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

Flickering again

Sunday, October 02, 2005
Between 8:30 and 9:45am at Humboldt park, i saw 2 AMERICAN KESTRELS, 13 FLICKERS, 25 WHITE-THROATED SPARROWS, 2 WHITE-CROWNED SPARROWS, 1 PHILADELPHIA VIREO, 5 RUBY-CROWNED KINGLETS, 9 AMERICAN CROWS, 1 VEERY, 1 BLUE JAY, and scads of RED-WINGED BLACKBIRDS and EUR. STARLINGS. No sign today of the Brown Creepers and warblers I had just 2 days ago.

I guess we can only speak for ourselves, so that's what I'll do--not to presume that all birders do it for the same reasons, or even similar ones.

I started birding to ward off depression. I was hooked the day I left the gym I belonged to in Dorchester, MA, at the mouth of the Neponset river, wiping tears away and shivering in the cold fall weather. A silent, enormous great blue heron dipped as it flew and passed directly in front of my face, from right to left, continuing on through a brick archway opening on to the river.

I guess at that time birds held romance for me. They were witnesses to everything we did to and for one another here on the ground. They revealed none of what they'd seen, making them the perfect companions for depressives like me and my roommate, who lent me her binoculars so I could bird.

When I started grad school, I began to see birds as a metaphor for myself. It's really embarrassing to admit this. What a heavy-handed artist I became, for a while! I thought their migrations and subsequent returns to their breeding grounds were like my family's itinerant scramblings for a foothold on happiness from Chicago to Tennessee to Maryland. And now I was back in sweet home Chicago. I made art about this. It was a convenient but way overblown comparison, and deep down I knew it, and thank heavens my advisors called me out on it before it was too late for me to look more closely at my motives.

I'll continue later with an explanation of the role birding plays in my current life... I'd like to hear comments so far...
8:09 AM :: ::
  • Mar,
    Why do you sometimes refer to "having" a bird and sometimes to "seeing" one? As a non-birder and someone interested in language, the distinction sounds significant to my ear.
    I'm thinking about the other questions raised here and may comment on them soon.
    ~ K

    By Anonymous Sisterk, at 11:37 AM  
  • on the birders' list serve i belong to, we often say "I had" a bird because you can ID a bird by sound or by visual. The "I had" phrase refers more generally to whatever form of ID was used.
    However i'm not that good at birding "by ear," so my use of "I had..." is somewhat misleading. I always mean "I saw."

    By Blogger mar-mar, at 2:11 PM  
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