“The road from appearance to reality is often very hard and long, and many people make only very poor travelers. We must forgive them when they stagger against us as if against a brick wall.” —Franz Kafka

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Order of the morning


Drawing by Rachel Hoffman


Just after dawn, a squadron of magpies shoot up from the eastern sector of the sky, clear the stern peak of Dick's house, wings out in stunning formation and descend into the Bird Park, a black and white flash swirl touch down running breakfast grab, then are gone again in minutes. I like to think they wake up with the Bird Park on their minds, that it is first in the order of the morning. A bit later, two magpie return for seconds. I suspect they are the original 7 o'clock magpie and her friend. Generally, after the mob leaves, I tuck a few extra goodies in strategic out of the way places. They know where to look. But that's it. You may remember my neighbor Dwayne said he saw magpies eating quail babies. He ought to know. His giant, weeping Indian willow houses families. Must protect the babies so I had to revoke the magpie/crow all day pass. It's morning peanuts then they gotta go.

Soon after they leave, the starlings arrive. Then the pigeons. Then the sparrows and finches. The mild-mannered, yellow-breasted sparrows hit the yellow thistle seed sack in Quail Town over by Old Man Hills. They can pack a sack 15 deep without ruffling a feather. Share and share alike. However, fights are always breaking out among the finches in the main sector. They go for the sunflower seeds and, although there's plenty for all, constantly disagree over who eats where. They even argue standing knee deep in the very cool seed trough hanging from the fence. Trough. It's a trough of seeds. No one guy can cover the whole thing still they stop eating to run each other off.

There are the individual finches who come at off times to nibble and gaze over the park like genteel patron frequenting sidewalk cafes in the Champs Elysées afternoon. They are among my favorites and remind me of the little Buddha Bird who came here for a couple of summers. Just watching them, I feel peaceful. They enjoy the place as it's meant to be, a time out from hard scrabble, a haven of food and water, peace and quiet. Of course, even here there are predators but that's the irony of eden, isn't it? The occasional cat does appear, mainly Dwayne's drinking buddy, Clarence the Bastard, who is far too feeble to do more than reminisce. And the hawk. There is a hawk although, for the most part, he is stealth and, but for the strike, unobtrusive. Plus, he focuses mainly on Dwayne's.

Finally, last to arrival, the quail. They start the day at Dwayne's but hop up then down the fence later in the morning. They prefer almost anything to flying. They come after things are rolling, after the finch and sparrows have littered the ground with sunflower seed crumbs. Recently, at the urging of M. Lee, I started putting chick scratch out for the quail, in secret places of course, mainly Old Man Hills and under the lilac bushes, one of their favorite haunts in summer. I don't want the pigeons catching on so it has to be on the downlow. Don't get me wrong. I still love the pigeons. Did I already mention that they are members of the dove family? In good standing. Birds of peace. But...well, they are kind of huge in this small neighborhood and, not everyone shares my enlightened view, so nothing special for them although the little birds spill enough for everybody. And the pigeons dearly love cold tubbing so I make sure that there is water in the baths.

I'm trying out a tasty peanut replacement for the magpies, bite size dog treats. I'm running out of peanuts, thanks to the greedy asshole Stewart Parnell. His cue, Charlie the Town Crier showed up. The loudmouth. First crow of the winter. I'd know him anywhere, cigar dangling from his beak, wearing the Unrestricted Press Pass I immediately regretted a day after issuing it. He had plenty to say about Parnell, none of it good. Ever hear a crow swear? Oh and this year, a pair of robins joined us, probably down from Tahoe. I love robins. Two. Seems robins, once the unflappable auguries of spring, are also suffering under the boot of human sprawl and growing scarce so I'm delighted they are here.


But about the peanuts. Since the greedy idiot criminal asshole Stewart Parnell, president of Peanut Corp., and his morally bankrupt idiot drone plant manager, Sammy Lightsey, choose profit over honor and integrity, and ordered their salmonella infected nuts, "turned loose" on America, I can't find whole peanuts at a decent price anywhere! These unscrupulous dingbats, at the urging of company executives, even begged the USDA for permission to continue shipping peanuts after salmonella was discovered. People and animals died and they want "business as usual?" Now, my supply of safe peanuts for the magpies is dangerously low. In fact, it is very nearly gone. WTF, Stewart!?! I hate that guy. Money is NOT the bottom line, Stewaaaaart. And I can't find any my peanut butter Kashi TLC bars anywhere. WTdoubleF!?

Anyway, top o' the mornin or afternoon or whatever time of day it is to ya.




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