Magical Novembers

Novembers in Bay Area are magical. There is a promise of rain in the air, the fall colors are out and the dry sordid months of summer finally seem to be behind us. The trees burst forth in a sudden splash of color. Octobers are to Prince Edward Island in Canada as Novembers are to California. So, I have absolutely no problem in gushing like Anne of Green Gables : “I love a world with Novembers in them.” 

The son and I had were taking a short break after a bike ride. We stood there admiring the way the leaves seemed to be flipping as the wind went through them when an ornithologist found us. We politely made space for him on the park bench. After a few minutes, we went on to having conversation on nature based hobbies and such. 

He had with him one of those cameras and lenses that can zoom upto 714 times. The son & I exchanged glances. Could that pelican sitting on that small island in the lake be seen well with that lens then? Jack (the ornithologist cum photographer), told us indeed he could and he went on to take a few photographs to show us. We were more than suitably impressed, and he was gracious and generous in showing us how his lens worked.

I have always been in awe of those who were able to get fantastic photographs of the birds. I have several friends whose photographs have me yearning for their gift of composition. With landscapes, while I still admire the artistic compositions, with moving targets such as birds, I find the whole process fascinating. My attempts at hummingbird photography have proved to me that (a) hummingbirds are very fast – research says they can flap upto 50 times a minute and (b) my phone is usually unable to capture them flying. 

But my new phone and Jack’s attempts at the photographs were inspiration enough for me to go back to mooning about the lakesides and riverfronts looking for birds. I suppose these birding photographers do this all the time, but when I did, I felt like I had developed wings myself and fluttered away – whether as an angel or a devil did not matter.

I got my first picture of an Anna hummingbird (albeit one resting on a tree), but I got a picture nevertheless. I also captured on my phone,  a mockingbird, a siege of herons, a pod of pelicans and an assortment of wood ducks, grebes and coots.

The skies, in the meanwhile, look like nothing I’ve seen before( although my phone best to differ based on the number of pictures it classifies as ‘Similar pictures’). I would love to be a crepuscular artist knowing fully well that I could never aspire to the true artistry that is on display every day for us – especially during the rainy season. 

I suggest everyone take some time to enjoy the rains and the clean skies and earth afterward.

I sat in the car watching the rain pouring down and feeling the sense of life’s stresses washing away. Californian rains are whimsical: one minute they beat down, maybe even give in to a thumping hailstorm, but in the next few minutes, the clouds scud away as quickly as they gathered leaving a jaw-dropping sort of blue and white clouds behind them. It is magical. 

“Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”

Henry David Thoreau

Tweet Talk

The cheery morning had us all chirping – much like the world around us. A beautiful, bright, sunny November morning around the time of Thanksgiving is always a special time. The glorious world around us transformed into multi-colored hues, and the auditory world rich with the orchestra of birds made our human companions on the trail more friendly as well. Every single one of them cheerily greeted one another on what a lovely morning it was. The world seemed to be in harmony.

Geese lifted out of their slumbering fields and flew squawking great big messages to one another as they splashed down into the lakes and rivers nearby. The blackbird murmurations overhead trilled and flew flashing their streaks of red in marvelous patterns overhead. The californian blue jays swooped among the marshes and the trees, their brilliant azure feathers twinkling and shining in the rays of the sun. The great blue herons and egrets stood waiting in their great cloaks of grey and white, relishing their solitude and just being part of the great lovely world around them. 

I read somewhere that people who were among many birds were generally less stressed in life, and I could readily imagine why. The joyous chirps, blending together in a great, harmonious orchestra along with the swift usage of wings to fly up and above, taking one’s spirits with you is enough to reduce the stress. 

I sniffed rapturously and we walked on. The ponds in the marshes seemed perfect for reflection, and the mind wandered. I took some pictures: not too many, and certainly not of great quality for posterity. There were talented photographers  for that. I have several friends whose photographs have that essence of transcending the current space and time and tranporting you to that very moment they captured. How they manage to catch the birds in flight is beyond me. I said as much to the son, who gave me an amused look at yet another blurry picture I took of a nesting heron in the marshes. 

Seeing how enamored I am with our winged companions in this world, the daughter got me a book titled Bird Cottage – by Eva Meijer for my birthday. I look forward to reading it. I looked at the son as we walked on in companionable silence, and told him so.

“Now, I am reading a book on hummingbirds.” 

“I am sure you are!” He said with a smile on the corner of his lips.

“Less sass young man. It is a fascinating book. “

“That’s what I meant. You would like to read a whole book on hummingbirds. What’s it about?” he said indulging me as he walked on.

I was proud of the fellow. He had been promised a short, zipping bike ride with the wind blowing against his face. Instead, here he was on a long walk. On the trudge back, he said, “I think I am going to go home and replace my legs with another pair. They hurt!”, and he laughed raucously at his own joke.

“It would be nice to fly on home, wouldn’t it? Become a hummingbird so we can fly swiftly and purposefully home every few minutes if you so wish!”

I told him about this person who lives in Marin County who takes on orphaned hummingbirds and nurses them back to life. “They need to be fed every 20 minutes all day every day till they are strong enough to be released into the wild.” I said.

“Wow. Why do they eat so much? They are so tiny!”

“Well! They are tiny and almost fully lungs – so you have to give them tiny portions every few minutes, so they can survive and thrive. A hummingbird mother is a very busy one. She has to fly in and out of the nest every few minutes feeding, and looking after her little ones, till they are strong enough. Just like most babies.” I said. He looked confused and awed. I addressed that look and said, “Even human babies need to be fed every couple of hours throughout the day for the first few months. You know that?”

He had a vague idea until then that babies were work, but he had no idea they needed to be fed every 2 hours.

He was quiet for a few moments digesting this piece of info. I swooped in, and gave him what the early days of human baby care looked like. I rounded it off saying, “Yep! You do all that, and what do they do? Sass you on walks, and roll their eyes when they are teens!” He laughed raucously frightening a goose nearby, and we spoke of this and that, the great web of life, and the fantastic nature of living.

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