Monday, October 8, 2012


At a little fall festival in Hermantown, Minnesota this week-end we bore with early snow squalls,  so the expected families were slow to arrive and the artisans came to warm themselves repeatedly around a couple of fire bowls bright with rust and stamped-out crescent moon and star shapes. Near our display was a crabapple tree as apple-crowded as ever such a tree was seen, not too far from the nearer fire. All hours of the show more or less of a quiet huddle of cedar waxwings, especially young birds with rumpled brown plumage or the grey streaking that sets them apart from the flannel-sleek adults remained there. The apples looked a bit big for little waxwings to deal with whole but, except for a little possible pecking, I saw mostly a still gathering of birds, little or not at all noticed by the vendors or bypassing staff or visitors, the birds blended into the center of the fruit tree. I wondered if the fire's warmth reached them or if the people and movement were an attraction in a social sense for them, as something to watch. I think wild birds do a lot of people-watching. In winter the best rural birding is often nearest the houses with feeders and the general shelter offered by our walls and plantings, the birds more dispersed out beyond.

Because of the crisp weather and low customer flow I did a lot of sitting at work on fantasy birds of my own, an ivory-billed woodpecker providing another woodpecker, more of a sapsucker, with intensive oral care. The idea had come to me at a recent stint in the dentist's chair. As a person little encumbered by formal scientific training in my approach to the birds, I cherish studied interpretations of their behavior but feel free to add emotion that I've conjured up to artwork and stories of birds I have met. This is liberty-taking or anthropomorphizing, yet I think the back edges of the human crowd are well-represented and well-served by folk who project their personal feelings and daydreams onto the figures of birds. It could be agreed by some people that no baby in a billboard or TV ad, and precious few iconic tribal people's faces from the pages of magazines like National Geographic are as cute and as expressive of our souls, our singlehood or our wish-fulfillment as the figures of roosting or foraging birds. See possible examples at   www.etsy.com/shop/EpiphaniesAfield

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