in which witness is borne: birds, politics, fiction and critical art theory

hawks galore

Friday, December 31, 2004
i heart hawks. on the way up to my grandparent's house there were lots of them, including a rough-legged hawk, a couple of red-tailed, and an amazing huge Cooper's Hawk, along with three or four kestrels over the dormant fields. there was also a dark morph buteo of some sort, but i couldn't ID it.
Once there, i finally understood Grammy's snobbery about the Maryland birds we took her to see last April. Her backyard boasts a remarkable collection of birds, including nuthatches, cardinals, finches, black-capped chickadees, juncos and woodpeckers, as well as raptors i'm sure. She confided to me that she was unimpressed with the variety of species at Black Hills regional park in Germantown, as she gets all those and more in her own yard in Wisconsin! Well, la-di-da, Grandma. No more VIP parkland tours for you, no sirree. We all bow to the superior biodiversity of your pristine prairie.

p.s. Brian Wilson is a genius.
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birding while driving

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
i'm digging into the depths of my psyche for enthusiasm for the drive up to wisconsin tomorrow. the only thing i've found so far is a nugget of wisdom, posted by an Illinois birder on a birders' list, that one can, in fact, bird while driving, and that in his obligatory travels to visit his relatives this season, he's managed to spot lots of raptors. yippee! c'mon, you taloned demons of the air, show me what you've got! maybe i'll get a glimpse of a kestrel, or even a Snowy Owl (see previous posts). That would make the miserable icy solitary drive worth while. Perhaps.
in any case, i'll bring my damned field glasses and hope for the best. wish me luck!

p.s. all my best goes out to T., who heads out to Cali this weekend for a romp in SF. Enjoy!
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prayers/the sea

Monday, December 27, 2004
my meditations in the next couple of weeks will be dedicated to the families of those swept away in the tsunami disaster in Southeast Asia and the Pacific. May they find the strength to cope in whatever way is best for them, and may they be comforted.

and to the family of Al, who also passed away on the same day, Sunday December 26.

today: twelve Canada geese flying overhead in Logan Square, Chicago. An undetermined number of starlings.
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winged felines

Sunday, December 26, 2004
hey- why aren't there any winged felines? i guess that's sort of a Darwinian question. I only got about a hundred and fifty pages into the Origin of Species, but he didn't seem all that interested in how creatures became winged. I think the archaeological record wasn't all that revelatory on the subject at that time.
So the weather has finally broken and it's risen above 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Perhaps now we can move the bed back from the middle of the living room floor to its normal spot under the big window.
I bailed out miserably on the Christmas Bird Count for Evanston this morning, dependent as i am for a ride on other people...and i suppose i was weeded out by the 7am meetup time. Owel.
Finished The Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson. She's such a challenge to read, and is getting me back into my ultimate fantasy genre, Greek literature. As in, Ancient, pre-and post- Homer. If i had my druthers and no social conscience, I'd retreat into literary studies for the rest of my life. but...no such (*^!@#$ luck.

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arctic air mass

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
over half of Burnham Harbor, the section of Lake Michigan alongside Grant Park, froze silently during the night, as the Pentagon scrambled to sort out who was responsible for the blast that killed 22 people in Mosul on Monday.
and if they ever do sort it out, what will they say? how much will they disclose?
do you ever feel like something vitally important to your life is being withheld from you? what is it? This is my feeling when i look at or listen to the news of the war...the feeling of looking at a frozen, smooth surface of ice and not remembering it ever looking different. Or almost remembering the exact white of the wave crests, the pure slaty blue or green of the lake in summer, the numbers of gulls that normally dive and circle above, looking for fish. but those things don't seem real anymore.
some amazing birds have been sighted in the past couple of days along that frozen stretch of lake: a harlequin duck, a great horned owl, some coots.

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one more thing...

are you following the money in BushAdmin v.2.0? Read this article from today's New York Times:
(Click on the title of this post)

evidently, teaching people how to grow their own food doesn't represent enough of a "measurable result" for the administration to continue funding development programs, public OR private.
or perhaps these programs ARE having the intended result of fostering local agriculture...resulting in intolerably self-sufficient local economies which don't need Wal-Mart or US-grown food products!
We knew that gravy train wasn't going to last.

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004
sunday: S. and i got up at 7am, headed out at 7:30 to the Chicago river at Roscoe. the temperature was six degrees Fahrenheit, wind chill -10. this was my first participation in the Christmas Bird Count, which happened on the 19th for Chicago citywide.
here is the list of what i saw, until my hands began to freeze:
8 buffleheads (S. thought i was getting excited about "buffaloheads")
5 gulls (probably Thayer's/herring gulls)
about 45 house sparrows
8 white throated sparrows
1 American Crow

this was at 3 separate locations, one along the river and two in the Loop.
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fit of giggles

Saturday, December 18, 2004
twisting on the bed with cats and laughter we got up to a cold cold december day. its like a house years after it was built, settling into the land and finding its angles and its certain slouch, which is the feeling of having a familiar kitchen and familiar stove to clean and record player in the corner playing joni mitchell and magnets to stick the bills up on the fridge.
thanks for the magnets, by the way, for my birthday mom and dad.
i'm going to think of a story to give this blog every so often.
this is part of combating what Michael Brenson calls this administration's "assault on memory." if we let them make us forget then we'll be losing our own stories (whisper: including the stories of birds--like the 52% of north american migrant birds which will be extinct by 2100 if development continues at current pace)!
[Harriet get off my lap!
today's story: Age Five. We had a Chinese Elm tree in the front yard. Big, old tree-i had a complicated relationship with it. It kept the traffic noise down from the semi-major highway which was our street. sometimes the neighbors (who, in retrospect, were either freaks or ahead of their time in pet fashion cause i remember their dog went regularly to have his nails done) would let me walk their dog Sam. Sam Sam Sam.
Anyway, my uncle Ron died. this i experienced as, not only his prolonged absence, but two impressive events, one of which involved the Chinese Elm.

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Sunday, December 12, 2004
this morning we had a pair of juncos in the backyard. like a small gift to mitigate the rawness of the day, these two small round fellows greeted me from under the neutral clouds as i switched off the porch light.
kind of a relief to spot them silently by myself, cause for me this was a week of speaking wrongly, saying everything except what i mean and then puzzling it out later--something about clumsiness, a lumpish clunky tongue that refuses to speak my mind. do men of power ever have weeks like this?
we know that W. does, all the time--he misspeaks himself, he stumbles over what should be familiar phrases, he misses the mark and has to retreat from statements later on. it's a familiar kind of forgiveness we feel for him in those moments, the same way i have to forgive myself when i ask a dumb question (cause let's face it, folks, there IS such a thing) or take too long to get around to my point. oh, he didn't really mean it that way, it just came out sounding bad, &c.
is saying what we mean so difficult with the language we have that it no longer is a prerequisite for statesmanship?
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the snowy owl

Thursday, December 09, 2004
agh! i am so frustrated at not having a car right now. i've gotten three separate reports of a Snowy Owl at the Montrose fishing pier this morning, and i can't get over there unless...maybe if i take the Montrose bus. i will look into it. But still! i need to be able to get out and see the birds, it's so important for me.
did anyone ever read that book by Peter Matthiessen, the Snow Leopard? this moment is reminding me of his quest through Nepal and Tibet to see the Snow Leopard--reports of the leopard keep him and his companion trekking over dangerous passes, icefalls, crevasses, what have you--until they have been there for over a year, exhausted, exhilarated, alive, having befriended many of the people who guided them and opened their homes to these two travelers, but never once spotting the Snow Leopard.
sorry to give it away, but it's an amazing book.
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Tuesday, December 07, 2004
When the blackbird flew out of sight,
It marked the edge of one of many circles.
--Wallace Stevens, from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"
(thanks to Abby for this quotation, and for thinking of it in reference to my work)
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ain't no runnin from karma

Friday, December 03, 2004
paying the fees, paying the fees. the fees'll get you every time. that's just a small reference to what's happened in my life this week, which in turn really goes back about 8 weeks to the time of my brother's visit to Chi-town.

that weekend, i found thirty bucks. The first find was, i believe, a legitimate "finders keepers" situation: we were exiting a Currency Exchange, crossing the McDonald's parking lot on Western and Armitage, and bam! a ten dollar bill lay in the open sun on the sidewalk, with no one in sight. I hesitated briefly, remembering the Buddhist precept i had repeated at temple the preceding week: Take nothing which is not given. Hell, if this isn't being given, i don't know what is, i thought, and scooped it up.

the second find was perhaps, a little shadier. It was night, it was raining. Pouring, actually. I was with S., passing under the glittering awning of the Palmer House Hotel in the Loop. As yet another wealthy couple jostled past me to enter the building, i caught sight of something stuck in a puddle beside the couple's taxicab. A twenty. Without hesitating this time, i swiped it and ran. Yeah, that's right suckers. I ran.

The Black Eyed Peas had a song in the early nineties, went a little something like, Ain't no runnin' from/Karma ain't no runnin'. And so this week i had to pay thirty bucks for someone to take some photos of my work. ANd you know what? I was glad to do it. This was a really great person, someone who should have probably found that money that weekend in October but they didn't. I'm glad to be the vehicle to pass along that karmic packet!

Poll: Should i attend the Illinois Ornithological Society's Winter Gull Trip at Starved Rock Jan. 29th? It promises to be a morning of punishing cold. hmmmm...

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