I slow down. Groups of dog-walkers and just-plain-walkers ahead of me don’t break stride, but I can see a man stopped at the intersection of two trails, gazing intently at something I can’t yet see. I don’t want to scare whatever-it-is into moving by moving precipitously myself.
Reaching the corner, I finally see the object of the man’s gaze: I gasp involuntarily and immediately clap my hand over my mouth.
A feathered ember in a desert landscape,
the male Vermilion Flycatcher
is exactly what its name says:
a brilliant red bird
that hawks flying insects
from conspicuous perches on shrub tops and fences.
– All About Birds
As other photographers and birders come and go–and as exercisers and conversers go by, oblivious to this avian event–Buddy flits from one exposed (aka conspicuous) perch to another, with only brief forays into hard-to-photograph shaded areas or behind brambles of branches.
Some bird sightings come after hours or days of preparation, researching populations, habitats, and migration patterns. After talking to locals about the best season to spot the target, even the best time of day. After packing binoculars or spotting scopes. After remembering back-up batteries and SD cards for the camera. After flying, driving, and/or walking great distances. After waiting great periods of time.
Some bird sightings come in a moment of grace, with no effort at all on my part beyond just showing up. It’s a welcome reminder that tiny unearned delights can be around any given corner.
It started with a gentle sail-by and a flick of that magnificent tail.
It continued with a thorough preening to show off those amazing feathers to best advantage.
Then someone decided to get into the spirit of things, it being the Feast of Saint Valentine.
I think we’re on to something here. On such a beautiful day, what could be better than sitting under an umbrella with a cold drink and a savoury snack, while enjoying these all-too-temporary reflections in your very-own and very-transitory neighbourhood oasis? Sic transit gloria mundi, and all that.
Lunar years don’t line up neatly with our Gregorian calendar, but it will be the Year of the Dragon from this weekend until sometime between late January and late February in 2025, with the exact date determined by the timing of the second new moon after the next winter solstice.
The dragon is my sign: this Year of the Dragon will be the seventh I’ve seen, counting my kick-off in 1952. The underlying mythology of zodiacs does not speak to me, but a 12-year cycle does offer a different template for thinking about my life in a longer chunk of time than a season or a year. My default for that long view has always been to go by decades (perhaps a side-effect of Canada having gone metric just before the start of my third dragon cycle).
Ah, I remember how much energy I had
in my twenties.
Or was it my thirties?
Clearly, my seventies will be the “Or-was-it?” decade.
It can be good, bad, or irrelevant.
Choice is good when it gives me entirely new options I don’t have at home, or when it gives me variations that matter to me:
- Things left out, like fragrance in detergent or lactose in milk
- Things left in, like real chocolate in candies or caffeine in tea
- Different sizes, like large ones for bulk savings or small ones for portability
Choice is bad when it overwhelms me with options at the end of a lengthy initial provisioning trip and I have to decipher new categories to find what must be here (Mustn’t it?): regular, original, plain Kleenex, dagnab it. Neither ultra soft nor anti-viral; nor yet a tissue infused with greasy (sorry, soothing) lotion. As the residual option, “trusted care” might be what I’m looking for, but the graphic suggests it’s either a heart-healthy option or something to give your sweetie for Valentine’s Day, soon upon us, so who knows?
Choice is irrelevant when it offers me options that don’t appeal to me and that can’t possibly appeal to anyone: flavours of peach, ale, and habanero. And not just singly: combined in one tray of defenceless bratwurst.
And yet. Someone is buying anti-viral Kleenex and peach-ale habanero brats. Maybe together. Just imagine.
Thank goodness no one gave me the job of selecting a reasonable range for choices. Thank goodness no one person has that job.
Driving down an unremarkable avenue for the Southwest–a broad street flanked by bungalows built on concrete pads–and squinting against the sunset in its dying flare, I looked up as movement in the trees caught my eye.
With the breeze flicking the very ends of the fronds and the setting sun lighting them up from behind, the effect was unlike anything I’ve seen: little golden bits frolicked around the tree-tops.The conditions had to be just right, with low dark cloud providing the backdrop and narrowing the sun’s beams.
It wants a video–which may yet be coming–but a drive-by, through-the-windshield, phone photo will have to do for now.
Artificial lake? Don’t be silly, Isabel: It’s too small.
Slough? Again with the silliness: It’s too artificial.
Pond? Less silly, but somehow not right. A puddle it must be, although that brings to mind Dick and Jane splashing through much smaller bodies of water:
a small amount of water or other liquid,
especially rain (my emphasis)
that has collected in one place on the ground
Or on the asphalt, I guess.
I have endless memories of being held up or lined up for a family photo, squinting into the sun. I have just-short-of-endless photographic evidence of same.
It started early.
It never stopped.
It came full circle.
I am the pigeon.
Well, that sounds a bit pretentious, dunnit? One bird, laying claim to being the epitome of an entire type? An individual claiming to be an archetype? Go on wit’ you.
And yet . . . “I am a pigeon” doesn’t quite seem to capture the affect. The serenely self-confident stance. The sublime disregard for any nearby plebes, avian and human alike.
No, we had it right at the outset. This is the pigeon.