Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Life on my doorstep

There is a park near my house that doesn't look like much at first glance. People walk their dogs through it. People throw trash out their car windows into it. I like it in the summertime when the guys next door play games out there after work; there's something very sane about that. If you look just a little more closely, though, it turns out that this park in suburbia is bursting with little miracles. I walked 15 yards from my door yesterday. There were no birds calling, the park seemed dead. But then a flash of yellow caught my eye. It was a quiet, glowing-daffodil-yellow Wilson's warbler. Within 20 minutes or so, I had also seen . . .
  • a northern flicker
  • a red-breasted woodpecker
  • a hairy woodpecker
  • a white-breasted nuthatch, such a cool weird little bird
  • a blue-headed vireo
  • a flock of juncos
  • American robins
  • golden-crowned kinglets
  • red-winged blackbirds
  • common grackles
  • fish crows
  • white-throated sparrows
  • house sparrows
  • a savannah sparrow
  • black-capped chickadees
  • tufted titmice
  • scores of pigeons
  • double-crested cormorants, including one wheeling through the water going for a fish, looking for all the world like a platypus as it did
  • great egrets
  • great blue herons
  • great black-backed gulls
  • herring gulls
  • ring-billed gulls
  • Canada geese
  • mallard ducks, some of the males coming out of eclipse plumage, now gorgeous and iridescent again
  • a mute swan, looking alternately evil and elegant, as they do
  • and an osprey that I thought was injured and drowning but was merely struggling to get aloft because the fish it had just caught in its talons was almost bigger than its body.
I work alone in front of a computer all day, mostly in silence, and sometimes I find myself tumbling down a rabbit hole of solitude where minute facets of work assume gigantic proportions in my head. A comma. A colon. I inadvertently said something bad in that e-mail, didn't I? Maybe I better read over it again. For the fifth time. That's when I know I should step outside and forget myself for a few minutes, but usually I stay sitting at the desk for an hour more, and then another, as if I'm punishing myself. When I finally go out the front door, it's like lifting a heavy lead helmet from my head. There is sun! And air! I'm surprised all over again by the green out here, right on my doorstep. I had forgotten about life, but huh, it had continued on out here in full bustle. Why can't we remember what's good for us and just do it, every time?

Wilson's Warbler by Louis Agassiz Fuertes, National Geographic, 1917


  1. That's an impressive list of birds!

  2. Hey there, thanks. I used to think I would be bored not living in a big city, but all these creatures keep it interesting!