Sunday, March 5, 2017

(sour) patch kid

Last night I lay awake in bed, preoccupied with the same fidgety nonsense that I'm preoccupied with most of the time. My heart gets all stretched out and gooey and I buzz from head to toe, like a cheese stick that someone left in their lunchbox for the whole day, but the cheese stick is made out of bees. Most nights I eventually fall asleep while I'm still buzzing, and wake up to the exact same pins and needles.

But last night - I'm not sure why - as I lay there struggling to sleep, I suddenly remembered my old patch in Davis. I don't normally have a good memory, but I saw my patch as if I was standing there with my own two legs.

May 31, 2013.

May 26, 2013.
I saw it all, as clear as a summer sky. To my right, the little muddy pond where the mud is actually bullfrogs. To my left, the pipe where, one summer, I watched a Black Phoebe raise its tiny offspring. Behind me, the fence where I stalked Western Kingbirds and Northern Mockingbirds. Far off, where the fence turns to the west and the road turns to the east, and I once surprised a family of Burrowing Owls so badly that we all froze in shock. The field that fills with hungry and honking Canada Geese during migration. The telephone wires where I practiced taking pictures of Barn Swallows and European Starlings. The huge open field that alternated between huge open-faced sunflowers and grains and Red-winged Blackbirds in the long days of summer, and short-cut stalks and roaming coyotes at the end of the season.

July 1, 2013.

May 26, 2013.

June 1, 2013.

July 7, 2013.

I remembered, with all the subtlety of someone hitting me over the head with a tennis racquet, the mess of roots and weeds where I saw an alien. It was one of the very first times I had been to my creek. I remember walking along my little path and rounding a corner at just the right angle to see a brownish lump of a bird huddled at the bottom of the creek. Before I could take a picture and keep walking, the bird unfurled a neck as long as its entire body, and I lost every breath in my lungs. The world could have shattered all around me, and I wouldn't have noticed. We moved in an unspoken duo dance, I and that strange bird made of neck and long, long toes, it minding its own business and me minding its business, as well. I went home that day with a singular purpose: find out that creature's name. I read a little while ago that "it is well known that as soon as kids are given a name for something, they almost instantly become less interested in it." I don't believe that's true at all. For me, as a beginning birder, finding out each bird's name was magic. That day, I rolled the names "green heron" and "black-crowned night heron" in my mouth like grapes. As I learned more about herons and bit down on those 6 words, only two exploded into rightness. I had just met my first Green Heron.

July 18, 2012.

July 1, 2013.
And I remembered the tree, further down the creek, where I saw a single bird and it changed everything I thought I knew about the world. My mom called at exactly that moment. I don't remember what she said to me or why she called, because the words rattled out of me like the bird was rapping on my own skull: "MOM! There are WOODPECKERS here!" She was not as impressed as I was. But for little me, who thought woodpeckers were some tropical exotic species that I would never see, that single little bird was a revelation.

Every square foot of that trail holds a memory that sparkles in my mind's eye. The Western Kingbirds that squabbled at the tops of the trees all summer. The Wilson's Warbler I found right before starting my last year of high school. The Great Blue Herons that glared at me and blared with all the volume of their impossibly long trumpet-necks. That creek, with all of its mysteries, will always be my happy place.

June 26, 2013.

June 26, 2013.

As I walked along my little creek and mapped out all of its secrets and treasures in my mind, everything quieted in me. I had accidentally found just the right way to strum the out-of-tune strings of my brain. When I fell asleep, it was a quiet sleep, and I woke without pins and needles. 

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