This morning I saw a little one all by himself, perched atop a telephone pole. It’s not all the time you get to use the word “perch” in its original, fully-realized context: “A thing on which a bird alights or roosts, typically a branch or a horizontal rod or bar in a birdcage” (Oxford). Do people still purchase birdcages with horizontal rods? Do they drape the cage each night with a creepy little curtain thing? Who are these people exactly?
So yes, back to my bird. A little dude (we’ll call him Jake) just doing his thing on a foggy Wednesday morning in Culver City. Jake had a birdsong that was more like a Girl Talk mash-up: a handful of nicely spaced chirps which gained in tempo, only to suddenly cut-off with a rapid fire bundle of pah-tweets in a miraculous falsetto. He’d pause for a moment and shoot a glance left and then right, then do it again (and again, and again).
I believe Jake is the high-energy overachieving dad to the other birds on my block - up at 4:45am, espresso machine on an auto-timer for his daily dose (almond milk cortado, thank you very much), Peloton class crushed (and posted to Strava) by 6am, then up to his daily perch just before sunrise to toot his horn. I suspect the other birds talk shit about Jake behind his back as they pluck for worms and food scraps.
Like many of you, I’ve found comfort and entertainment in unexpected places these past few months. Maybe you watch popcorn on the stovetop with mushroom trip-level fascination; maybe you fixed the flats on your old bicycle and have been cruising the neighborhood; or if you’re like me, maybe you start started watching birds. It started a few weeks ago when some shiny-blue puffin things chased a squirrel out of the tree in front of our house (the squirrel deserved it). I was in mid-conversation with my neighbor David when the battle began. It was heroic.
Since then, I’ve been completely taken by the call of the bird. Ones with stripes and others with dots. Some fat and funny looking, others radiant-yellow with sweet hair-dos. Each with their own little quirks, carrying on each day regardless of what afflicts the human race. Maybe they’ve noticed the air a bit cleaner…
Part of me doesn’t want it to end - the stillness we’ve (mostly) agreed to, the nonexistent traffic, the global hush that’s strong enough to drive us occasionally mad… but allowed us to truly open our eyes to the world just outside the front door. Then I feel guilty for thinking such a preposterous thing in light of the news and the catastrophic anguish so many people are facing. Two distinct narratives that compete for the podium inside my brain.
I have a pair of binoculars arriving next week (no, really). My girlfriend quickly drew the line with my ‘nocs purchase (“What will the neighbors think when they see you with those things?”) and she’s probably right. But I need to see my pretty birds more clearly, if only to admire something other than a computer screen for a bit. Was this the inevitable transition into older age, just sped up a bit with COVID’s time warp? Have I actually aged twenty-five years in two months?
God bless hobbies. Now if you'll excuse me, I have a birdcage to find on eBay ✌️