Our yard is full of doves. I watch and listen as they amble along our fence, browse beneath the feeders, and coo low love songs from our roof. I follow their nests in our pear tree, in our roses and pansies, and wave goodbye when the fledglings fly away. Do they return, sometimes, when they are ready for nests of their own?
All these doves in our yard. Do they also watch and listen, wondering where we came from and where we will go?
By decay, I mean death and its attendants. Detritus and carrion. Decomposition. The rank rot of demise invades every corner of life, a weltering profusion of scavengers overhead and underfoot. They sort and clean, engineering life from death in dank procession, so that leaves grow anew and grass sprouts fresh for the grazers. Scavengers both hasten and stem entropy’s tide, converting order to chaos to order again. Rapid and ageless, decay is our most accurate measure of time, and our most pervasive reminder that time is measured.
The hawk attack prompted me to pull this piece out of my files. The writing is old, but some of the photos are new.
My camera reveals a small, shy, distant world that I cannot enter on my own. The zoom and macro functions transform me into Alice, and I crawl eagerly through the tiny lens, emerging in a land of wonder.
I do not consider myself a true birdwatcher, as I seldom venture outdoors with the express purpose of finding birds. I’m more of an opportunistic birdwatcher, always happy when my path leads to a bird, but equally happy to run across a snail or squirrel or vine in bloom.
After acquiring a camera capable of photographing birds (and squirrels and snails and vines in bloom), I quickly accumulated an awkward catch-all folder of “Unknown Bird” photos. This method of cataloguing my photos soon proved impossible to manage. Now, with the help of field guides and online resources, the Unknown Birds folder has dwindled to a minor subset of my bird files.
I’m grateful for the urge to name what I photograph, because I’ve learned about Pied-billed Grebes and Yellow-rumped Warblers, Pine Warblers and Northern Flickers. And I want to keep learning, which perhaps makes me a birdwatcher after all.