Category Archives: Birds

The Swan

“Mr. Fister,[*] Cindy wants a swan!”

“Well,” said Fister, looking directly at my face and smiling the way animals do when issuing some imminent threat, “then she can ask for one.”

The exchange was a surprise; I was hovering in the doorway of the school’s Hospitality class waiting for Dolly so we could walk home.

I was not angling for a swan, one of dozens of confectionary creations made that afternoon by the class for parents’ night.

I did not want a swan. I did not want to ask for a swan. The swans looked chalky to me, dry and especially pathetic. They looked like uneven, bottom-heavy worms that tapered upwards into a vague S-shape with two dark sprinkles for eyes and a gob of icing for a beak.

They looked like hell.

Dolly looked at me expectedly. Mr. Fister tucked his small teeth under the greying hair of his handlebar mustache.

Hell is.

“Mr. Fister, can I have a swan?”

Mr. Fister watched as I reluctantly plucked a swan at random; one from among the demented flock before me. That was probably the worst part: that despite everything, I had also brought this on myself.

I took one bite: I was right. It was chalky, dry. It tasted like stale, hollowed-out bread. And something else, far more distasteful…

The incident remains largely forgotten in my daily life. But sometimes, when I encounter ugly birds or badly-executed desserts or unseemly, overbearing men, or when Dolly again does something that particularly annoys, I remember that foul-tasting little swan, the only innocent among the four of us that day.



[*] Was “Fister” even his real name? If it ever mattered, it doesn’t now.



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Filed under Birds, Education, Family, People, School, THE PAST

Wayward Birds

Who now?

I have a friend who went to ornithology camp.


Bird Camp.

Do you know what they do at bird camp?

They set up great big nets in the sky, between tall, sturdy trees, nets like immense spiders’ webs; strong but gentle, and catch birds. They do that so that they can tag the birds, count, measure and weigh them.

But why?

For science.

How, exactly?

They use used (well, used up) toilet paper rolls and paper towel rolls to hold the birds – the nuthatches and swallows and the occasional indigo bunting – to keep them still and calm and immobilized. Very science.

And did you know, though, what they use to hold the big birds? The hawks and harriers and the occasional owl? Bird nerds need to bind the big birds, those big birds, too.

Pringles containers.

Imagine that. And also the places they had go.

Where then?

Imagine, (see it now), bird nerds descending on Costco or Walmart or 7-11 or Shoppers to buy Pringles – sour cream and onion, salt and vinegar, barbeque – and eating the chips or not eating the chips just to have someplace to put a wayward falcon.

Imagine wayward falcons.

I sometimes wonder what that’s like: to love something, not someone, that much. To make that extra effort, just to see it through.

To let something define you, if not wholly, but indelibly somehow, so that it sticks with you even as you go on with the rest of your life. And then you tell someone else about it.

Can you imagine that? I’d like to think I can.

I’d like to think I can.





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Filed under Animals, Birds, Friends

For The Birds

A family of robins moved into my yard. Two adults, two fat fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

The fledglings eat constantly, and it is a wonder how many worms the adults manage to find to feed them day after day after day.

I was thrilled at first. These delightful visitors, my guests, evidence of life happening!

And then the lawn furniture. The patio, the spot under the tree where I like to read.

Bombarded. Destroyed with the collective birdshit of two adults, two fledglings, one just a little fatter than the other.

That fat little bastard, who eats all the worms then perches over my spot, more than seems necessary.

Do you see me, little bird? Can you see me watching you? I know what you are doing. I see you.

Fat Bastard Bird

So it occurs to me that the robins have perhaps worn out their welcome. They have turned theory into practice and ruined it with consequence.

And of course, they haven’t done anything.

They are birds.

That is what I tell myself now, because I can.

Shit happens.

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Filed under Animals, Birds, Emotion, Hobbies