The Chattering Classes
It has been a remarkable morning inside the property lines of the Crooked 9 even though the temperature outside is an unpleasantly frigid -18. There’s a party going on in the backyard, about 10 feet above the two feet of accumulated snow. A massive, noisy flock of Bohemian waxwings are feasting on the frozen mountain ash berries and wizened crab apples that dangle above the rotted, collapsing back fence.
Birds have come to fascinate me these past four or five years. They are beautiful creatures, elegantly designed. The many, many species seem to work well together amongst themselves, as if the pairs or flocks constitute one collective brain. The nearby river valley provides a rich habitat for all sorts of singers and I am curious about my world, what’s wafting on the ether.
I’ve moved Ann’s late father’s bird books up from the basement and shelved them by the backdoor where the windows are. I did download the Cornell University Merlin bird app to my iPad, but when I want to learn more about a subject I’m inclined to reach for a book, old school. Ann’s dad told her that after he died he intended to come back as a woodpecker. And doesn’t a proud pileated woodpecker hang around the Crooked 9 in the late fall or early winter, tock-tock-tocking on the birch trees and back alley telephone poles. I lost my faith a long time ago because of science and customer dissatisfaction and yet I still give up hope for Lent every year, old habits. However, the constant kah-kah-kahing of a big bird with a crimson punk crest makes me wonder about the nature of existence and the nature of stardust motes in the cosmos.
At this time of year Bohemian waxwings are preparing to migrate north to a scrubby band of
which lies between the
boreal forest and the Arctic tundra. They’re leaving town to nest and mate,
ceding their Canada Edmonton turf to incoming geese.
Nature knows spring is here even if humans are shivering beneath a blue sky and
high yellow sun. Canada
There was a strange magic in our frozen world earlier this morning. Said flock of waxwings, at least a hundred birds with enviable rock ‘n’ roll haircuts, swirled and swarmed from our neighbour’s towering willow tree and alit on an overgrown and under-pruned bush by our front walk, landscape scraggle growth we neglect for privacy purposes. Ann and I were outside, transfixed five feet away, unable to puff on our cigarettes. For a moment there was stillness and silence, nothing else existed, nothing else ever had.