Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Member of the Flock!

We interrupt this normal bird related blog to bring this important announcement! N8, over at The Drinking Bird, is a father, which makes me a grandfather!

I found this essay a few years ago, liked it a lot, and post it here on this special day.

Published on Sunday, May 8, 2005 by
The Mother's Journey
by Denise Roy

I have hands big enough to save the world, and small enough to rock a child to sleep.
-- Zelma Brown

Looking up at the night sky is a humbling experience. The great darkness invites us to think about where we fit in, where we stand between the past and the future, between the earth and the stars. We seek to understand who we are and what it is that we are supposed to do.

One warm summer night, when I was very pregnant with my daughter, I went outside to sit in a pool of cool water under the stars. I slowly massaged my growing belly, imagining who this child would be and what she would bring into this universe. As I looked up at the light from the stars, light that has taken millions of years to reach us, I thought about ancestors. If only one great-great grandparent had been a different person, I would not be here, and I would not be pregnant with this unique soul.

On that night, I also thought of the future ones yet to be born. In that moment under the stars, I realized that I was carrying within me the seeds of my grandchildren, who would be alive into the twenty-second century.

Suddenly, the distance between centuries did not seem so great. I felt myself participating in a much larger story. I understood that as a mother, I am part of a long continuum, carrying in my being both my ancestors and the future generations. With that comes the kind of responsibility that Native American wisdom articulates: "In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations." What I do here and now will affect many more lives than my own.

It's easy to lose sight of this larger perspective when we're caught up in daily life-signing permission slips, making lunches, teaching our children to be kind to one another. It doesn't feel as if we're doing anything truly profound. And yet with each kiss, with each lesson, we are doing the work of the ages. We are nurturing life, we are shaping the next generation's hearts and bodies and souls.

Literature is full of stories about the hero's journey. More often than not, these stories are about men, about how they go forth and slay the dragon or save the town, bringing back the Holy Grail or a gift for the community. There are fewer examples of women as heroes. Perhaps we need to rethink the idea of what an adventurous life is, of what a heroic journey entails. It might involve a quest, or it might be that we do not have to go anywhere else to obtain the gift, because we already hold it in our hands. We bring life to the community through our children and our work.

Standing under the night sky, I ask the ancestors, the great communion of saints, to be with us on our journey. I ask them for wisdom and courage and strength to do the work that must be done. I reach out across time and ask the future ones, those waiting to be born, for their prayers and their trust that we will act like ancestors and pay attention to the longer rhythms of life.

With hands big enough to save the world, and small enough to rock our children to sleep, we pray for the grace to fulfill our quest.

Adapted from My Monastery Is a Minivan by Denise Roy (Loyola Press, 2001). Denise Roy is a psychotherapist and founder of FamilySpirit (

Sunday, May 10, 2009

WEKI Watch

When birding on the Springfield Plateau, it is not uncommon to see dozens of Eastern Kingbirds and Scissor-tailed Flycatcher during a spring or summer day of birding. But when the western version of the Kingbird shows up, it's an exciting day. Not that it's unheard of to have a pair fledge young around here, but it certainly is not an everyday, or even every year, avian observation. Last report was in 2004, but I've only seen one Western Kingbird in Missouri, that in the mid 90's.

As a result, I interrupt my Big Day Part 2 report to share a few poor, but identifiable photos that I took in the rain today. Soon, I'll get my friend Marvin out there to join me, and then I can share some real photos of Western Kingbirds. In the mean time, this will have to do. I just wanted to share the moment.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Nemesis Bird Nabbed

My birding friends have looked at me with disbelief many times when I tell them that I do not have Sedge Wren on my life list. I've been in their prairie range countless times, but some birds are just like that, and we pin the term "nemesis bird" upon them.

On Wednesday, May 6, all of that changed. I heard the recognizable call just before I saw the tiny bird flutter to a small tree in the midst of the tall grass prairie species. I knew immediately what it was, but I thought that it must be a fledgling, as it was hardly a master of flight. It seemed to limp from grass to grass, never flying more than 10 feet, with legs awkwardly spread out between grass stems. The camera of my friend Marvin DeJong clicked away to document our new found lifer.This spring, I have been privileged enough to see both the old Short billed Marsh Wren and its cousin, the Long-billed Marsh Wren. Here are a couple photos I took of my new lifer.Down the road a bit, we located the rarest Missouri birds of the day, two female Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The two were leisurely feeding in an agricultural field. My records indicate that it's been 14 years since my last Missouri YHBL.All of this on a big day that netted 105 species. More reports to come.