more feathers than those that are hardier. Beasts that live in the icy regions have thicker, coarser coats than those that dwell in the tropical heat.

~ Jenny Offill, Weather: A Novel (Knopf, February 11, 2020)


Photo: European Starling by Ostdrossel

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Photograph: Masao Yamamoto, “Tori” (via Mennyfox55). Masao Yamamoto (born 1957) trained as an oil painter before turning to photography. His portraits, landscapes and still lifes are silver prints that are delicately toned and sometimes overpainted/dyed. Among his previous publications is Small Things in Silence.

Sunday Morning

What I am, and I know it, is
responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not
give my life for a thousand of yours.

~ Mary Oliver, from “Straight Talk from Fox” in Redbird: Poems


Notes: Poem Source – Thank you beyondthefieldsweknow.org. Photo: Michael Blann / Getty Images

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