On a sunny day in early spring when the warmth is welcome, and the fresh air is too (having being trapped in the house for weeks), you sit on your deck in a chair. You sit there and do nothing–well, not exactly nothing. You listen to the birds, counting the number of sounds added to a bird’s trill each time it repeats its song. Six. Eight. Ten. Twelve. Comparing the different calls that mimic laughter, a frantic high-pitched giggle, a low-rumbling guffaw. Reflecting on why that screeching noise is so delightfully irritating. Wondering if that bzzzzzzz is a bird or a saw. Marveling at the magnificence of these birds. Sit. Stare. Do nothing for at least 20 minutes or until the shadow from the house chills the deck. Go inside. Write about these birds without turning them into metaphor or messengers or saviors. Craft a poem in which the birds get to do nothing.*
*See February’s Birds for more on what inspired this exercise.
from a deck do nothing on april 17, 2020:
from april 25, 2020
Be nice/Fuck you
Hey there!/What’s up?
Dumb luck/Hard work
A Collaboration with Scott/Room 34?
This morning (april 28), Scott recorded the 2 birds, figured out the notes they were playing, and then experimented with them on his keyboard. I’m hoping that we might be able to collaborate on a song/poem project here?!
The “Subway/Eat Fresh” calls are B-A, G#-F#. The full range of notes I used are E, F#, G#, A B. I said it’s B mixolydian, but it does kind of feel like E is maybe the root, in which case it’s E major. (B mixolydian and E major have the same set of notes… the ones in the scale that I didn’t use are C# and D#.)Scott/Room 34’s explanation
additional note: this call is made by a male black-capped chickadee
Here’s a draft of a poem I wrote inspired by the chickadee call, which is also known as the “feeble” song:
Calling Phoebe/ Sara Lynne Puotinen
Absent, empty. Hiding inside.
Let’s do nothing—slow down,
down size. Repent, remake,
rethink, reprise. Break out.
Break up. Destroy. Cut ties.
Hello? Hello? Hello? Listen.
Breathe deep. Be wise. Uncoil, unwind.
Loosen tight jaws.
Relax tired eyes.
Sink in. Shut down.
A Big Woodpecker Sighting, 8 may 2020
Sitting on the deck in the afternoon with my son, we hear a screeching noise that could be a squirrel or a bluejay (at least I think so) or a woodpecker. I can’t see with my cone dystrophy, but my son is able to spot the noisemaker (the obstreperous one)–a BIG woodpecker. It flies closer, to the tree by our garage, and I can see it too. Then it flies over our heads, closer than I’d like, and I exclaim, “Oh!,” which makes my son laugh and gives us a good memory to keep and use against all the bad memories of escalating deaths and failing governments and impending new world orders. Once inside, my son is able to identify it for me on the all about birds site: a Pileated Woodpecker.
The Pileated Woodpecker is back, 11 may 2020
Sitting on the sunny deck just after noon today, I heard the distinctive cry of the pileated woodpecker. It was across the alley on top of a neighbor’s pile of discarded wood. I hid behind a tree at the edge of my deck, watching it peck peck peck for about 20 minutes. It pecked slowly and loudly and seemed unbothered by cars or dogs or people passing by. Wow!
Birds I Can Confidently Identify, 13 may 2020
For whatever reason, identifying bird sounds (or plants or trees), is not something that comes easily to me. Slowly–5 years? 10 years? more?–I might be able to identify most of the birds around me. For now, I’m happy that I’m adding a few more sounds this year:
- Pileated Woodpecker (call + drumming)
- Northern Cardinal (common song: birdie, birdie, birdie + pew, pew, pew call)
- Male Black-capped chickadee ( fee bee song + the chickadeedeedee call)
- American Robin (cheerily, cheer up song)