Bird Study

Miss Elizabeth Dickens, a woman who was born on Block Island in 1877, was the last of a family that had been here since the late 1600’s.  She was also one of the first Audubon teachers in the country.  She taught Bird Study at the school.  As a result, there are generations of Block Islanders, men and women, who grew up learning about birds.  They know everything, can name every bird by sight and sound and behavior.  They know what birds eat, and when they are coming to Block Island.  It’s part of the culture, deep in the culture here on the island, to know about birds, to feed them and love them, to report on their activities as an important part of what’s going on.  It’s a wonderful thing. 

So I was visiting my friend Edie, and on the way down her driveway I passed her son Chris’ bird feeder.  I climbed into the passenger seat and rolled down the window.  The birds, (and this is usually true as long as I stay in the car), accepted my presence and allowed me to take their pictures.

I love mourning doves in particular, with their gentle cooing songs, and their subtle colors so nicely paired with a dash of turquoise, very tastefully done, to highlight their big, black eyes.  So I was happy when they flew down and even happier when this little story happened:  There were two mourning doves, sitting companionably, looking this way and that way, turning their heads in tandem, agreeing on what to observe about the world.  Another bird came down and sat between them, kind of hogging the perch from the left one a little until that one left and then the other one left, leaving the new bird alone.  I'm thinking it didn't work out like he planned.

I try to imagine what it’s like to live through eyes that see more colors, to have magnificent wings, to be able to fly and turn in the air like a ninja, to have no hands, but a beak as my only recourse, to eat worms and seeds, to have so many babies, and to be out there exposed to the elements, no matter what comes; to have a world of experience, of hunger and beauty and birth and death played out in a different kind of body with a different kind of mind.   I can only guess, but photography allows me watch more closely, and pretend that I can know something.  At least I know this, that they’re not particularly worried about the election, and I like to think that they feel their lives as deeply as I feel mine.

When I originally looked at these pictures, I was a little confused.  There were little dots everywhere and it looks like rain, but nothing is wet in the pictures and I don’t remember that it was raining.  It could be the beginning of a light drizzle or it could be pollen, but that’s a lot of pollen, but of course it was spring, so I don’t know.  In any case, I hope you like these pictures and that you can imagine with me, a little bit about the lives of these birds.


PS.  I stepped out of the house yesterday and the air smelled like roses.  This is my favorite thing at this time of year, that everything is newly green and the air smells like perfume.  It’s beautiful here.  Beautiful, beautiful.

PPS.  Bill is well, we’re doing well, getting the boat ready and moving out of the house a week from tomorrow.  I just finished making slipcovers, and next week I’m going to make a bimini and some other things for the boat.  Of course.  Some nice giant projects just before we move out.