We love birds!

Rita McMahon found a pigeon with a broken leg on her deck in New York City’s upper west side. The pigeon was otherwise quite fortunate. McMahon would go on to cofound the Wild Bird Fund, which cares for some 3,500 sick and injured birds every year. A veterinarian amputated the pigeon’s leg; while it recovered, it would rest on a cushion in McMahon’s apartment window. On the other side stood her mate, day after day, keeping her company until she was released and the couple rejoined.

“They were devoted to each other,” says McMahon, who also recalled how one of her volunteers once found a broken-winged robin in a depression in a snow bank, his mate nearby. The volunteer picked up the injured bird and put him in a bag for transport to the hospital. With little fuss she then gathered the mate—which was quite unusual, as healthy wild birds are uniformly skittish. “I understand being able to pick up a broken-winged robin easily, but not one who’s intact,” MacMahon says. At the hospital, they learned that the break wasn’t fresh. The robin was in surprisingly good health. His mate, believes MacMahon, had been taking food to him on the snowbank, “and decided to stay with her man.” …

Apparent grieving exists in the avian world, most notably among greylag geese, in whom individuals who’ve lost a partner display the classical symptoms of human depression: listlessness, a loss of appetite, lethargy lasting for weeks or even months. The same applies to pigeons. On Pigeon Talk, a website of pigeon-breeding hobbyists, anecdotes abound of birds sinking into a funk after losing their mates, and sometimes refusing to take another mate for up to a year afterward—no small time for a species that typically lives for less than a decade.

One of the most moving stories involves mourning doves. After a dove was eaten by a hawk in the backyard of a forum member called TheSnipes, the mate stood beside the body for weeks. “I finally couldn’t stand to watch it any more and picked up every feather and trace of remains that was left there and got rid of it,” wrote TheSnipes. “The mate continued to keep a vigil at that spot though, for many months, all through the spring and summer.” …

Their example stayed with me, though, and now colors the way I think of my winged neighbors. Ubiquitous and unappreciated, typically ignored or regarded as dirty, annoying pests, pigeons mean something else to me now. Perched on building ledges, chasing scraps of food, taking to the skies at sunset: Each one is a reminder that love is all around us.

~ Brandon Keim, from “What Pigeons Teach Us About Love”


Thank you Susan.

Lightly child, lightly


Often I imagine the earth
through the eyes of the atoms we’re made of—
atoms, peculiar
atoms everywhere—
no me, no you, no opinions,
no beginning, no middle, no end,
soaring together like those
ancient Chinese birds
hatched miraculously with only one wing,
helping each other fly home.

~ Dan Gerber, “Often I Imagine the Earth” in Sailing through Cassiopeia


Notes:

  • Poem – thank you The Hammock Papers.  Photo: Curtis Moffat Study, Woman Sleeping (CA. 1920) via see more
  • 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.”

Sunday Morning

Last year, as often happens, my mood waned with the autumn light. At work, I stared blankly at my computer, inexplicably on the verge of tears. At home, I counted the minutes until I could sleep. I still woke early, intending to read and write, but instead lay on the couch, idly thumbing at my phone. I felt numb to the world. My psychiatrist adjusted my medication and suggested I invest in a light-therapy lamp. “Winter is coming,” he said without a hint of irony…

The darkness threw me over the edge. Over the next few days, as I began a free fall into despair, I was surprised to find a quiet comfort in the birds flitting about my friend’s window. Suddenly, I grew envious of his yard, a seeming prerequisite for a feeder. Then it occurred to me: I am not the first apartment dweller with this predicament. I opened Amazon, where I’d been browsing for light-therapy lamps, and discovered feeders that could be attached to our apartment windows with suction cups. “I bought myself a Christmas present,” I told my wife when I arrived at my in-laws’ house.

When we returned to Brooklyn, a house-shaped plexiglass feeder and four pounds of Deluxe Treat birdseed were waiting…Three days later, my wife texted me a picture of a blue jay. More soon appeared. So did sparrows, nuthatches, cardinals, mourning doves and a single red-bellied woodpecker. Within two weeks, I was ordering 20-pound bags of birdseed, Eastern Regional Blend, and filling the feeder’s trough daily.

Initially, it was the sheer novelty that caught my attention. My phone couldn’t compete with a woodpecker eating two feet away. Then I started to actually notice the birds, the peculiar rituals and particular charms of each species. I saw the nuthatches creeping down the window frame vertically, like awkward thieves, and dashing in for single sunflower seeds. The fat, insatiable mourning doves gorging themselves on white millet. The cardinals loitering shyly in the pear tree, waiting for them to finish.

The novelty has faded over time. But the beauty of the birds continues to draw my attention. In the tableau of blues gridded across the jay’s wing and tail, I see patterns of a Mondrian. More than once I have begun to scare away greedy doves only to stop short at the gleam of iridescent plumage. In these moments, and in the daily routine of filling the feeder with seed, I forgot my anxieties.

That something as simple as bird-watching could release me from the confines of my mind came as a surprise. When I began to struggle with depression, at an evangelical college, the faithful proffered a verse from the Gospel of Matthew: “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” This provided exactly zero comfort. I wasn’t sure I still believed in a benevolent father. And besides, I’d seen enough dead birds in my cat’s maw to question their value in his eyes.

If the birds still don’t fill me with any divine reassurance, they provide something far more valuable: a respite, a chance to turn my attention away from myself to the grace and beauty of the world. I don’t know if God is feeding them, but I am.

~ David Michael, from “Letter of Recommendation: Bird Feeders” (NY Times, July 9, 2019)

Two words: Duck Parade.

One surefire way to bring a smile to anyone’s face? Two words: Duck Parade…

Patients in the continuing care wing of the University of Rochester‘s Thompson Health hospital in Canandaigua, New York, were treated to just that last week. According to the hospital’s Facebook page, a mother duck parades her new ducklings through the hospital every year.

“Every year, without fail, a mama duck chooses one of the enclosed courtyards at our M.M. Ewing Continuing Care Center to lay her eggs and take care of her babies.” “She lets us know when she’s ready to go by tapping on the glass, and this morning, it was time for this annual rite of spring.”

The duck follows the same path every year, and facility services staff use old signage to gently guide her and the ducklings through the halls.


Source: Mother Duck Parades Her Babies Through a New York Hospital Which She Does Once a Year, Every Year (People.com, May 21, 2019)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call


Source: mennyfox55

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Where do they come from, thoughts?
Like wrens, out of the sky.
They arrive.
Noisy, hungry, perfectly themselves.

Peter Behrens, from The Law of Dreams: A Novel

 


Notes:

  • Photo: (via see more). Poem: thevaleofsoulmaking.wordpress.com
  • 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.”

 

Walking Cross-Town. With a greeting party.

Yesterday. 3 a.m. I’m laying in bed, in darkness, exhausted. Eyelids, like anvils, won’t close. Won’t shut.

I’m swimming in Marina Benjamin’s head: “my head is lit up…like an out-of-hours factory…whirring generators flip on…lining up tasks in a shoulder-shoving queue…mostly I just fret, worry-beading problems and irritations…forming a manacle of woe.”

I have a 10 a.m. meeting in the city, an important meeting, with important people. The meeting is 7 hours away, like almost a full working day away, yet, I’m prepping. You need to sleep Friend, you will run out of steam by 10am.

It’s the 5:38 a.m. train to Grand Central. I can’t sleep. Can’t read. Can’t focus. I close my eyes and thoughts spin in a whirlwind, and then stop. Meditation. I’ve quit. It’s been three weeks. The app sits in the phone in my hand. The meditation prompts are a few clicks away. My fingers re-grip the phone. Now, do it now. You could use it now.  [Read more…]

the miraculous, every day in winter, not 15 feet from my window

red-birds-at-feeder

To the Editor:

Re “The Solace of Birds in Winter” (Op-Ed, Dec. 15): I am smitten with my backyard birds. What is it about the industrious little souls leaping delicately about my tray feeder that so lifts the spirit? Their spunk? Their equanimity no matter the weather? The variety in their eating habits?

Mourning doves plunk themselves down in the center of the tray to chow down. The red-bellied woodpecker grips the edge and won’t yield his position. The chickadees and nuthatches take a seed each, one at a time, to a nearby branch to nibble.

A chickadee weighs less than half an ounce. Its coat of feathers, half an inch thick, keeps its tiny body at about 90 degrees even when the air temperature is zero. It is this, then, that takes my breath away and is the source of my affection — the miraculous, every day in winter, not 15 feet from my window.

Margaret McGirr
Greenwich, Conn.

New York Times, Letters, December 17, 2018


Photo: Project Feeder Watch titled “See Red” by Stephen & Judy Shelasky, Longmeadow, MA. 4 male Cardinals, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and a little sparrow checking out a female Cardinal as she flies into view.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

When the night slides under with the last dimming star
and the red sky lightens between the trees,
and the heron glides tipping heavy wings in the river,
when crows stir and cry out their harsh joy,
and swift creatures of the night run toward their burrows,
and the deer raises her head and sniffs the freshening air,
and the shadows grow more distinct and then shorten,
then we rise into the day still clean as new snow.
The cat washes its paw and greets the day with gratitude.
Every day we find a new sky and a new earth
with which we are trusted like a perfect toy…

We are given the wind within us, the breath
to shape into words that steal time…
Yet holy breath still stretches our lungs to sing.
We are lent for a time these minerals in water
and a morning every day, a morning to wake up,
rejoice and praise life in our spines, our throats,
our knees, our genitals, our brains, our tongues…

We are given passion to rise
like the sun in our minds with the new day
and burn the debris of habit and greed and fear.
We stand in the midst of the burning world
primed to burn with compassionate love and justice,
to turn inward and find holy fire at the core,
to turn outward and see the world that is all
of one flesh with us, see under the trash, through
the smog, the furry bee in the apple blossom,
the trout leaping, the candles our ancestors lit for us…

Let silence still us so you may show us your shining
and we can out of that stillness rise and praise.

~ Marge Piercy, from “Nishmat in “Available Light


Notes: Poem – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: Marta Navarro

Tuesday Morning Wake-Up Call

When you have seen one ant, one bird, one tree, you have not seen them all. 

E. O. Wilson, in an interview in 1992, is an American biologist, researcher, theorist, naturalist and author. His biological specialty is myrmecology, the study of ants, on which he has been called the world’s leading expert.


Photo & Post: Northern Carmine Bee-eater photo by Mike Wilson.  Thank you Dan via Your Eyes Blaze Out (via San Diego Zoo)

%d bloggers like this: