What can we do? Step to the side. Give her the right-of-way. Kneel.

Has anyone been face-to-face with evolution? The other day I was eye-to-eye with a Galápagos tortoise that had spent three months walking from the top of the volcano down to the sea to lay her eggs at night on the island of Isabela. In the slow, deliberate nature of her world, she upholds twelve million years of perfection. Beauty is the origin of wonder. What enables her to live eighteen months without food or water? Does a fast predicated by drought or famine become spiritual? What can we do for the tortoise? Step to the side. Give her the right-of-way. Kneel.

~ Terry Tempest Williams, Erosion: Essays of Undoing (Sarah Crichton Books, October 8, 2019)


Notes:

  • Inspiration? I’m searching for my next book. I can’t find it. For some reason I’m drawn to this book. I engage. I’m tempted to drop it, but something keeps pulling me forward. 1/3 of the way in. I wouldn’t recommend it to my friends (yet). But there is something in these essays that won’t let me go. A Teacher teaching, interspersed with meditations, that makes it more important than anything that I’ve read in years. Onward.  Let’s see what’s ahead.
  • Photo: Giant tortoise on Pinzon Island, Galapagos. Rory Stansbury, Island Conservation/Flickr

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.

Morning Walk ( < 30 seconds)

> > > > NOTE: Press arrow on right center of photo to advance to video.

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

On the other hand, you could just relax and realize that, behind all the worry, complaint and disapproval that goes on in your mind, the sun is always coming up in the morning, moving across the sky, and going down in the evening. The birds are always out there collecting their food and making their nests and flying across the sky. The grass is always being blown by the wind or standing still. Food and flowers and trees are growing out of the earth. There’s enormous richness. You could envelop your passion for life and your curiosity and your interest. You could connect with your joyfulness. You could start right now.

~ Pema Chodron, The Wisdom of No Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness


Notes: Quote – Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Portrait of Chodron

Lightly Child, Lightly

I’m lighter than anything. I can hear elephant seals head-butting one another on Sand Dollar Beach ten miles away, the whoosh of the brown pelicans way below at Limekiln, gray whales groaning fifty meters off the shore at Kirk Creek; I am IMAX, high-definition Dolby, whatever.

~ A. K. Benjamin, Let Me Not Be Mad: My Story of Unraveling Mind (Dutton, June 11, 2019)


Notes:

  • Photo: Stephen Cain
  • 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)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call

A butterfly,

pinked by the hour, lands on a blade of sweetgrass,

then flits off.

The blade twitches once, then stills.

Ocean Vuong, from his new book titled: “On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous: A Novel” (Penguin Press, June 4, 2019)

 


Photo Josephine Cardin with “Butterfly” by (via Newthom)

Monday Morning Wake-Up Call (60 sec to Breakfast)

It hums, it throbs, it improvises.  So many voices. Only one song.

breathe

A cardinal, the very essence of red, stabs
the hedgerow with his piercing notes;
a chickadee adds three short beats,
part of the percussion section, and a white-
throated sparrow moves the melody along…
And today, the sun, waiting for its cue,
comes out from the clouds for a short sweet
solo, then sits back down, rests between turns.
On the other side of the world, night’s black
bass fiddle rosins its bow, draws it over
the strings, resonates with the breath
of sleepers, animal, vegetable, human.
All the world breathes in, breathes out.
It hums, it throbs, it improvises.  So many voices.
Only one song.

~ Barbara Crooker, from “One Song. After Rumi” in Line Dance


Photo credit: via your eyes blaze out. Poem: Beyond the Fields We Know

Saturday Morning

My life is quiet.

There is little beside working and walking.

I have no desire to see people, and I feel as though I am waiting for something new and strange which will burn the unburnt side of my soul.

~ Kahlil Gibran, (1912) from “Beloved Prophet: The Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell, and Her Private Journal” 


Notes: Photo: Sébastien CHAZALET (Annecy) with Alone.

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