Archivos de Diario para mayo 2022

miércoles, 04 de mayo de 2022

Life Will Out

Spring migration of the feathered wonders known as birds is in full swing. These birds spent the winter far south, sometimes as far south as Argentina. They left the far north, including our area, last fall, to winter in more favorable southern climes, but they are now returning, and our city parks and surrounding areas are burgeoning with bird song. The early spring chorus that started a few months ago with some of our resident Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmice, Carolina Chickadees and White-breasted Nuthatches is now being joined by the voices of Orchard Orioles, Eastern Kingbirds, Great Crested Flycatchers, and Eastern Wood-Pewees. Millions will simply visit our area and continue further north, seeking special places to raise a brood, but some will stay and spend the summer alongside year-long resident birds. Humans come out in droves to be present to this extraordinary occurrence, which starts mid-March and peaks mid-May. There are those like me who check in on a daily basis to rejoice in the return of each species. In the beginning of the returns, I’ll see one or two species a day, if I’m lucky, but then, suddenly, I’ll see five, then ten. We call the sighting of a return of a species a ‘first of season,’ or FOS. Like yesterday, I saw my first of spring Prothonotary Warbler and Blue Grosbeak, among many others. The days are growing more and more exciting as the numbers of birds migrating is now in the millions.

My check-in walk on April 29th 2022 was meant to be just a short one, maybe a half hour, an hour at most, not another entire morning and afternoon with the birds, but with them pouring through Carondelet Park, who was I kidding? For those like me, it’s terribly difficult to be disciplined this time of year. I mean to pace myself, but almost always end up an exorbitant delirious fool, wandering the entire day from bird to bird, falling in love over and over again with each one. Each day since migration took off like wildfire a few weeks ago, I’d been telling myself to slow down, but then I had completely abandoned any semblance of self-control and had let myself be seduced for hours by their glories, returning home exhausted, but stuffed from gorging on their buffet of beauty. Once again, that day was no different. As I stepped into the park, my resolve to remain sane, to only spend a short amount of time with these enchantresses, melted immediately as I was lured and then surrounded by the bouncy uplifting singing of a White-eyed Vireo, the punchy song of a Palm Warbler wagging his tail at me so alluringly, the zinging ascension of that gorgeous lothario, the Northern Parula, the sweet unassuming melodic single note pitch of a Pine Warbler and then the persistent self-assured cocky song of a stunning Black-throated Green Warbler. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were humming sweet nothings from every tree, both males and females. The cackling of Orioles, Tanagers and Vireos tickled me deep in some mysterious place in my brain, sending messages of joy to my entire being. I knew I wasn’t leaving until my feet hurt so much that I couldn’t walk, like yesterday, and my stomach growled so loud I could no longer hear the birds.

As if their voices weren’t enough to overwhelm my determination to exact a bit of strictness on this unruly behavior of mine, each bird was donned in a magnificent couture designed for one purpose only – to grab attention and keep it. Staring was not rude, but desired by these kings and queens of courtship. As soon as my eyes rested upon the Parula’s soft pastel blue and olive topcoat set off by white wing-bars, a pillow-white body, a lemony breast and throat banded in black and chestnut, I felt such love, such tenderness, such gratefulness for the way those colors seemed to heal some pain in me I didn’t even know I had. In contrast, when I looked upon the wicked Baltimore Oriole, I was ablaze with a lust that only his fire-orange and deep black was capable of drawing out of me. If I wasn’t ready to completely give myself over to them, the sudden vision of a Scarlet Tanager’s velvet deep red and black did me in. I was slayed, there on the spot. I was his. I wanted to lay back in his arms and never leave. Thus, I wandered the fairyland that Carondelet had become, as each naughty bird further unraveled and completely shredded any signs of rationality. My back ached as I climbed up and down the sinkholes, my knees buckled on the uneven surfaces of the ground, my hunger gnawed, but none of it registered. Only the birds registered, only their mantra of ‘life will out,’ their imperative to be, their persistence in finding a way to continue despite all odds, to sing, to vibrantly live, to soar, to charge forth, to dare to be unabashedly bold, come what may. They were love incarnate; they were the spirit of this magnificent creative cosmos in avian form, and I drank them in – until first a pit bull, and then the entire police force seemed to show up.

As I walked caught up in my oblivion and rounded a hill, I was shocked to see a pit bull off his leash. No owner was in sight. My hackles went up, and I tried to act serene as I sidled far away from this dog that was watching my every move and moving slowly closer to me. I made a rush for my car, which, even though I only lived two blocks from the park, was there due to the threat of rain. Wanting to stay in the park, but put some distance between me and this dog, I drove toward the east end, passing the roundabout on my way, where six police cars that had not been there minutes prior, greeted me, with police huddled around three black men sitting on the ground. I drove on, concerned, thinking maybe I better stay and watch to protect these men, but some instinct crept up inside me to check the rest of the park. Continuing to drive to the west end, I found another large grouping of police cars, a ranger car, an ambulance and a number of people standing around in disturbed disarray. Noticing a familiar face in the group, I got out and slowly made my way over, calling June to my side to ask what was going on. What unfolded was a story I did not want to hear.

A middle-aged woman, Renee, had made a decision that morning, a simple one, to get some exercise by walking at her local park, Carondelet. Passing a sinkhole, she had noticed a man crouched in a thicket watching her. He was a black man, she was white. Not wanting to seem racist, she brushed aside her concern as she made her way down the path to the bird garden, where she planned to walk a little more to get in some extra mileage. June, in the park picking up trash per her usual routine, had noticed a man following Renee, a woman June did not know, toward the bird garden. June, too, did not want to appear racist and kept her sense of alarm to herself, but watched surreptitiously from a distance. As Renee entered the bird garden, a sanctuary of small trees, wildflowers and a bubbler nestled inside a short round rock wall, she began the circular loop inside when she noticed the crouching man was now in the garden with her and coming towards her from the opposite direction. Her intuition nagged at her again, this time louder, that this was a dangerous scenario and to bolt, but she again ignored her better judgment, worried this would seem racist, and kept walking his direction. As she passed him, he suddenly lunged at her and grabbed her by the neck, throttling her. Screaming as best she could, she saw a man outside the garden running in response to her screams just as her assailant did, who immediately let her go and climbed the wall and disappeared. With large red welts forming on her neck where he’d been choking her, she slowly recovered as June and the man who’d scared him off, Ben, offered comfort until the police and rangers arrived. Soon after, numerous police cars descended to patrol the area and a search began for the medium height, thin, black man dressed all in black.

As I stood and talked with June and Ben, Renee was taken to the roundabout to see if she could identify her assailant, but none of the three was the man. She was driven back to the bird garden area where police asked more questions and had her take them through the events one more time by walking through it. When finished, Renee came over to us and profusely thanked Ben and June as she shared more of what happened, pointing out how ironic it was that she didn’t have her pepper spray with her that day. I encouraged her to get lots of hugs and to cry, to seek trauma counseling. She immediately responded by asking if she could hug me. Both pleasantly surprised and at the same time agonizingly torn, I declined, explaining I was being careful due to COVID. (She did not have on a mask, and I’d recently found out about 23 new COVID cases in the neighborhood.) Although she was very compassionate and understanding, I yearned desperately to give her that hug that she needed, to let her cry on my shoulder. Staying my distance was excruciating, my awkwardness painful. Her husband had arrived and was eager to get her home, but he did not grab and hold her as I’d hoped, furthering my torment.

As everyone dispersed, I stood talking with a ranger. I spoke aloud my fervent wish that this incident not become about race, furthering more racism in our community, more divide. She, a black woman, remained quiet on the subject, but suddenly warmed up to sharing other things with me. With only three years left to retire, she told me she wanted to become an elementary school teacher. That had always been her dream, to give young children hope. I wondered, as we finished talking and I walked on my now not-so-merry way, what she would teach them about occurrences like this? Would she teach them, as the birds had taught me, that ‘life will out?’ Would she teach them that a bit of healthy fear is a good thing, to listen to your intuition, but don’t let that stop you from living? I resolved to remember my mace, which I’d stopped carrying for some reason, and felt more determined than ever to not let things like this keep me from the wild’s calling. I’d been bird-loving in the city long enough to learn to be cautious and wary when alone in the park. I knew my oblivion would always be disrupted by potential danger, by sirens, by gun shot, by male cruisers, by theft, by people driving at high speed, doing donuts and crashing cars into trees, and by many forms of ‘ugliness’ we humans sometimes exhibit (working as a social change advocate for years had already taught me the roots of human ‘ugliness’ – various interconnected systems of oppression), but more than my advocacy work, bird-loving had taught me the most important lesson of my life, how to hold the whole, to make peace with it. My thoughts continued in this vein as I found myself unconsciously making my way to a very special spot in the park. About seven years back, when I found the dead body of a woman in a sinkhole, a woman who’d overdosed on heroin and been dumped there, I had privately named the area after her, the Barbara Gettings Sinkhole, and whimsically think of her spirit as residing there. Finding myself standing in front of her resting place, I smiled, remembering the day I found a Barred Owl there not long after finding her body - and had envisioned her spirit full of amazement. Same with a coyote I had found roaming through her thicket and the foxes raising young under her nebulous presence. During winter, I had envisioned her comforted by the raucous Blue Jays that remained there all year long. This day, I watched a flock of colorful migrating songbirds alight upon the branches in her bramble, and I saw her sitting on the large fallen decaying trunk of a tree, hidden deep in the recesses, watching them with me, thrilled, reminding me to cherish each bird as a gift, reminding me to let them be my solace.

  • “Life will out” is a quote from a Grey’s Anatomy episode. Also, I don’t use anyone’s real name in my article in order to protect their privacy, except in the case of Barbara Gettings.
Publicado el miércoles, 04 de mayo de 2022 a las 05:25 PM por wildreturn wildreturn | 18 observaciones | 0 comentarios | Deja un comentario