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BY11: Christmas Count December 31, 2012

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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We arrived at Tim’s mom’s on Christmas Eve, and that night Danny, Tim, and I each opened our computers to compare bird lists—theirs in Excel spreadsheets, mine in an old-fashioned Word document.

As we worked through our lists, we realized that sometimes we’d missed writing things down. For instance, I showed up with 110, but when we got to pine siskin, I knew I’d seen hundreds at my feeder and somehow they hadn’t appeared on my list. Danny, in fact, had added pine siskin when he visited us in October and saw them at said feeder.

So my personal count was up to 111.

It pains me to note that I am the only one who failed to see an indigo bunting.

In the middle of that night—technically, very early Christmas morning—Tim woke me up. A great-horned owl was calling, seemingly directly above our heads, just outside. It was glorious. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t gotten a great-horned yet, but sure enough, it wasn’t on the list—only one screech owl (elusive!) and barred owls (everywhere!). 112.

On our drive home from Pennsylvania, somewhere in New Jersey, we finally saw a black vulture (less common than the turkey vulture, but odd that we hadn’t yet confirmed ID on one). 113.

Then yesterday, as I was staring at the birds ’round our feeder, I saw a sparrow I just wasn’t sure about. I called Tim, got out the binoculars and the guide, and we identified our first-ever American tree sparrow, which winters here. 114.

As I suspected, our total was less than 150. Danny wants us to keep track again next year. It’s clear that without extensive travel and intent, we’ll never hit 250. I think I was the one who was most disappointed with the number—a number I’ll report when it’s final, after 16 more hours of possibility.

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BY10: Pathétique December 20, 2012

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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Pathetic. That’s what it is. Pathetic.

—Eeyore, in Winnie the Pooh, Chapter VI, In Which Eeyore Has a Birthday and Gets Two Presents

“I had two golden-crowned kinglets cleaning up scraps on the suet feeder for a couple of days last week!” writes Danny. “Bring your list along, and we can finalize the big year total.”

Ah, yes. Our big year. The big year during which I may have seen fewer birds than most years. But who knows? I wasn’t counting in previous years.

I had relied on our westward trek to produce numbers. I’m still flummoxed as to why it did not.

I have added only one bird to my personal list since that trip, bringing my total to 110. Thing is, it was a great bird to add.

Vermont is in the evening grosbeak’s year-round range, but for some reason, I hadn’t seen one in about a decade. On October 28, while Hurricane Sandy was moving north, I was having breakfast, minding my own business, when one, then another, (then another?) evening grosbeak landed on my bird feeder.

This was ridiculously thrilling for me.

A few days later, I was in a neighboring town and saw birds feeding in a tree on late-season berries. I assumed they were cedar waxwings and went to take a closer look. Nope—more evening grosbeaks!

But that was weeks ago. In a few days—barring bad weather and/or full force of the colds that seem to be creeping into our exhausted bodies—we will head south to visit family, and Danny and Tim and I will merge our lists and come up with some number that I had very much hoped would hover around 250. It’s pretty clear that we won’t hit 150. Damn you, elusive Colorado birds! Damn you, lifestyle that keeps me inside all the time! Damn you, lack of focused obsession!

Still, I love birds, including—perhaps especially—my quotidian feeder friends, who are always first to be counted.

Scrooge December 13, 2012

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December, lately, is becoming my least favorite month of the year.

I think I used to sort of like the holidays, even though there was always a lot to do. I have a vague memory of this.

But lately I’ve been angry at the end-of-year convergence of major life/paperwork decisions (taxes, health insurance, flexible spending plans) that need to be decided upon right away with all holiday preparations (gifts, baking, travel plans). Add to that certain health-care providers who, at this late date, can’t tell me whether they will be in network or out of network in 2013. (Hey, December: holidays or end-of-year stuff. Choose one. I can’t do both.)

Add to that the realization that I’ve made less money in 2012 than I’ve made in years. Add to that that try as I might to begin work with my alleged new client—even signing a contract on a particular job—things keep going awry. Add to that the major car repairs I’m having done today and the oil company insisting that suddenly, after a dozen years of delivering oil here, the vent and fill pipes are undersized and if I don’t get them fixed to the tune of hundreds of dollars they will probably stop delivering oil I’ve already paid for, thank you very much. Add to that my wish that I could stay home for Christmas, even though once I’m out traveling and visiting family, it’s basically fine (except, of course, for all the time in the car, the lack of exercise, the excess of sugar, and the things that make me crazy about particular people).

I am really cranky.

Did I mention my rotator cuff is killing me?

I try to think happy thoughts. I think about Bridgett’s Advent. I think about Mali’s summer, how soon it will be the longest day of the year for her, how warm the breezes must be now. I think about Laurie’s childhood.

I think about popping a couple of Aleve.

Brubeck December 5, 2012

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Dave Brubeck died today. I am a huge fan of his and of his quartet. I throw his discs into my CD player regularly. I saw the most recent incarnation of the quartet several times in concert over the last decade, which made me blissfully happy.

I am sad now.

For the record, I’ve always been a bit jealous that Susan was pals with Paul Desmond.

I should probably try to write something specifically about Dave Brubeck. About how the last time I saw him, he needed to be helped to the piano, but clearly needed no help at all once he got there. How at one concert, at intermission, I moved to a seat in the balcony just above him where I had a direct view of his hands on the keys. How his 5/4 and 9/8 time signatures seduced me into a new understanding of “natural.”

But I can’t take time out to write about Brubeck. Not even five. Work is crazy, and—as if you hadn’t noticed—I’ve been having trouble writing anything lately. Instead, I offer a repost of a four-year-old piece about his sax player, a man I imagine is mourning today. It’s called “Bobby Militello Doesn’t Know I Love Him.”

Bobby Militello doesn’t know I love him. He doesn’t know that he’s the potential target of well-aimed undergarments. He doesn’t know that when he plays his alto sax, it’s only him and me, and I can’t take my eyes off his hands. The man is all fingers and tongue and lung capacity. He doesn’t know that I know this.

Bobby Militello doesn’t know I love him. And he will never know, because I am too shy to tell him. Before last night’s concert, he walked on stage alone to retrieve that sax and flute. I was mere feet from him. I could have said something. I kept very quiet.

Bobby Militello doesn’t know I love him. And if I told him, what would he say? “Uh . . . thanks?” I’m sure other people tell him this all the time. I am not other people. I don’t need him to love me back. I am happy in unrequited awe, which I have perfected in my love for birds and their songs and their fierceness.

Bobby Militello doesn’t know I love him, that I love him possibly even more than I love his impossibly astonishing quartetmates.* He doesn’t know that we were in the room together the night I turned fifteen, back when he was with Ferguson, back when I was falling in love with jazz and maybe some guy older than Bobby Militello.

No doubt Bobby Militello knows that everybody loves him. But Bobby Militello doesn’t know I love him. I’ll keep him guessing, sit back, and listen to him improvise.

 
*Dave, Michael, Randy.