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Trash May 23, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

I’ve lived in Vermont a long time now—much closer to two decades than one. And yesterday, for the first time in all that time, I got on the phone and ordered trash pickup.

Yes, for a fee that will approximately double what I spent hauling my trash and recycling to the transfer station each month, I will join my neighbors in hauling trash and recycling to the curb (well, we don’t actually have curbs) each Sunday night.

Tim is elated. Anything that cuts down on weekend chores is great by him. I’m the one who kind of liked the ritual of the whole thing—the sorting, the chatting with the guys at the dump. But then the transfer station changed hands, went private, got a new staff, and it just seemed as good a time as any to join the rest of the world. (Besides, I can still take stuff there, some for free, if I need/want to.) And, truth be told, Tim was going by himself more and more often, not enjoying the ritual, as I stayed home to take care of other chores. Jeez, the never-ending chores.

My trash receptacles will arrive next week—one for trash, one for recycling. But here’s the thing that’s weird to me: All the recycling goes in one bin—glass, all kinds of plastic, aluminum, tin, paper. This is very, very attractive for obvious reasons, especially as I’ve painstakingly separated everything for the transfer station, and there are a lot of plastics the transfer station won’t take at all. It also brings up obvious questions: How can all the recycling go in one bin? How does it ultimately get separated? Does it really get separated? Or is this just for show?

I often think of that early scene in Sex, Lies, and Videotape:

My first pickup is June 3. I imagine I’ll be happy. Maybe I’ll put on 25 pounds.

A Series of Things: The Icons May 17, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

The bronzed shoe. The cow bowl. The 1811 House snifter. The bottle opener. The modern cake tester. The god cod. The lock. The bathroom scale.

These are a series of things, and apparently I haven’t written entries for this series in 2½ years.

I still have (and enjoy) all those things. I have other things, too. In fact, I have way too many things, and I need to come up with plans to deaccession some of them.

But not the icons.

The chicken icon was first, plucked from a nearly-sold-out show. It came with papers.


St. George

It is said that this saint was the one to discuss and invent the early chicken scratching known today as the early language. Historians and experts still question the name (was he in fact Roy Egg, later given the title of St. George?). He documented many early saints and was witness to many events in early chicken history. His devotion led him to become a saint.

—Roy Egg

Sewa Yoleme could comment on the “Roy Egg” that appears on the icon itself. He is familiar with this icon.

The rabbit icon, St. Francis, came into my life much later, but for years I made pilgrimages to see it. Now I see St. Francis every day.


I find him great comfort as I ascend and descend my staircase.

Travels with Derek May 15, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

When Derek died on July 5—likely of an aneurysm—it was a shock to all of us. He was forty years old. He had a two-year-old son.

He was the son of a couple of our very best friends, two from that group of eight we hung with in DC for so many years until we scattered in three directions.

We couldn’t make it to his memorial service in Phoenix, which was painful to miss. Still, when his parents, Wayne and Sue, sent us a DVD (the service had been held on the stage of one of the city’s theaters, to a packed house), I kept putting off watching.

In September, Tim and I were in Colorado, and we arranged to meet up with Derek’s best friend, Justin. We were three introverts meeting for the first time over beers with loss as our commonality. It took us awhile to warm up—if extrovert Derek had been there, it would have taken no time—but we had a wonderful time together.

By February, I decided I was ready. I snuck a peek at the DVD, immediately knew I should be watching it with Tim, and stopped. I asked him if we could watch it on Valentine’s Day.

It may seem an odd thing to do on Valentine’s Day, but really, it wasn’t. As I wrote to Derek’s friend and family the next day, “I am not really a celebrator of Valentine’s Day in any serious sense, as so many people tend to glorify only a particular type of love on that day (which seems so arbitrary and somehow makes others feel more lonely). But watching this on Valentine’s Day was perfect for me, as it dealt with every kind of love there is. Derek inspired them all.”

Last month, Tim and I headed to Arizona to go birding (as you know) and to visit with Wayne and Sue. Bill and Susan, two more of that original eight and recent immigrants to Utah, met us at Wayne and Sue’s at the end of the week.

It was the first time in twenty-one years all six of us had been together. (Sewa Yoleme, we missed you.)

We spent a lot of time talking about Derek and really celebrating him. It was good for all of us. Before the end of the visit, Wayne and Sue pulled out Derek’s massive collection of pipes, which they’d had an expert go through and sort. Derek was a connoisseur of, among other things, cigars, tobacco, and scotch. Each of us chose a pipe for our very own. Tim’s is Italian; mine’s Irish.

Derek’s parents also offered us some of his ashes to bring home and scatter somewhere important to us. Bill and Susan live in Castle Valley, and Bill already had a particular spot in mind.

I put the Walgreen’s prescription bottle of ashes in the backpack I was carrying onto the plane. It was clearly marked; Sue had written a letter to Derek and taped it to the front:

 3-15-72 to 7-5-12

Dear Derek,

Tim and Indigo are inviting you on this journey to Vermont. We went there when you were 18 months old, so now you will rest in the splendor and beauty. I sent them back with pipes and perhaps they will enjoy a bowl when they sit with you. You are deeply loved.

Mom and Dad

At security, I was randomly pulled out of line to have my hands tested for explosive residue (my first time!). Then, in line, I pulled the ashes out for inspection, and TSA pulled me out of line accordingly. I was impressed—the man working with me made a point of explaining what he was doing and how they simultaneously try to maintain an appropriate level of respect. They tested the bottle, as far as I could tell, the same way the tested my hands—swiping something around the edges that would react to explosive residue. They never opened the bottle.

I met Derek when he was fifteen or sixteen years old; I’m ten years plus a couple of weeks older. He was a 6-foot-5ish gorgeous guy, who looked something like this in high school/college:


This is a painting his parents commissioned after his death:


And this is him on the mantel by my bed:


I don’t yet know where his ashes will end up. For now, it’s nice to have him with us.

2BY8: April List May 7, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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To say I had a good April is an understatement. I mean, I didn’t have a 100- (or even 84-) species day, like some people. I’ll never come close to the 294-species-in-24-hours that the Cornell team just racked up in Texas on the Big Day. But I did add 81 species to my list—8 of those in Vermont, the rest in Arizona. This brought my 2013 total to 134, which is 80 species ahead of where I was by April’s end in 2012 and 19 species more than I saw in all of last year.

Some of the birds I saw in Arizona I will eventually see in Vermont—I just saw them there first. Many of the birds I saw in Arizona I will never see here.

A couple of birds I will need to research to see if I can count them as a separate species: the Fuertes red-tailed hawk, for example, or the Audubon yellow-rumped warbler. I suspect I technically can’t, but (full disclosure) for now I am, because it’s cool to see a subspecies.

Here’s the April list: common grackle, brown-headed cowbird, eastern phoebe, purple finch, white-throated sparrow, great-tailed grackle, white-winged dove, black-chinned hummingbird, broad-billed hummingbird, rufous hummingbird, brown-crested flycatcher, Wilson’s warbler, yellow warbler, vermilion flycatcher, lark sparrow, common yellowthroat, gila woodpecker, Abert’s towhee, gray hawk, Cassin’s kingbird, barn swallow, black-headed grosbeak, dusky-capped flycatcher, Lucy’s warbler, zone-tailed hawk, Bullock’s oriole, red-tailed hawk (Fuertes), Botteri’s sparrow, ladderback woodpecker, osprey, hooded oriole, Cassin’s vireo, plumbeous vireo, summer tanager, bridled titmouse, ruby-crowned kinglet, northern beardless tyrannulet, Bell’s vireo, yellow-breasted chat, green-tailed towhee, American coot, Mexican jay, canyon wren, yellow-rumped warbler (Audubon), Eurasian collared dove, pie-billed grebe, sora, Bewick’s wren, Cassin’s sparrow, lazuli bunting, Gambel’s quail, acorn woodpecker, cedar waxwing, violet-crowned hummingbird, curve-billed thrasher, white-crowned sparrow, lesser goldfinch, pyrrhuloxia, pine siskin, indigo bunting, chipping sparrow, greater roadrunner, common poor-will, ash-throated flycatcher, black-necked stilt, northern shoveler, cinnamon teal, American avocet, white-faced ibis, American widgeon, blue-winged teal, ruddy duck, cactus wren, black-throated sparrow, lesser nighthawk, black-tailed gnatcatcher, verdin, Western kingbird, rufous-sided towhee, rose-breasted grosbeak, chimney swift.

It was a good April.

Three Days After . . . May 6, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.
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. . . I posted about the jigsaw puzzle, I finished it. On Easter Sunday. I haven’t quite had the heart to pull it apart yet.


Lazuli, Indigo (2BY7) May 2, 2013

Posted by indigobunting in Uncategorized.

On the plane to Phoenix two Saturdays ago, Tim began to read about the nature preserve in Patagonia that we planned to visit on Monday and Tuesday. It was then that we discovered that it was closed two days each week: Monday and Tuesday.

We had planned our birding vacation around this visit.

It would be open on Sunday, so we scrapped our plans for a leisurely morning with dear friends (we would be coming back Wednesday, after all) and drove south to visit the preserve in its last three open hours.

The small visitors center was loaded with hummingbird feeders, which were loaded with hummingbirds, and we ate our sandwiches there and watched them. Back east, we have only one species of hummingbird, so every bird was one we don’t get to see at home.

Then we had a lucky encounter with the current caretaker. We mentioned that we’d tried to get a guide, but had trouble, then kind of gave up. She mentioned that she and her husband had hired a guide for the next morning to try to see some species they hadn’t found yet during their now-nearly-over two-month stay. Did we want to come along? She would check with the guide. Oddly, the guide showed up before Tim and I left for the trails, and we made a plan to meet at 6:00 Monday morning.

It was a great day. Being with a guide meant we didn’t have to look everything up in the book, guessing. Being with a guide meant being with someone who already had western songs matched to western species. We couldn’t bird by ear out there, but he could. We added nearly thirty species to our list in those six hours.

And when we couldn’t find something—or when other birders were talking about seeing anything, really—someone would eventually say, “Go to Paton’s.”

Late Monday afternoon, we did.

We’d read about Paton’s in our guidebook to birding in southeast Arizona. The description begins: “Paton’s Feeders are not only the best place in America to see Violet-crowned Hummingbirds, but also a magnet for many other species! Marion Paton passed away in late 2009, but as of press time the Paton family was continuing her tradition of generously welcoming birders to her back yard feeders in Patagonia.”

We’d passed the place on the dirt road to the preserve. We drove over and parked by the gate. It looked like we were the only car there. I didn’t know what to expect.


The backyard held a tent canopy over four or five rows of folding chairs and benches. There was at least one table with guidebooks, binoculars, etc. Most of the chairs were filled (where did all those people park?). It was quiet. Everyone was facing a large yard filled with all sorts of feeders. As birds came in, a man announced the species and its location. It soon became clear that he was the (extremely knowledgeable) caretaker.

Moreover, it eventually became clear that even though we’d traveled all the way from Vermont, most of this crowd lived much farther east. Just about everyone was British.

So many birds. I got good looks at species I’d had only fleeting looks at before. I saw the violet-crowned hummingbirds. I sat there for 90 minutes, wanting never to leave. I found myself thinking, If this is what church could be, I could be a church-goer!—quiet, filled with beauty, everyone excited about every miracle that flew by.

One feeder was filled with lazuli buntings—I don’t think I’d ever seen one before. And then, among them, an indigo bunting appeared. “Is that an indigo bunting?” I said, already knowing, and the caretaker confirmed it and told everyone where it was. I hadn’t seen once since 2011. At last.

The Brits left and some Americans came in—a few even less experienced than we are. (For as much as my friends and neighbors think I am a serious birder, believe me, I know I am not. And serious birders certainly know I am not. And Patagonia is all about serious birders.) Around 5:00, two men arrived who were attempting a 100-species day. They were at 84. I think they got a couple more at Paton’s, but most of what was there they had already listed and, of course, they’d just missed a few.

It was hard to leave, especially knowing that being there again isn’t likely. It’s so far away. And the place is on the market.

There was a box for donations on the way out. I’ve never been so happy to make one.