Corvids are the largest passerines

We've made it through another mass of time, together in our separateness. Poetically and otherwise, here are some things that are getting me through. I hope they'll provide some kind of nurturing soothing sensation for you too.

Oak galls and old trees

We held Other People's Poems on our webcams last month and we'll do it again tomorrow (reply to me for the link if you want to join one of my favorite monthly celebrations of words). I recited two poems that I found via various internet perigrinations, both of which feel very Of This Moment without being written for it. The first was Wendell Berry's "Stay Home," which would've been perfect for the title if nothing else even. (And I'm pleased to find it quoted in full in a 33-year-old event writeup from our beloved local independent paper, the Chicago Reader.) But it's a lovely, lively short piece about enmeshing yourself in nature. The old trees that move only with the wind and then with gravity are my favorite; I can almost visualize them sinking back into the earth, becoming loam.

And then I memorized another poem with trees in it, Stephanie Burt's "Advice from Rock Creek Park," because I find its opening lines oddly life-affirming in the sorta-Buddhist way of accepting the connection between all things. I like the oak galls because "gall" is a funny word for a feeling or a body part or a lumpy infection on a plant where a wasp laid eggs in it. And I find the ending a cryptically supportive reminder that people and nature rising up against ineffective and cruel leaders will always have the edge.

Japanese craft Youtubes

These are such a balm to watch. I love seeing people do small things with their hands with great care. Even better when there's barely any voiceover.

Birds as life and metaphor; bird information as unintended poetry

During the walks that are my chief form of entertainment and connection to the outside world, I've been paying increasing attention to birds. I picked up somewhere that the biological order of animals that includes perching birds is called "passerines." I feel a deep affection and wonder for this word; it just sounds and looks so pleasantly correct for what it is. And the birds are coming back earlier and more bravely into the world of less car traffic and quieter streets. A robin is building a nest in our front porch light. Crows and grackles line the rooftops on my dog walk route as a red-headed woodpecker goes to town on the catalpa tree at the corner.

A bird is a metaphor (for freedom, wonder, escape) and a bird is itself (each individual pigeon, goldfinch, heron, or horrible goose). I like the way birds tilt their heads and seem to consider your presence sometimes; I like knowing that corvids (the largest class of passerines) use tools and solve puzzles. Reading a birding guide I picked up at Open Books on impulse years back, I'm struck by the lyric quality of birding terms. Certain patterns of their sounds are called "scolding" or "flight calls" or "contact calls" and then the sounds that birders make to tempt them into view are called "pishing." And of course there are their names, in all their yellow-bellied, red-headed, full-throated pageantry.

All I am really trying to say about the birds is that they are a way, for me, of paying attention to the fact of being present in a given moment. To its suchness, which I think I stole from Pema Chodron.

Anyway, I hope you find a bird and listen to it. I hope you're well. I hope we all come out of this wiser and kinder to ourselves and all around us. Write me anything anytime.


PS - I'll be putting out a zine next weekend that I'm really excited about. I'm probably going to forget to write another email about it, so I guess follow me on Twitter and watch for details there. Sorry for encouraging you to be on one of earth's terrible social websites for any reason.