One Small Thing

I was mildly conscious there was some danger in my solo birding trips. There always is, for a woman travelling alone.

This is a very different blog post than I usually write, but it’s what I was thinking about for much of the day. I woke up yesterday mentally exhausted, from editing and book launches and promotion and marketing and my community newsletter responsibilities and reviewing and…..just too many words. My wrists ached from typing. My eyes were dry. My creativity was missing. So I went birding instead.

Alone. I needed space and silence. I drove up to a lake about an hour north of us, and walked around a pond and then along the lakeshore, and looked at trumpeter swans and blue herons and pied-billed grebes, and the osprey overhead and the swallows chattering over the water, and listened to yellow warblers singing. I took pictures of wildflowers. I startled a white-tailed doe, and a lot of turtles. And I thought about my two solo birding trips: one a week in the High Island area of Texas; one a road trip out across the Dakotas and up into Saskatchewan.  

Luther Lake, Ontario

I was in my 50s, for both trips. In Texas I stayed in one place, and did day trips to the local wildlife refuges. On the road trip, except for three nights at Grasslands National Park, I moved every day. I drove back roads; I stopped at ponds and potholes and rivers; I hiked into prairie. I had no phone reception, much of the time, and anyhow, my husband was in Peru when I was in Texas, and in Papua New Guinea when I was on the road trip.

Nighthawk roosting, Grasslands National Park, Saskatchewan

I was mildly conscious there was some danger in what I was doing. There always is, for a woman travelling alone. I was always alert; not on edge, but alert. Once or twice I returned to my car earlier than I’d planned, because something made me nervous: a pickup truck stopping, its driver watching me, that sort of thing. Once or twice I didn’t stop at a location I’d meant to, because who was already there concerned me.

Then this week I read stories from birders who are black, men and women, about their experiences in the field: about the suspicion they often are met with. How they are watched, and sometimes followed, and challenged. How having the police called can so easily outweigh the pleasure of birding. What are they doing, with those binoculars or spotting scope or camera?

I thought about the slight extra alertness I had on those trips, and the few times I listened to instinct and didn’t bird. What if every day was like that? How many challenges or scrutiny would it take to stop me birding entirely? How much fear?  I think of the joy and delight birding has brought me in the fifty years I’ve been consciously doing it, and what I would have lost if I’d been driven away from it.

Racism mars lives – destroys lives – in worse ways, without a doubt. But the scream of an osprey or the chatter of tree swallows – and the ability to stop and watch and listen– should belong to everyone. I am doing my best to simply listen to and learn from the voices calling (again) for change, because I know much of what is behind these valid and overdue demands is outside of my experience. But this one small thing isn’t.

I don’t know, yet, how – or if – I can help bring about change. But I can ask how. I can try. That’s what I thought about today, while the yellow warblers sang.

Catching Up

“Retirement” still seems to involve twelve-hour days.

Posts have been few and far between recently….my apologies.  Here’s why.  I’ve just finished printing and framing twelve new versions of graphic prints, to be included in atepsave1 cutout351 display of eighteen of my works that I’m hanging next Wednesday.  I also completed Empire’s Hostage, Book II of the Empire’s Legacy Series, this week, prepped the files for printing, and sent them off – just waiting now to get the first proof edition. cover ebook under 2MB smaller This was also the last week of the on-line university course I’ve been taking, on the landscape archaeology of Britain…and then there’s been the community newsletter, the community herb garden, retirement parties to attend, books to edit, the kitchen cabinets to prep for painting (next week!), and all those little things – like grocery shopping and meal prep and time with friends – in-between.

“Retirement” still seems to involve twelve-hour days – I’m usually started on the day’s work a bit after 7 a.m…..and it generally continues on to about 7 p.m.  I’m still fairly reliant on my on-line calendar to remind me what’s next to be done. The huge difference is that I’m doing exactly what I want to, most of the time, and an hour-long bike ride to pick up my library books and a liter of paint is multi-tasking – exercise and errands in one – but it’s FUN.  And if I feel like taking a day (or more) off, there’s no-one to tell me I can’t, or shouldn’t…hence our week in Cape Cod and the White Mountains at the beginning of the month, a fairly last-minute decision. (But if we were ever going to see Bicknell’s Thrush, it had to be done. I’m pleased to say we were successful.)

I’m going to drop the pace for a few weeks, though: it is, after all, summer.  There are outdoor concerts to attend (weather permitting, in  changeable and stormy Ontario this year), books to read….and cupboards to paint. I need a break before I start writing Empire’s Exile, Book III, plus there are a few other projects that have been on the back burner…and in the fall I start a new university course that will help with the background for Exile.  I will, of course, keep everyone updated on the release and promotions for Empire’s Hostage, but also, I hope, some other posts…I miss it!

To my Canadian readers, have a safe and fun Canada Day weekend, remembering that Canada 150 is also Turtle Island 15,000. We have a lot to celebrate, some things not to, and a lot of work to do.  Happy July 4th to my US readers: stay safe:  Nolite te bastardes carborundorum; and to the rest of the world, whatever season it is, enjoy!