Miracle (Man-Made)

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DK: How much for the bird seed?
SK:  $40.
DK: $40? Per bag?
SK: Yes.
DK: How many bags a month?
SK: Two.

I do the math: (# bags) x (months in a season) x ($40) x (10 years) = blood pressure increase.  And the torment was first recorded here in this post: Squirrels. Cardinals. Bumble Bees. And Me.

Pick any spring.
Or any summer, or any fall for that matter.
Or any year, for the past 10 years that we’ve lived in this house.
The picture: Same.

I’m sitting, reading in the backyard, transported to C.S. Lewis‘ world of becoming of a thousand men and yet remaining myself…seeing with a myriad of eyes, but it is still I who see.  But, what I see, damn it, is Vermin.

Interrupting my bliss is their rustling. Their relentless rattling of aluminum, scratching and clawing at seed. Hanging upside down, these ravenous beady eyed creatures work to empty the bird feeders one by one – frightening off the intended recipients, who flutter up to the leafy branches overhead until the insatiable keel over from exhaustion.

[Read more…]

35 Seconds of Silence

Last Exit to Elsewhere


Hang in there to the end of this video…

[…]
I’d gone out, come back around, only to find one thing. I was older. And, here I was trying to make sense of things. To say there is nothing out there is incorrect. To say that the desert is stingy with everything except space and light, stone and earth is closer to the truth. I still dream, but I’m not restless anymore.

Far from the metallic fever of clocks

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I hope to define my life, whatever is left,
by migrations, south and north with the birds
and far from the metallic fever of clocks,
the self staring at the clock saying, “I must do this.”
I can’t tell the time on the tongue of the river
in the cool morning air, the smell of the ferment
of greenery, the dust off the canyon’s rock walls,
the swallows swooping above the scent of raw water.

~ Jim Harrison from “The Golden Window” in In Search of Small Gods

Jim Harrison passed away on March 26, 2016


Notes: Photo – Your Eyes Blaze Out. Poem: Thank you Rob Firchau @ Hammock Papers

Fly By Night: Soundless music heard with the eyes

Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons will elegantly twirl, swoop, and glide above the East River, as artist Duke Riley orchestrates a series of performances occurring regularly throughout late spring. At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.¹

Fly By Night pays homage to pigeon keeping, both in New York and farther afield. Pigeons have been domesticated for thousands of years and kept by people around the world for their companionship, sport, and service…Fly By Night reflects back on and makes visible this largely forgotten culture. The iconic Brooklyn Navy Yard, once home to the country’s largest naval fleet of pigeon carriers, is the ideal setting for Riley’s Fly By Night–a tribute to the beautiful, diverse and fascinating histories of pigeon flying and New York City.¹

On Thursday evening, the pigeons taught everyone on hand quite a bit about their intelligence, their ability to collaborate with earthbound beings and their beauty when airborne. Despite clouds and chilly temperatures, the birds’ performance was a revelation, a touching unity of human and animal behavior, with sky, water and the city…Most special about watching these pigeons was the silence of their flight. Somewhat like trees, but more mysteriously, they seemed to make visible the wind’s movements. They also created a soundless music heard with the eyes, a Beethovian swirl of melodies and themes. Both sensations brought a sharper appreciation of space and air as active or sheltering forces that we share with all living things.²


Thank you Susan. Excerpts from:

  1. Creative Time
  2. NY Times Review: In ‘Fly by Night,’ Pigeons Light Up the Brooklyn Navy Yard

Man v. Finch? Bet on Finch.

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Jennifer Ackerman provides a masterly survey of research in the last two decades that has produced a revolution in our understanding of bird cognition…Scientists once assumed that difference (in brain size) equalled inferiority, but this has proved to be as false as the notion that brain size is an indicator of brain power. It appears that what counts is neural quality, and the avian equivalent of the cerebral cortex has proved to be as densely packed with neurons as our own…

Species such as the western scrub and the blue jay store away many thousands of seeds during autumn and retrieve their food supply when the winter pickings are slim. In recalling their stores’ whereabouts, the birds have an impressive success rate of over 70%. And even their failures often imply high intelligence, because they result from theft. Jays not only store seed supplies; they also steal from their store-hiding neighbors.  This behavior requires feats of memory but also leads to some astonishing corvine trickery. If a bird is aware it has been observed while burying food, it will often go back and re-hide it elsewhere. A further indication of complicated thought processes is the fact that only scrub jays with experience of stealing show a capacity for these sneaky countermeasures. In short, even among birds, it takes a thief to know a thief.

One of the most fascinating parts of Ms. Ackerman’s survey is her chapter on bird song. The avian counterpart to the human larynx is the syrinx, a double-sided complex of muscle, cartilage and delicate membrane that is probably the most sophisticated producer of sound in all nature. Birds learn their songs at an early stage in their development and then replicate those vocalizations with astonishing millisecond-long discrimination and accuracy. In one study, a Ph.D. student competed with a zebra finch, whose brain weighs less than a gram, and was shown to be vastly inferior to the bird in his ability to reproduce faithfully a single four-“word” sentence. While spectrograms revealed the human words to be hopelessly variable, the finch repeated its song phrases with perfect, machine-like consistency…

– Mark Cocker, Giving Bird Brains a Good Name in his book review of Jennifer Ackerman’s new book: The Genius of Birds.


Notes:

  • Post Inspired: “As the birds know, who fly the continents, the oceans, for their secret reasons, a map of the earth written inside their bodies, marked under their breastbones: a continuance of the now most fragile, always travelled patiently enduring world.” ~ Hilda Morley, “Sea-Map”
  • Read longer excerpt from Lithub: The Genius of Birds
  • Image Source: beatrice lechtanski photography (via Staying Lifted)

 

Hear it as a low continuous rustle

Patty-maher-corn-photography

My strongest memory of our garden is not how it smelled, or even looked, but how it sounded. It might strike you as fantastic, but you really can hear plants growing in the Midwest. At its peak, sweet corn grows a whole inch every single day and as the layers of husk shift slightly to accommodate this expansion, you can hear it as a low continuous rustle if you stand inside the rows of a cornfield on a perfectly still August day. As we dug in our garden, I listened to the lazy buzzing of bees as they staggered drunkenly from flower to flower, the petty, sniping chirps of the cardinals remarking upon our bird feeder, the scraping of our trowels through the dirt, and the authoritative whistle of the factory, blown each day at noon.

~ Hope Jahren, Lab Girl 


Notes: Photo: Patty Maher “Still Life with Corn 2013) (via My Modern Met)

Saturday Morning

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I wanted to come undone
like gold thread,
like a tent full of birds.

~ Sandra Cisneros, from “One Holy Night,” Woman Hollering Creek


Sources: Photo by stonelario. Quote – the chateau of my heart

Miracle? All of it. 

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Whirring notes of a varied thrush soak in through the walls of sleep.  Gradually ascending toward consciousness, I struggle to remember where we are, then realize what shore these songs ring out across. As the sky pales toward sunrise, I awaken to a world of dreams.

More varied thrushes join the first, until the woods and thickets chime like a chorus of bells. Other birds blend into the medley: fox sparrow, robin, hermit thrush, winter wren, ruby-crowned kinglet, Townsend’s warbler. Their sounds are trapped and magnified in the forest, made rich and deep in the saturated air – ribbons and lacework of song, shadows and flickers of song, splinters and shards of song, and the whispered secrets of unfamiliar song.

The cove fills up with bird voices, until even the noise of surf fades to irrelevance. And what of the songs beyond this patch of shore? If we hiked down the beach or back through the woods, we would hear the same chorus, repeated endlessly, permeating the air with sweet, mingled phrases. I wonder how many thousands of birds are singing at this moment on the island alone? How many millions along the north Pacific shore? And how many billions in the curved shadow of dawn that lies along the continent’s western flank? Throughout this vast expanse the land breathes with song and pours an anthem of morning into the sky. In the flow of a summer sunrise, the living continent sings.

~ Richard Nelson,  The Island Within


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.”


Notes:

San Bernardino

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They know, I thought,
like the birds of Iraq before shock and awe
on the first day of spring.
It was said that the sparrows and songbirds stopped singing,
their silence heralding the dropping of bombs.

~ Patti Smith, Her Name Was Sandy. M Train


Image: imandrah-land. Story: Shooting in San Bernardino Kills at least 14

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