Sunday, June 1, 2014


My mother gave me a bird book over the holidays. It wasn't a Christmas gift, it was just an extra bird book she had that she wasn't using.

Ever since I can remember, my mom has been looking at the birds around her home or on her travels, and marking them down in her book. Her bird book is now about 20 years old, worn and out of date. Bird species names' change over time as scientists decide to group and re-group species. I imagine these bird scientists like children organizing their toys in to groups, (this one with this one and this one with that one and no no no, now this one over here with this one,) quibbling over how to categorize all their pretty birds "the red square block goes with the red ball, not with the blue square block!!"

I've never been interested as much in birding. I've been more drawn to the stories of things, or the poetry of names. I saw names as keys to get to the more interesting information.

But this last Winter and Spring, I found myself with very little in the way of work, a house with a porch surrounded by birds, and a desire to sit on said porch and do the mental human equivalent of chew my cud. So I sat with my binoculars and wrote birds down and felt closer to my mom. That was the big thing, feeling closer to my mom.

Then other things started happening. I realized that every bird I saw, I could look it up in my book and learn it's name and some basic things about it. I didn't have to accept seeing a bird and not knowing about it other than what I was seeing right there. I started to learn the woodpeckers. I started to associate the sounds of their pecking with their names. I started to be able to identify from the inside of my house which kind of woodpecker was outside based on the sound of the pecking. Now that was cool. I became more attuned to birdsong, and would perk up at the unfamiliar.

It's been a few months now, and I'm busier, and my birding frenzy died down a little once I stopped seeing new birds every day. And did I mention I have a job now? So there's less of that sitting time. But I'm in a different state now. That's not a metaphor. I was in California and now I'm in Washington. Last week when I was walking down the road to the Mazama store I saw a pileated woodpecker for the first time. It was big and moved in swoopy flights between trees. And it was beautiful, and it brought me closer to my mom (metaphorically). 

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