catbird chatter

I returned early this morning from a work-related trip to San Francisco (photo post to follow). While I was gone, the catbirds skulked back into the neighborhood and resumed transmission of their esoteric messages from the protection of the now fully leafed out trees and shrubbery. I am happy to hear their secretive broadcasts once again. While out walking Farley, I also heard a House Wren singing on the next street over and a Yellow Warbler singing a little farther afield. Word on the street is that I missed a couple of stellar days of migrant fallouts in this area while I was gone. So I’m a little disappointed about that, although I did manage to pick up a few Western North American species on my trip that were lifers. On multiple occasions, I also saw and heard some of the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill, which was really cool as I’d watched the documentary about them not too long ago.

For my trip reading, I took along Anne Tyler’s Celestial Navigation. I like most of her older books and Em El particularly recommended this one. It did not disappoint! I finished up the last few pages over lunch today and was struck by this passage below. It’s certainly not cheery reading, but much of what I read and enjoy is not. For me, it’s all about the shadows.

Being good was not enough. The mistakes he reviewed were not evil deeds but errors of aimlessness, passivity, an echoing internal silence. And when he rose in the morning (having waited out the night, watching each layer of darkness lift slowly and painfully), he was desperate with the need to repair all he had done, but the only repairs he could think of were also aimless, passive, silent. He had a vague longing to undertake some metaphysical task, to make some pilgrimage. In books a pilgrimage would pass through a fairytale landscape of round green hills and nameless rivers and pathless forests. He knew of no such landscape in America. Fellow pilgrims in leather and burlap would travel alongside him only long enough to tell their stories—clear narratives with beginnings, middles, ends and moral messages, uncluttered by detail—but where would he find anyone of that description? And think of what he would have to carry in the rustic knapsack on his back. The tools of his craft; Epoxy glue in two squeeze tubes, spray varnish, electric sander, disposable paintbrushes. Wasn’t there anything in the world that was large scale any more? Wasn’t there anything to lift him out of this stillness inside? He fumbled for his clothes and picked his way downstairs. He made his breakfast toast and ate it absently, chewing each mouthful twenty times and gazing at the toaster while he tried to find just one heroic undertaking that he could aim his life toward.

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5 Comments

  1. This contrasts nicely with the Krishnamurti quote in your previous post.

    Reply
  2. A keen observation! I hadn’t even thought about that until you pointed it out, but you are right. Perhaps that was the unconscious river rising over its banks.

    Reply
  3. I’ve spotted my first pair of swallows of the year, which means that summer is here! Well, I hope their arrival will bring on good weather. I’ve never seen a catbird, but over here we’ve Magpies, Jackdaws, Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, and Wrens. And the list goes on. The Blackbird is one of my favourite songsters.

    I like your recent post on Krishnamurti, he seems to have vast amounts of wisdom. His ideas are very welcoming especially when I’m reminded, daily, how religion (mainly organised religion) can be totally inadequate.Come to think of it he is concerned not just with religion but with western society (education and so forth) so it’s thought-provoking.

    Your recent posts have been insightful.

    Have a great Sunday!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Taidgh! I love swallows. Barn Swallows are probably my favorite. The Chimney Swifts have also returned and can now be heard chittering in the sky high over the city. I’m glad you’re enjoying Krishnamurti. He was definitely an insightful guy. I wish I’d discovered him earlier in life. Instead I found punk rock, which was arguably better, or at least as helpful as Krishnamurti would’ve been in teaching me to think for myself. And I can’t think of a more important lesson to learn in life.

      Reply
      • I really enjoy the aerial acrobatics of swallows. They come over from South Africa, stop over in Mediterranean somewhere and then nest here for the summer months. So they come all that way just to entertain me!

        Anyone and anything can teach even swallows and I’ve come to that realisation. For me music, art and nature is what builds my faith, that’s where I find spirituality. We had a few punk bands, but they’re old rockers now not many punks left in Ireland other than kids messing on the street and up to no good!

        Reply

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