The birds are out and singing. The weather is a yoyo. Thirty-degree swings, rain and snow, sun and wind. Video of pelican diving into turquoise ocean. Livecam of great horned owl in Georgia, its egg about to hatch.
This morning, wind and snow, but the sky contains a brightness. A squirrel spent the other day trying to squeeze behind the roof of the porch, slivers of white-painted wood everywhere. My seed orders starting to arrive in the mail. Cranberry beans from Salt Spring Island, the envelope slit open en route, mail carrier likely walking around with a few red beans in his bag, beans returned to their home on this side of the continent, and who knows, maybe the mail guy’s a gardener.
While brushing my teeth the other morning, I watched a squirrel carry a slice of bread up a tree. The bread dropped and got caught in branches too light to hold the squirrel’s weight. Quite the conundrum. There are baked goods all over the neighbourhood. The dog yearns for them. Oh to lick the peanut butter off a mouldy square of toast. There was a night at the start of the year when she found a pork rib in the park while I was staring up at the way the streetlight made the humid air visible. Chewing on that rib so gingerly, looking at me, expecting an end to the good times.
~ That summer’s birdcalls were new to you. The guidebook’s useless English syllables: Drink your tea, Oh sweet canada canada canada. You played your recordings for bird people and non-bird people, stalked the songs in your dreams, found the tones between keys on the piano. One weekend there were men across the lake straddling bikes, buffing chrome, squirting lighter fluid on nightfall. In the morning, walking through trailers and bikes and “Duke of Earl” on a loudspeaker, your gaze thrown metres—eons—up the road, you remembered that the birds are right to hide from you. The beat of your shoes on gravel, on asphalt, on sand. The horses you couldn’t hear over the revving showing ribs. The killdeer. The deer deer. The wild carrot blooming. The wild grape. The other society up in the trees as you sat down alone at your table. ~
The white-throated sparrows are changing their tune, and why wouldn’t they. Birds alter their calls to be heard over the gas-powered roar of our age. In the early days of pandemic, they didn’t have to yell as loudly.
One thing I find hard about living in cities, or these days just in the vicinity of other humans: the perpetual engine rumble, the vents, the construction site, the highway traffic, the Anthropocenic underpinnings that say so much about this era. For certain of us, that loudness is the goal. It’s a symbol of power.
On the great horned owl cam some kind of saw fires up.
I type these words to a chorus of snowblowers.
~ Cars on the overpass, a drum with no beat, just frequency, spraying detritus over the barricades, each stroke presumed individual. The freeway held above the neighbourhood like a trophy. Small yellow leaves swarming in side-road gusts. Walking the sidewalks of an old suburb I do not know, googling how to make pysanka dye out of all these black walnuts, sidewalks on one side of the street, a childhood jack-o’-lantern neighbourhood, the clouds frightening and rapid, low and sudden, tall branches whipping, cars profuse along the thoroughfare, a drone that forms in the south maybe, the on-ramps— how the ear must have it start somewhere— ~
Last spring, I volunteered to go stand beside some standing water at the edge of town and listen for the western chorus frog. The survey, funnily enough, wound up getting caught in the net of last spring’s lockdown restrictions, no trips allowed for anything but to buy essentials, the province trying to insist that the cops could stop anyone they thought might be doing otherwise, and the survey not wanting to endanger any volunteers.
For a time, though, I was able to get out to that marshy spot in the tall grass near the airstrip. Wind. Red-winged blackbirds.
For days on end, I didn’t hear any frogs at all. But then, one day, I did.
(Poem excerpts from Fast Commute, coming next month. “That summer’s birdcalls were new to you…” originally appeared in The VIDA Review.)