Tag Archives: Henry David Thoreau

Window Ornithology

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Wagner’s birdseed with black oil sunflower seeds, peanuts and cracked corn boasts that it will attract the widest variety of birds.  I believe it.   Dark-eyed juncos, tufted titmice, Northern Cardinals, Starlings, and House Sparrows.  House Finches, Nuthatches, Chickadees – A and I  have an ongoing conversation about whether these are Black-capped Chickadees or Carolina Chickadees.  And an occasional visit from Blue Jays – whom I love regardless of their less than popular ways- Downy Woodpeckers and even a Red-Bellied Woodpecker.  They are all fluttering about our feeders in the morning and at noon, which often delays the start of our gathering for morning school work, and prolongs our lunchtime.

But the ones who have surprised me the most are the Robins.

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They are still hanging around.  I guess I was not aware that not all these harbingers of spring migrate each year to warmer climates.  They are certainly appreciative of the bright red berries on the Green Hawthorn(?) tree outside our sun room.  All these grainy, poorly focused photos were taken with my phone through the window.  All those berries were gulped down by about fifteen Robins in one day!

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Scanning the internet for bird quotes, I alighted upon this one.

The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.

-Eric Berne

How would you even mistake a jay for a sparrow? I realize I do not have a a context for this quote; I randomly pulled it from Goodreads, but I don’t really agree. Neither would Vladimir Nabokov.  A likely apocryphal story has a Cornell University student seeking advice as a writer.

“What kind of tree is that?” Nabokov supposedly inquired, gesturing out the window.

“I don’t know,” shrugged the student.

“Then you will never be a writer.” returned Nabokov discouragingly.

Perhaps he meant to say that details are important.  The more we know something, the more we have the capacity to love it.

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All day the sun has shone on the surface of some savage swamp, where the single spruce stands hung with usnea lichens, and small hawks circulate above, and the chickadee lisps amid the evergreens, and the partridge and rabbit skulk beneath; but now a more dismal arid fitting day dawns, and a different race of creatures awakes to express the meaning of Nature there.

-Henry David Thoreau, from Walden

 

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Whether flitting about the feeder, scratching on the ground or taking shelter in the bushes, I take great delight in the presence of all the birds.  I love all their markings, crests and patterns.  My children have picked up on feeding patterns and seed preferences. We are even able to predict at what time of day our favorite feathered friends will appear.  Each of us has our own favorites. We are cultivating friendships, and there is something joyous about providing for them.

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

-Matthew 6:26-27

 

Jealous of Thoreau

I am jealous of Henry David Thoreau.  Yes, I do know he is deceased, but I cannot help it.  I am still jealous.

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After reading several chapters of My Side of the Mountain, a story of a New York boy who decides to live out on his own in the Catskills, A is doing some preliminary reading on Thoreau.  As he  is starting to do some research for his eventual essay, I began to re-read bits of Walden, various quotes from other sources and came upon this –

I think I cannot preserve my health  and spirits unless I spend four hours a day…sauntering through the woods and over the hills and fields, absolutely free from all worldly engagements.”

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Exactly!  If I could just spend half my waking hours away from all people, I would be replenished and peaceful.  I could handle the rest of the day.  This is fairly close to how I spent some of my time in my 20s.  It was glorious.  I was a Thoreau in a city park.  Now, I am a mom of three boys with scarcely a moment to myself.  Mr. Thoreau, my spirits are failing, but a hibernation to Walden Pond  seems impossible.  Four hours a day?  Four consecutive minutes seems a stretch.

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Given the opportunity I would not change my life, but am I the only one who complains about what I do have?  The children are needy.  Life, at times, seems tedious, and I can be easily preoccupied.  My schedule is crowded.  The house constantly needs attention.  Mr. Thoreau, how do I carry with me the quietude of the forest?

 Beautiful, beautiful day!

Mr. Thoreau, I think I may be talking to the wrong person.

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Jesus was constantly surrounded by people.  They were always following him and grabbing for him.  They were needy and insensitive.  He had a great deal he wanted to accomplish in any given day.  Did he get distracted?  He was often side-tracked by the crowds.  He was never able to spend four hours a day sauntering anywhere.  And yet his “health and spirits” always seemed strong.  Even in fatigue he never lost his temper; his compassion and vision for people never faded.  He had the eyes and heart of God.  He had an insatiable desire to spend time with his father.  He pulled away.  Even for a moment.  Often times a moment was all he was afforded.  Yet it was enough.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.  But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”  Luke 5:15-16

"I am so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers!"  -L.M. Montgomery

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.”  Mark 1:35

Jesus, teach me to pray.  And let it be enough.