I was readin vanbytheriver last night, which was a fun little read about birds and love. It struck me as funny-odd that she didn’t know the birds in question were mourning doves, but then I had to mention in a family of birders, I never had the opportunity to not know which birds were which.
My parents are bird people. It’s true. When I was young, particularly in my teens, they’d drive me to eye-rolling craziness with all their talk of birds. It’s one of those things that always made me feel like I didn’t belong. Who the fuck cares about birds? They’d sit there with their bird books and talk about birds for hours. They’d argue over identification. They’d theorize about migration patterns. I’d sit there and think omg if my life is ever so boring that i need to look to birds for entertainment, just take me out and shoot me.
It was alright that my grandmother watched birds, because she lived on a lake and spent all her time staring out the window, but she was like 80 or somethin, and there wasn’t a lot for her to do…
I’d have better things to do before 80, but then maybe I’d get so bored, I’d watch birds, too. To have my parents doing it, well, it was intolerable.
The sheer amount of excitement my mother displayed over a hummingbird come to feed, I mean really, Get a Life!
My mother woke me once, definitely before noon, to go out and see the whoojiwhatsit spotted-winged blarg outside. I mean, really, was it not bad enough to drag me out to the woods, away from MTV and telephones?!?
“Oh my God, MOM, no one cares!”
I mastered the basics when it comes to birds — you know, robins, cardinals, doves, that sorta thing — but I had no desire to classify them by types or learn about rarer ones.
Me reading about Darwin’s birds:
dude, get out of the islands, you’re losin yer mind
One time, at our old Indianapolis home, circa The Baby Daze, hundreds of birds swooped in and took over our back yard as if Hitchcock had directed them to do so. At first it was neat. But the next day they were still there. It got weird and messy. It felt ominous. I couldn’t let the kids out. I called my mother to explain the horrors of nature come to roost in my metropolitan backyard.
You know what she asked me, right?
“What kinda birds?”
That moment you wish you’d paid attention.
Don’t you know Sissy had the same boring bird chats with my mother? Sissy didn’t think birds were boring at all, and so my mother had given her bird books. Sissy looked the birds up in her books and informed me they were tree swallows.
Moo’s the same. You ask me what kinda bird is in the tree, and I’m like, “Some sorta spotty finch-type thing,” and Moo’s all, “It’s the white-breasted nuthatch.”
(In truth, I know the white-breasted nuthatch, but I’m just sayin, she knows more than I do.)
Flash to me in Georgia, upset cause there were almost no birds around.
“Somethin wrong with this place. Ain’t no birds, nothin grows. God didn’t intend for people to live here, I tell ya!”
Then, gettin super excited when I saw birds I recognized! Mockingbirds and robins, mostly. But sometimes, somethin special in Savannah…
“Omaword! Look at all the wrens!” Y’all, I emptied a sleeve of crackers in the parking lot just to watch’em eat. It’s good for the children to have natural encounters, right?
Flash to me back home, watching MIL’s birds at the feeders, listening to learn as much as I could from her. But like, low-key interested…no big deal.
I totally didn’t care about the birds nesting in the wreath on the porch. I was not beside myself with glee, possessing nearly the awe of a child. I didn’t get giddy when I saw the babies had been born. Nah, not me. I have a life.
You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Just another thing in a long list of things taken for granted. Birds.
Now, at my own house, even though I’m not 80, I have squealed so loudly at a visiting hummingbird, I scared him off! I almost peed myself — he probably did, too.
I spend a great deal of time staring out my window.
Now and again, I grab the binoculars.
I feed the birds.
I try to get pictures of our cardinals.
I stand feet from them, hoping they’ll let me look at them a little bit longer.
I listen to the songbirds.
Try to figure out which bird sings which song.
Noticing cardinals sound like R2D2…
Listen to warbler songs on YouTube.
I am only forty-three, and I enjoy the birds.
I say things to Sassy like, “Do you hear that? That’s a pileated woodpecker. Come see.”
I should be taken out and shot.
This is my secret shame.
My mother, she must be so proud.