Saturday, March 12, 2011

Lost and Found

Into the vessel of time is poured event. Sounds heavy, but it's merely me sitting in a Dunkin' Donuts with a hot chocolate and a doughnut, writing coffee-shop faux wisdom as the hot chocolate and the doughnut slowly lose volume and mass, and I slowly gain it.

We have lost an hour. Careless of us. I'm trying to think where I last saw it. I definitely had it yesterday afternoon when I went out to Rock Meadow in Belmont. I was resuming my search for red-winged blackbirds—except this time there was no doubt I'd find them. They've been pretty well established, by all accounts, for at least two weeks. Still, putting the stamp on the corresponding photo is pretty gratifying, even if it's expected.

There was an array of them in the wetland that crossed the meadow, ringing like telephones, mostly unseen, but a few occupying places high in the bare treetops. I focused on one, flaring its fiery red epaulette in a semaphore designed to carry long distances. Nearby, posing for the same home movie, was a grackle, iridescent cousin in the blackbird family tree. They'd made the trip from somewhere south, maybe not far, maybe the Chesapeake. The vanguard of the vagabonds.

Sprig was becoming more nasal, more energized. Spri(n)g: you could almost hear the n. I walked the paths, the boardwalk, the back trail, looping through the little woods. It was less muddy than I expected and mostly snow-free except for strange broad patches of snow with that mushy, Italian-ice consistency. Why do they resist? Something to do with tree shadows? Angle of land surface? There were also in the grass small blebs of something like dumped ice shavings, in obvious, "What a world! What a world!" decline, looking quaint and sad.

Walking back to the main path, pausing at McLean Creek, I became dimly aware of a warble in the background, among the ringing telephones. I didn't take special notice of it. Then my ears sent my brain a text query: Isn't that a bluebird? And my brain produced a reasonable memory of the warble and agreed: Yes, I believe it is! Upon which, in high alert and excitement, ears, brain, and the rest of me stalked the elusive bird, which, obeying the law of demonstration in reverse proportion to desire, refused to sing. And then there was a flutter to my left and yes, it was a bluebird, swerving into a no-place-to-hide treetop.

It was turned slightly away from me, gray as driftwood above and pale rust below. Probably a female, unless the light was turning blue to gray. It was an airy sight, something of the sky, or "Hope is the thing with feathers." It was a solitary reminder—before the buzz of the May migration—that birds are the air folk. Their songs are snatches of wind. They navigate air currents with the ease of inhabitants. Take a temporary rest or longer stay in trees (the oriole nest still hung, nodding, from its branch-end). Are solid but light as balsa, whether wren or great gray owl. To be at home in the air does not explain everything, but it's worth remembering.

The bluebird dropped down in the tree and eluded my binoculars. I had other offers. Robins presenting their availability in branch-owning poses. A Carolina wren at the back edge of the communal garden, invisible as usual, but singing an exact, bird-book teakettle teakettle teakettle teakettle, somewhere nearby, and soon distancing itself from my cloddish, earth-bound prying.

I got back in my car. I went shopping. I went home. We had supper. We watched "Fargo," including the Bonus Features. At some point Carol turned several clocks back one hour. Aha. That was probably when it happened. The lost hour.

Maybe I will put up flyers in the neighborhood.

Hopefully, in Rock Meadow we will put up fliers in bluebird houses.

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