Saturday, May 11, 2013

The birds of north-east Ohio

I'm about half-way through my month-long, Maine-less sojourn, most of which I'm spending in rural north-east Ohio at my brother's house, staying with my mother while brother and family vacation in Ireland. Today feels a bit coastal Maine-ish - foggy and cool after yesterday's thunderstorm - not surprising since we're only a mile or two from Lake Erie.

My daily routine includes, of course, a walk. Although I don't know Ohio well, this area seems distinct form the rest of the state: flat, mostly wooded, full of little ponds and tiny streams and open fields of hay, a floodplain perhaps for the big lake to the north. The walking is easy, quiet, unspectacular, and the animals I see are mostly domesticated - seven Herefords in a feed lot, a dog frantically barking behind a fence, chickens crowing and clucking, my mother's two cats willfully going in and out of the house. The wild animals I see are mainly birds, the common ones seen most everywhere in the Midwest and New England. Or maybe I could count barking dogs behind fences, on chains, behind doors, including one in a cage that seemed anxious to take a bit of my thigh for his afternoon tea.

Are these birds really wild anymore? I suppose the vultures, robins, red-winged blackbirds, goldfinches, blue jays, sparrows, wrens, and the two geese who seem to have adopted my brother's property could survive without the lawns and fields and seeds and shrubs and roadkill supplied by humans, but it would be much more difficult. Some of the birds clearly don't need us. The pileated woodpecker sounding like a machine-gun, the kill-deer leading me along the road with their piping, the two kingfishers (?) calling a little square dance around a tree before having sex, the blue heron I saw in a swamp in the state park nearby - all these give me the sense of freedom that more settled life might lack, a feeling of hope and of the very long cycle of life that temporary or even permanent setbacks find a place in.

There are deer here also, those lovers of edges, but I haven't yet seen any.

Not that lovers of edges aren't inspiring in their own right. What could be more amazing than a hummingbird in your lilies? I'm just not sure humans are thriving here, even though we have created this new world of borders. Many species do thrive, finding food in spite of danger, finding food because of danger. I live in such places, on the edges of ocean, city, emotion, pain, ecstasy, where I can find food for the body but not necessarily for the soul.

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