Sunday, March 6, 2011

To Thank a Mockingbird

Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland was both a challenge and a privilege. As an only child I thought my existence full of many more challenges than privileges and now as an aged character in my own story I see the foolishness of my thinking. I have a mockingbird to thank for helping me look back fondly on a past I likened to incarceration.

For much of my youth my walls were untouched forested acres and low-lying marshes that bled into tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. I was on a "tight leash" that extended only as far as my legs would carry me before tiring out. Occasionally I remained close to home to play but this required an agile and broad imagination. If I wanted to turn the yard into the hockey rink from Lake Placid and recreate Team USA's gold medal win I had to play all 6 positions by myself.  This Olympic even was just not very exciting... Solo expeditions out into the natural world were how I begrudgingly passed much of my spare time.

As a kid I was able to roam about before real estate development was based on greed. I was able to spy on nature without some newbie from the Western Shore telling me to stop trespassing. There was no trespassing back then. There was a freedom that offered up so much. I didn't take advantage of as much as I should have but I loved watching spiders spin their webs between trees, or foxes bury their food at the base of a log I sat atop, but the best moment (and I can only say this now) was watching a blue crab shed its shell. My tree fort was built in an old oak that extended out over the shallows of Playtors Creek. From overhead I watched the slow process of a crab sliding out of its shell. This took quite a bit of time but I was still and I was fascinated. Methinks I would go crazy trying to do that today.

Very few times since have I been able to be still and fascinated by occurrences in the natural world around me, outside of watching the Nat Geo channel. At one point in my mid 30s I sat on my mother's porch still enough to watch bugs fly through the air then watch robins catch them for breakfast. Seeing the whole process seemed to reawaken some long-dormant senses. I had not been able to sit quietly without the aid of few pints for longer than I could remember. Of course this was short lived but then I returned home last week and was able to do so once again.

A mockingbird that lives in the holly tree next to my mother's balcony has almost become a member of the family. My mother has been feeding Boo (the name she gave him) apples and blueberries for quite a while. I decided to see how close I could get to Boo and started trying to hand feed him. The difficulty of having to sit still for the required amount of time before Boo trusted me enough to eat out of my hand was almost too much to endure. I think even I started shaking at times. The end result was worth it tho. Never before had I ever thought a mockingbird to be beautiful but up close they are remarkably handsome, like movie stars in grey-flannel suits.

I enjoyed my week interacting with Boo even though the view that was once waterfront farmland now boasts new monstrosities. Sitting still and observing him was a wonderful way to pass the time while healing after some major dental work. Interacting with nature used to be a major part of my existence but now there are many factors that have lessened the opportunities. However, there are remedies. In the next few days I want to get a couple bird feeders to put outside the windows and bring whatever I can (besides squirrels) into view. I want to enjoy times of sitting still that don't require a barstool and experience the natural world that Chicago has to offer. Maybe I'll even venture out and try for a coyote sighting.

I cannot believe that I used to complain about being bored as a kid. There was so much to see and do! The adventures were right outside my windows the same as they are now. Maybe one day, and I hope it is soon, I'll get clued in to just how wonderful things actually are and how lucky I still am today...the same as I was way back then.