It’s funny how we wait for the New Year to
start fresh when a new year could start at any moment. People across the world don’t even agree on when a new year starts. If you’re Julius Caesar you could just randomly decide to shove it up a couple months. Even the time of day is an arbitrary convention. We start a day at midnight but we used to start it at noon and there’s really nothing wrong with 3:18 either. Beer-thirty is as precise as we get around here, and even that has been creeping earlier and earlier during the pandemic.
But people do love the idea of a clean sheet to write on. We want to be able to count down to a moment everything can change. Back in the dark ages when I used to write longhand on a legal pad, I had entire paragraphs squashed into the margins and circles around things with arrows pointing to where they really ought to go and cross-outs and underlined bits in boxes tagged with their ultimate destinations, and then I’d sort it all out on a typewriter when I was done. A clean sheet meant little to me. All my stuff was on the marked-up sheet. I wanted every word of it and I could rassle it into shape later. I feel that way about life too. I’m not going to start over; I want to pull all those good bits out of the margins and figure out what order they go in, and what I should cross out, and there’s always room to come up with more.
Still, you get a year everyone agrees is truly a crappy year, we’re all ready to crumple up the paper and pitch it at the can, and maybe set fire to it first. So that’s what we’re going to do. Now what?
That’s when we really need to pay attention to the truth: that a new year starts every second. And that’s good news, because a lot can happen in a second.
I got the only Christmas gift I’d specifically asked for. I wanted to be able to feed Studley a Christmas worm. He doesn’t show up every day. But on Christmas morning that angel came in from on high and chikketed at me from the window, and popped around to the back door for his worm. Studley Windowson was special to me even before he demonstrated that he knew me personally and was willing to land on me (and my friends) for larvae. That was because I could pick him out from all the other chickadees. The others are every bit as worthy, but only Studley is missing two toes on his left foot. And caring about Studley leads to caring about his kids, and his food, and the native plants his food lives on, and his whole, world-wide web.
Last week I was looking at lesser goldfinches on the feeder. They’re flockers. Six years ago I didn’t even know they were a thing, and now I recognize them as among my most common visitors. I know the sounds they make and I know how incessantly and adorably they make them. The other day I noticed one of them had a white spot on her head. I didn’t know if someone had pooped on her–I mean, that has to happen sometimes, right?–so I paid attention later, and sure enough, she kept coming by, and it’s definitely part of her feathers. Dot! Now I can pick Dot out of a big chirpety bundle of birds. I can tell how she approaches the feeder a little differently, and which azalea branch she favors. I have a new bird to care about. I can care about Dot, and thus even more about the rest of her flock, and second by second my caring can expand until it fills up the whole world. It starts somewhere.
In one second, a boy soprano can lift the top of your head off and send it to the stars. In one second, as you wait out the exquisite tension before a chord resolves, you can feel that ache pulled right through your heart and come out clean on the other side. In one second, you can really notice a bird. You can love any little thing. And then you know how to love the whole world. And that will cause you to change your life faster than any resolution will.
We can all do it together. We can start anytime.
I love this positive approach to the coming year, when ever one starts it. I will also be looking forward to your new book and all the blog posts you care to share even without all the strike outs and arrows to know where to put the information. Here is to a more family and friends (feathered or not) friendly new year.
As Dave puts it, there are little buddies everywhere.
I get attached to all of the birds that come to my yard too, except the hawk that has a dark underbelly. He scares all of my little birds. The other day my husband and I were outside and the dark colored hawk flew over us and did that hawk screech twice at us as he flew over. I haven't had a chance to google what type of hawk he/she is. My husband and I were a couple of blocks away from our house and high up in one of the trees was a most unusual large almost all white hawk. I never saw any like it before,googled it and discovered it to be a white red tailed hawk. We always have at least one red tailed hawk in the neighborhood, I guess that one will be the one this year.
All of the little birds; juncos, and birds that look like your Studley have been sheltering in the rose bush that is under my living room window up against the house. My neighbor feeds the birds the good seeds and suet, but I throw out bits of white bread for them and the squirrels, so they come by over here to get their junk food fix each day after they empty her feeders out.
I need a neighbor to feed the squirrels so they stay the heck off my solar panel wires!
You are truly Zen as you pass through life. I have learned from you and will now watch my feathered friends more closely. None of them come to feed from my hand, but they sure do clean out the feeders.
The pine siskins this year have been a 25-bird wrecking crew on the feeder. I'm leaving it empty for a day just to instill discipline.
Murr, let me know how that intillation of discipline goes. (Damn, I laughed out loud when I read that sentence.)
I'm doing the same with the suet feeder. I like starlings, really I do, but they demolish a cake in two days and the porch is covered with poop.
As long as Mr/Ms Starling comes to our feeders, alone, I am fine. It's when s/he brings his 200 closest friends that I get a bit upset.
I have even made peace with our numerous squirrels because of individuals that I can pick out. There is one beautiful squirrel with golden fur. I call her Blondie (original, right?) Then there is Bentley, who has a tail bent at a right angle. And Nubbin, who has just a little stump of a tail left. Since squirrels seem to use their tails as semaphores to communicate, I imagine that Nubbin has to use sign language with his paws to talk to the other squirrels. I've even started putting out my apple cores and leftover parrot pellets for them on our deck table. And to think, just a couple years ago, I was seething as they stole my tomatoes.
I wonder if I'll ever get to that point–and why do they take one bite out of the squashes and go to the next?
Taste testing. They need to find just the right one.
I tend to think that the squirrels (who, as far as I can tell, have poor eyesight), think that the green tomatoes are black walnuts. With the slightly red tomatoes… I don't know. In any case, I now plant enough tomatoes for our purposes (eating fresh and canning) AND for them as well. It makes my life so much easier.
I enjoyed reading about your birds Murr, you remind me of my mom who had several bird feeders hanging on her back porch and a small tree nearby, she too had her favorites. But I liked your philosophy here on starting fresh, what defines new. Before I retired 5 years ago, I'd listen to people in the office talk about their New Years resolutions & good for them, but it always seemed silly, the Jan 1 start-date. Well, we worked in IT and EVERYTHING had start-dates. Anyway I am just rambling on, I wanted to say Happy New Year, and I'm very glad I found you & your terrific blog.
Thank you for your kind words! (As always, I read that as "we worked in IT" and instead of thinking Eye Tee I was wondering what exactly It was.)
Haha! Sorry about that, Murr!
While I am a champion procrastinator the love you are speaking of always happens now. Whenever that might be. About 20 years ago a guy named Eckhart Tolle wrote a book called The Power of Now which is kind of about what I think you are saying.
Other than that, Happy New Year to you and Dave and all the feathered friends.
And to yours.
As I am reading your comments, I spy new birds on my biggest oak tree! Brown creepers, a life bird for me, and it feels propitious. Happy New Day, Murr!
Wow! A life bird in your very own place? New Year started today for you.
Also, I mostly hear but occasionally see Carolina Wrens like the pic at the top of your post.
I'm not good at this but I think this one is a Bewick's wren. Canyon wren has a tremendous song but of course I don't get those. Do I get Carolinas? Scurrying off to check…
Sadly there are less feathered friends in our area which is not good. And even the bugs have vanished. Scary.
But we do reset not just on New Years but birthdays.
Very scary, and related.
In my case, Murr, in one second I was able to finally snap a photo of two female purple finches at my feeder – to show to all of those nay-sayers that I do, indeed, get purple finches. Never males, mind you, but two females have consistently shown up for a day or two for the past several years. They keep company with male (and female) house finches.
Happy 2021. Keep the postings coming, please.
I really need to see a purple among the house finches. I'm never sure if I've seen one.
'We can all do it together. We can start anytime.' I wish we would. Now seems like a good time to me.
And yes, to recognising and caring (so much) about individual birds.
Happy New Year, best beloved!
When I 'realized' (ha ha) I was an alcoholic and started attending AA meetings, one of the first things I heard was 'one day at a time.' Turns out they weren't just talking about not drinking or drugging; they were talking about everydamnthing. One of the best things I ever heard in those rooms was, 'you can start your day over anytime you want.' Being given permission to start fresh whenever the hell I needed to lifted a heavy burden from my shoulders and my brain.
Happy new day, Murr.
It is amazing what we drag behind us.
And within us.
Happy New Year, Murr!
House sparrows, white-crowned sparrows, gold-crowned sparrows, juncos, California towhees, lesser goldfinches, house finches, crows, mourning doves, red-winged blackbirds, collared doves, and Anna's hummingbirds, rufous hummingbirds, Allen's hummingbirds and now, finally, a Nutall's woodpecker in the back yard have, I suspect, kept us from cracking up so far, and will do so at least through 2021. The wild turkeys are not interested in our seeds, suet, tortilla bits or shredded white bread — or perhaps they just have not heard yet that the kitchen is open. I haven't seen our possum, skunk or raccoon in many weeks and I fear they have fallen prey to the internal combustion engine. Oh, I almost forgot the squirrels, who appear to be trying to chase their own tails in mid-air at apogee. Happy New Year, and Long May You Write!
Oh my — I left out mockingbirds, scrub jays and bush tits!
You've got yourself some nice overlapping ranges, there. I sure wish we had mockingbirds.
The mockingbirds never stay for more than a moment. I believe they have ceded the field to the jays. I just remembered — hooded orioles and Bullock's orioles…
Murr, we used to have so many Mockingbirds in our part of the country. Not anymore. We have LOTS of Catbirds (which I love), but I no longer see or hear many Mockers. It's just like the Black Vultures taking over from the Turkey Vultures around here. Climate change.
I'd take a catbird too.
Oh wait till you meet a tufted titmouse. You will fall in love.
Have met. Have fallen! They're just not here. Although we do have a slate-colored junco (one), so that's another individual I can recognize.
I get exhausted just watching the tufted titmice flit about. There's one on one of our peanut feeders, now.
I had a wonderful bird moment a few weeks ago. Not being able to pick out any single bird, no. This was a whole batch of new honeyeater babies learning to fly around and land on things and they did it all together as a group. They landed on my front porch railing! And I was so wrapped up in watching as they tweeted and chirped and changed positions with each other, moving from the railing to the big potplant, down onto the porch then up to the railing again, I didn't want to move to get the camera in case I frightened them away. I've never seen so many all at once before, a dozen at least.
I'd be happy with ONE honeyeater. My, my.
Sadly my property lacks birds because of the cats around here. However once in a while I will catch sight of a bluebird and maybe a cardinal but they are cautious. Happy New Year to your and yours.
Not your cats, I hope?
That would definitely make me a Hunter. OF CATS.
I agree with the comment that you are very Zen here. Every second is the start of the rest of our lives. And we are always most alive right now.
To the degree I am Zenny, I put it down to the fact that I forget everything as soon as I learn it. It has the same effect.
Your New Year's Revelations are awesome!
Hope you're dancing in the new year, D.
"You can love any little thing. And then you know how to love the whole world. And that will cause you to change your life faster than any resolution will. We can all do it together. We can start anytime." Okay, that's profound to the point of teary-full-ness. Happy New Year Toots.
"In one second, as you wait out the exquisite tension before a chord resolves, you can feel that ache pulled right through your heart and come out clean on the other side." What an exquisite sentence. <3