Now that school is out, I have been getting up at 7:30 or 8:00, making coffee, and sitting on the porch for an hour.  Sometimes more.  I’m slowly coming out of both summer bliss and summer identity crisis.  (Summer identity crisis didn’t get a lot of air time, since it is so much less articulate.)  And moving from Year 1 (of marriage/school/what just feels like my new life) into Year 2 requires porch-sitting, this particular kind of stillness.  Although it’s strange to call porch-sitting still, since I travel so far in my thoughts, and since Overton Place is a noisy playground of bird life, in the mornings.

Actually, I have written more about birds in the past two months than in the previous two years put together, and have taken to bringing my National Geographic field guide out on the porch with my coffee and journal (and Julian of Norwich).  Mockingbirds, cardinals, robins, bluejays, starlings, sparrows, mourning doves, catbirds, and the infrequent house finch, goldfinch, and red-bellied woodpecker.  Even a killdeer once, on 6th Avenue.  It’s constant calls, songs, perching, exploding into flight, squawking, flashing white wing-feathers, etc., etc.  I love it so much, and now I know more about the world than I did.

For instance: you may know that mockingbirds are night-singers.  But did you know that the ones that are singing are bachelors?  Now you know.  Now I have some more sympathy.  Did you know that our common starlings were introduced from Europe in 1891, and have spread across almost the entire continent of North America, since then?  Are considered invasive?  (I’ve always had reservations about starlings.)  House sparrows are non-native, too.  But—I have come to love catching sight of juvenile sparrows and robins, unsteady, nervous, deeply speckled.  The most lovely thing I have learned, however, is that the catbird exists.

For a few weeks, I’d noticed a small, slate-gray bird hanging around, and couldn’t place it in my memory.  For some reason the name “catbird” kept coming to mind—so I must have known about catbirds at some point in the past—and when I finally looked it up, the gray body, black eye and cap matched, but I wasn’t sure, since the blurb said catbirds had rosy/rufous underbelly or undertail feathers.  Not the one I’d seen.  The blurb also said they were in the mockingbird family (!), that they mimicked other birds’ songs, and that they were also known for their “mewling” call, from which came their name.  Catbird.  The wonderfullness of this bird…!  I hoped so much that that’s what they were.

This afternoon, though, I decided to walk to Kroger to get tortillas and peaches, and, since one good idea often leads to another, I also decided to take the alley that winds around behind the house I used to live in, a couple streets away.  This alley is shaded by tall trees on both sides, and they arch upward into what feels like a living cathedral ceiling.  On my way back home through this alley, I noticed an obnoxious birdcall, like a blustering mockingbird trying to throw someone off his land.

Over the fence to my left, there’s a small gray bird with black eyes and a black cap, saying myeah! myeah! myeah! at me.  Definitely me.  He’s looking at me and opening his beak really wide and is SO loud.  I start laughing.  Makes him mad, I think.  I walk forward a few steps.  He hops from branch to branch, coming closer to me and saying myeah!!  myeahmyeah!!!  myeah!! This is the best delight of my life, I think.  I laugh more.  I walk forward a few more steps.  He follows me yelling, looking at me, posturing like the most plucky of the mockingbirds, gripping twigs and branches ferociously, now bellowing MYEAH MYEAH MYEAH MYEAH MYEAH

I think catbirds are my new favorite.

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