Saturday, January 11, 2020

Black Phoebe

Winter is the time of platinum light here on the coast, and this is most clear on gray, cold mornings at dawn. We had several mornings like this at the start of the new year last week. I love the turning of the year, in this case, the decade, using this time for reflection and seeking a sense of renewal and peace.

There's a sweet little bird I watch daily here, a Black Phoebe, whose plaintive call, tee-hee, tee-hoo, is punctuated by her action of flying out from her perch, then back to it. She flies out, tee-hee, then flies back, tee-hoo. Pretty goofy, really. Apparently she swoops out to catch insects, then, conserving energy, flies back. It's kind of like what we do each day: we wake up, sit down for coffee, sing out, then go out into the work world to gather necessary insects, um, resources. Then we fly back home. At any rate, I feel like this is what I do, tweet the old-fashioned way, go out into the world, tweet, return home to my perch.

Call it reverse anthropomorphism, seeing our similarities with the world's fragile and precious creatures. I just finished reading The Bees, by Laline Paull. This is some of the most imaginative writing I've read, a complex page-turner told from the point of view of  Flora 717, a most daring and inspiring worker bee. The bees' hunger for community and devotion is as great as their lust for nectar; they live in an elaborate hierarchy but each, from the priestess to the sanitation worker, feels the unconditional love of the Holy Mother.

Winter time brings a level of quiet that is unsurpassed. Strong winds blow away the clouds and the afternoon light falls at an oblique angle on the land.  A few days ago, in the early morning, I spotted a devilishly large bobcat strolling up to the woodpile behind my house. Bobcats are the gangsters of the neighborhood, with body-builder shoulders, wide, sly faces, dramatic black fur tips on their ears, and undignified, stubby tails. We both did a double-take, and I said, "You're not my kitty..." She trotted away towards the meadow, and when I followed her I felt her watching me from the edge of the oak forest.

Now the leaves from the maples, sycamores and elms have all fallen, the shoes of the past year have all dropped, the verdict is in on 2019. As the days lengthen slightly, we make resolutions, the jonquils bloom, and it's bar closing time for the Great Horned Owls as they stop hooting and start nesting.

Sensing ineffable impermanence in the stillness of winter on the coast is a gift; it distills into daily life when we interrupt the frantic pace that can consume us.  Someday, each of us will "fall off our perch" as they say, and may it be in a fulfilled state, a blissful surrender to the light.


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