Saturday, June 18, 2016

For the birds #phenology

Father's Day goslings
Father's Day goslings
Photo by J. Harrington

It's the time of year when goslings are out and about and often underfoot, making geese and ganders annoyed with any creature about to step on their offspring, or with the offspring themselves, or both. I doubt that those who decided we need a Father's Day thought about Canada geese goslings, sandhill crane colts, or other recent hatchlings, when a Sunday in late-June was selected as the day to honor fathers in the US and many other countries.

I find it much easier to visualize the young of geese and cranes than those of hummingbirds. Trying to picture something smaller than my thumb as a parent stretches my imagination almost to the breaking point. From the online descriptions of family life,  geese and crane dads are much more help than hummer dads. I doubt that female hummingbirds, or their chicks, do much to celebrate Father's Day for dads whose parenting "skills" are close to nonexistant. In many parts of the animal kingdom, a "dad's" role is extremely limited. We humans seem to include a range of paternal behavior almost as widespread as that in all the rest of nature. Those of us lucky enough to have, have had, or be half-way decent fathers probably take much too much for granted how lucky we are, as we do about many aspects of life. Tomorrow there will be fathers wishing their children were with them and children wishing they had a father to hug. If you're lucky enough to be able to give your dad or child a hug, don't limit it to a special day. Do it every chance you get. Like geese and cranes and hummingbirds, children grow and life moves on soon enough, often too soon.

The Season of Phantasmal Peace

By Derek Walcott

Then all the nations of birds lifted together
the huge net of the shadows of this earth
in multitudinous dialects, twittering tongues,
stitching and crossing it. They lifted up
the shadows of long pines down trackless slopes,
the shadows of glass-faced towers down evening streets,
the shadow of a frail plant on a city sill—
the net rising soundless as night, the birds' cries soundless, until
there was no longer dusk, or season, decline, or weather,
only this passage of phantasmal light
that not the narrowest shadow dared to sever.

And men could not see, looking up, what the wild geese drew,
what the ospreys trailed behind them in silvery ropes
that flashed in the icy sunlight; they could not hear
battalions of starlings waging peaceful cries,
bearing the net higher, covering this world
like the vines of an orchard, or a mother drawing
the trembling gauze over the trembling eyes
of a child fluttering to sleep;
                                                     it was the light
that you will see at evening on the side of a hill
in yellow October, and no one hearing knew
what change had brought into the raven's cawing,
the killdeer's screech, the ember-circling chough
such an immense, soundless, and high concern
for the fields and cities where the birds belong,
except it was their seasonal passing, Love,
made seasonless, or, from the high privilege of their birth,
something brighter than pity for the wingless ones
below them who shared dark holes in windows and in houses,
and higher they lifted the net with soundless voices
above all change, betrayals of falling suns,
and this season lasted one moment, like the pause
between dusk and darkness, between fury and peace,
but, for such as our earth is now, it lasted long.

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