FMM 5 5 2023 The birds and the trees

“I have forgotten much, but still remember
The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.” ~ Claude McKay.

Memory is a funny thing.  You never know what will trigger recall of a place, an event, people, even an emotion.  It seems as if the memories are richer, fuller, when they occur spontaneously.  If you set out to remember what life was like for you when you were ten years old the memories will be forced, and you won’t know if they are true.  But perhaps the smell of nutmeg, or the sound of a long forgotten song, and those feelings will rush in on a stream of consciousness. 

Leave it to the poets to deliver a message packed full of memories, like the one quoted above.  Claude McKay comforted himself, when living in the cold climes of the USA, by listing his childhood memories of Jamaica.   Who cannot identify with the line: ‘I have forgotten much”?   For me the memories were triggered by the sound of the breeze blowing through leaves, sounding for all the world like rain.  When I was a teenager, my bedroom window was next to a cane piece.  When that breeze started blowing through the stalks of cane you would have to check to see if it was rain or not.  Then again, in the country, you would usually know when it was going to rain, it didn’t sneak up unannounced.  Those clouds would softly gather in a clear blue sky, coming together to make huge cumulus clouds that would darken, and threaten, and you would smell the rain coming.  And then.  If you were lucky you were somewhere where you could snuggle under the bedclothes listening to gigantic rain drops pounding on the zinc roof; thunder rolling around in a sky as dark as night.  I have forgotten much.

This week, my Spring break, I have been traveling, and have been blessed to visit places far more rural than my own home base.  The joy of visiting rural settings is the proximity to nature in abundance, even if it is just in a vacant tree-filled lot behind a home, or even better, if you are staying in a home that is nestled on a hillside on a ten-acre wooded lot in Tennessee.  When your childhood was spent in the heart of mountainous Jamaica; when your ancestors come from the steep, grey mountains of North Wales and you end up living in the flatlands of South Florida, the joy of seeing rolling hills cannot be expressed. 

One morning in Georgia I was entertained by a red-breasted American robin (far larger, more rust colored than the English robin) who paraded around, posing for me, giving me ample opportunities for photos.  I posted a video of him (or her, what do I know?), and a bird-loving friend commented that the single piercing chirp he made was a distress call. He didn’t look distressed to me, flying here and there, then pausing for the photo op.  He posed with a worm between his beak, than he and his partner posed, still with the occasional piercing call.  It wasn’t until I saw one of them swoop below the patio roof where I was sitting that I realized there was a nest snuggled at the top of a column, and inside I could hear some babies chirping.  The robin was indeed alarmed by me, and rather than egotistically posing for the paparazzi, he was warning me away from his family!

Up in my temporary tree-home, a welcoming Air BnB nestled amid tall trees, there are hosts of birds that entertain with trills and warbles and calls.  I recall hearing that we can know the health of the environment by the presence of the birds, for they need a healthy environment to thrive.  If this place is an indication, it would seem we are ok. But then again I am sure if I spoke to natives of the area, they would tell me that the numbers are dwindling, and experts can let us know how many species are lost due to climate change and overdevelopment.

Visiting in the Springtime, the trees are covered in life-affirming fresh green leaves, that provide perfect cover to the multi-talented birds, so my camera has not been able to capture and identify the songbirds.  I found a You-tube video that highlighted nine possibilities.  They use the spectrograph to draw the sound each bird makes to help you identify and associate the image with the song.  Apparently the brain remembers better when it has a visual along with the sound.  So perhaps I heard a Carolina wren.  The others were harder to name.

Two tiny humming birds hovered and dipped their beaks into a geranium plant on the deck of the home.  These were not the jewel-toned beauties I remember from Jamaica (the Doctor bird with its long coat tails and emerald green chest is larger and far more elegant); but they were fascinating with their whirring wings and ability to stay suspended in mid-air.  Instead of settling for a photo shot through the window on my phone I ambitiously grabbed the long lens camera and snuck outside only to find them gone.  A poor quality photo in the bush is better than two who have flitted away.

The act of being still, of absorbing the sights and sounds of nature, of practicing the patience of birdwatchers is very restorative.  I recall a trip to Newcastle, Jamaica when I was a teenager.  There, nestled halfway up the Blue Mountains, up above the hot plains, we walked through the woods and saw wild flowers, heard strange bird calls, and felt removed from the every day demands of life.  I have forgotten much.

This Friday morning as I enjoy this trip away from home, I know that I am blessed to have these opportunities.  I long for a world where everyone has the chance to take a break from their normal routine and get a chance to see another point of view.  I hope that we can find a way to make the world a more equitable place, and also work together for the good of the planet, so that more species are not lost to climate change.  And if we should live up in the hills (one of my favorite Burning Spear songs), perhaps then we would have a better perspective on life, but we would definitely be in better shape.  Climbing up those steep hills builds more than character.

Have a wonderful weekend, Family!

One Love!



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