Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘Audubon’

Once upon an oven bird.

In Life, Nature, The Examined Life, Writing on July 13, 2012 at 6:00 am

The wood thrush.

Some days are better than others. I’ve had a run of less-better days recently and this morning I woke up at 3:30 to give this situation further consideration. I came to no conclusion. Getting up mid-morning in contemplation of troubles and distractions sets the course for the day. Surely it will be another day of troubles and distractions. And so it goes.

For me, the best remedy is to get outdoors. The American thinker and scientist Jared Diamond speculates that perhaps the worst fate to befall Homo sapiens was the transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer. His theory hinges on what followed–land accumulation, individual wealth, social status. Everything changed, and not entirely for the good. It is not a stretch to consider that likewise came a transition to sleeping indoors. Although I don’t believe Diamond considers waking up under roof in the same context, it is obvious to me that getting to open sky as soon as possible upon waking is key to a clear head. It is, I believe, how we are wired. Troubles become trapped in four walls that  are blow afar in open air.

Thursday is nature-walk day at the local Audubon center. For two hours every Thursday morning one can stroll with a naturalist and spend time breathing fresh air. We start at 7:00 am. Getting there on time is not an issue if you’re awake at three-thirty.

This morning we identified twenty-four bird species. We also identified a handful of wild flowers. I don’t know anything about wildflowers, so I took some notes, snapped some photos, and will attempt to impress that information on my struggling gray matter. This time of year most birding is done by ear. I’ve spent considerable time attempting to learn bird song. A simple mnemonic device sometimes helps. For instance, the red-eyed Vireo has a call that can be remembered as: Here I am, where are you? Look up here. At the top. The little oven bird screams, teacher, teacher, teacher.  You don’t need a  trick to remember the call of the wood thrush. It is one of the most beautiful sounds in nature. Of the wood thrush’s song, Thoreau wrote,

“Whenever a man hears it he is young, and Nature is in her spring; wherever he hears it, it is a new world and a free country, and the gates of Heaven are not shut against him.”

The call of the loon is another sound that is deeply evocative. There are things left best unsaid, and the call of the loon does not translate to the nasty roughness of the written word. That is the matter of poetry, of which the loon is master.

And of my troubles and distractions with which my day began? …What trouble? What distraction?

Eight minutes to wildness.

In Nature on February 24, 2011 at 10:59 pm

I went on the bird walk at the Maine Audubon Society sanctuary at Gilsland Farm this morning.  The sun was brilliant and the sky a blue so rich and deep it made my heart ache. The snow reflected the morning light and as a bird took flight it would be illuminated from below, its under-wings and breast and torso aglow. It was cold and our exhalations turned crystalline.

At one point the naturalist-guide bent down and studied the tundra. He pointed to a small pile of scat, mammalian excrement. “Berries, hair…” he said. “Probably coyote.” His comment hung in the air. It took eight minutes to drive from home to the farm. Eight minutes from city to coyote scat. Eight minutes to wildness.

There is a question posed in the marvelous book by Gary Snyder, The Practice of the Wild, which reads: “Where do we start to resolve the dichotomy of the civilized and the wild?” I don’t know the answer to that question, but this morning, eight minutes from home and staring into coyote scat the question was not theoritical. That is as I would have it.