Monday, July 20, 2009

One-eyed Fledgling and Neil Gaiman

The poor thing came to my kitchen window early this morning. I in my robe, over first cup of coffee, couldn't miss its begging for attention. From window ledge this fledgling mockingbird, with tail too long and heavy for its scruffy round body, hopped to the table on the deck, where it pranced around long enough and close enough for me to see that in place of one eye it had only a buff-colored featherless spot. He flew away with tail dragging. I fear for his future. If a silent hawk comes down on his blind side, he's history.

An hour later, I wait on the edge of my swing for the house wrens to fledge. They are louder and more demanding today than yesterday, louder yesterday than the day before. I expect them anytime. A nest of robins has fledged from the pin oak tree. Fat and speckled, they hop around the yard, practicing their head tilts. Also, a new bunch of comical blue jays, not yet very blue, flit in the trees.

The regularity and frequency with which fascinating things to write about now present themselves---since Annie Dillard first inspired these daily observations---causes me to wonder how I could have spent a half-century oblivious to the mysteries of the natural world that are ever present in my own backyard---free for the asking---for the simple act of slowing down and paying attention.

I used to think such spectacles were available only to people like National Geographic photographers or academic scholars who devoted themselves to lifelong study in wilderness areas. It's not that the mysteries of nature haven't always dazzled me---but that I thought they could only be known through second hand experience---like nature magazines, books, films, TV. Now I'm beginning to feel like Danny and the Donuts---they come too fast to process. The urge to write about all of them becomes overwhelming. Better to choose one, and merely appreciate the others. The better to understand what John Muir meant when he wrote, "One day's exposure to mountains is better than cartloads of books," though today's book was pretty damn good. The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. dkm

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