Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Circulatory Slow-up drew us Face to Face

At 55 years of age now I'm advised, after a doctor's checkup, that I have high cholesterol and should follow the dietary guidelines that were supposed to be enclosed in an article sent along with the letter. I'm still waiting to receive that article since I never found it in with the letter. Conversation about cholesterol readings and material on line say that a cholesterol score all by itself needs to be considered with other health, hereditary and lifestyle factors that all together predict the likelihood of later-on heart trouble.

Where diet is concerned I relate to the idea of foods that tempt, through easy availability in the course of the work-week. Fixing my diet to banish the vending machine snacks shouldn't be all that hard to do. My other risk factors beyond the dietary ones for heart attack later on are relatively low. A person with the means to stay home for days on end and put together delicious wholesome food high in vegetable bulk and low in the wicked fats, free of preservatives would be at a greater advantage, since those foods drive ready-made food temptation far from one's thoughts. But I'll be glad when that printed matter from the doctor's office gets here.

It seems likely to me that high cholesterol in my case (it's 240 so not extreme) is the result of age, heredity and having more than enough to eat out of what's promptly available and moderate in calories (I have always fought back against getting too fat.) Worsened circumstances would come from the loss of freedom to move, maintain muscle and go about life in that completely automated manner that's become so much the modern norm. Hardship would follow, but not devastation, from no longer having a car to make my basic rounds, but I could take up the ancestral way of life fueled fully by calories and what muscle, joints and discipline could accomplish. One goes along in the habits of life that yield predictability and the security that comes from it, but sometimes I think I am watching and waiting for enforced forms of outer and inner change. Any of us does what we have to do and changes accordingly.

As the world, the biosphere and the presence and travel routes of animals, including the birds, change through the pressures that global human usages impose I watch from all my vantage points, moving and stationary. Old scenes, lost and faded glories of nature have all the persuasive power of thoughts of a tomorrow without that color palette, that migratory species. Other people's descriptions of a rare sight--like the lynx that spurted across the Trans-Canada highway in front of my sister's car, eluding a camera shot in part by running straight up a rock wall--give me hope of a world in which there will indefinitely be some of these creatures and a few appreciative souls to report on them. We can't indefinitely, willfully act on the world to assuage our limitless hungers without it reacting to stifle those hungers. What's coming is corrective, whatever we may be done out of.

October is coming soon with Octoberous looks that are known and worth rediscovery. With the frosts of autumn these parts will likely again see the young of big northern-nesting sparrows--the white-throated and white-crowned and the Harris' sparrows, with their scratching in old leaf carpets by our pathways and a long-drawn 'chee-ee-eep' to help in their identification. Wild songbirds along American back-roads are as spellbinding as the English author J.A. Baker found his peregrine falcons in his book The Peregrine, Harper & Row Publishers, 1967. I lately read a hardcover copy, a gift from my Aunt Mary Jo, from cover to cover despite my unfamiliarity with the birds of Europe, where I have never gone, though I think I could so easily get familiar if I stayed there. But the earth is in so many ways small; what travels or ever traveled over the relatively short stretch of ocean between North America and western Europe has genes of same origins.

Speaking of a person's fitness to travel under power of heart and lungs, Mr. Baker some fifty years ago found himself so needing communion with the migratory falcons of the British Isles that he flung himself by bicycle along rural roads near the eastern coast on a hunch that he'd encounter one or another bird that he'd been patiently stalking for hours on end, to view and to describe. His book is almost entirely word-pictures of his region, its weather, tides and bird movement as it related to a falcon in his lenses:
     "...Head to wind, like a compass needle cleaving to the north, he drifted, steadied, and hung still. His wings closed and curved back, then opened and reached forward, splaying out wide like an owl's. His tail tapered like a dart, then opened in a broad spreading fan.... When he banked in the sun, he flashed from blackness to fire and shone like white steel. Poised on two thousand feet of sunlit air, he commanded the birds of the valley, and none flew beneath him. He sank forward into the wind, and passed slowly down the sun. I had to let him go. When I looked back, through green and violet nebulae of whirling light, I could just see a tiny speck of dusk falling to earth from the sun, flashing and turning and falling through an immense silence that crashed open in a tumult of shrilling, wing-beating birds....

'At three o'clock I had a pricking sensation at the back of the neck that meant I was being looked at from behind. It is a feeling that must have been very intense to primitive man.... Two hundred yards away, the hawk was perched on the low horizontal branch of an oak.... For more than a minute we both stayed still, each puzzled and intrigued by the other, sharing the curious bond that comes with identity of position. When I moved towards him, he flew at once, going quickly down through the north orchard. He was hunting, and the hunter trusts no one."

The book ends with the author and a peregrine tensely at rest five yards from him: "I know he will not fly now. I climb over the wall and stand before him. And he sleeps."

Over a length of time the author had accustomed the wild peregrine to his slow approach and even his usefulness in scaring up small birds good for a hawk to prey upon.

A similar, taut encounter with one of our American heartland sparrows is exhibited here, hand-illustrated in watercolor and pencil much as the real autumn-day observance really happened in the arboretum of Saint John's Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota. The original 12 x9"  watercolor has now sold, but prints at 10 x 8" or smaller are available on order. The title is "Startlement: Harris' Sparrow on an October Shore." More than many bird paintings it is about the eternal in the momentary, just how a wild bird sighting is apt to happen as it commits itself to memory.


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