Being bits of wisdom gleaned from daily walks with my dog, Coffee. He left for stars unknown in 2010.
Bird, Bird, Bird, Bird is the Word
Strolling through the neighborhood with the hound provides an opportunity for meditating on the everyday mysteries of the universe. Some are profound, some not so much.
For instance, a couple of weeks ago the guy across the street set out in his trash a carton for a 52-inch flat screen TV. Today, the guy next door set out a 72-inch carton. I rushed inside and measured our 10-year-old fat screen TV. Imagine the stab of fear I felt when it turned out to be only 23 inches. And I still think of it as “our new TV.”
The universal mystery at play here is simple: Why isn’t there a place where you can just buy a flat screen TV box that says 82 inches? As usual with mysteries engineered by Father Nature, the principle here is not so philosophical. Not when you consider the stuff laid out like clean underwear on your bed by Mother Nature.
Take the dark-eyed junko, for example, frolicking in yon trees. What is a dark-eyed junko? It’s a bird known as a junko and it has dark eyes. How do I know this? Almost everything I know about birds I learned from Katherine
She knows the names of all things in nature: trees, insects, vegetables, wiggling forms of tofu. She is most impressive, however, when it comes to birds. It was she who first noticed the red tailed hawk living in a tree out in the back yard. Or, she will hear a knocking sound and while I’m rushing for the front door she’ll say softly “That’s a red-headed woodpecker.”
When Coffee and I go walking in the neighborhood I see only crows. Or robins. But anybody can recognize famous birds. To appreciate the really good stuff out there you have to stop and focus, while silently posing epistemological questions: What is that bird? How can I be sure that’s what it is? Is our family room big enough for an 82-incher?
The exercise has thus far paid great dividends. The other day, while in such a pose, I heard the strange cry of a bird. I looked around but couldn’t see anything. Yet again, I heard its odd call. It went like this:
Derek? Derek Jeter. Derek? Derek? Derek Jeter.
I must emphasize that it didn’t sound something like Derek Jeter. It sounded exactly like Derek Jeter. At first I kept this to myself. I didn’t want to be mocked as someone who would think a bird knew enough about baseball to call Derek Jeter’s name. As if it were trying to get Derek Jeter’s attention. For an autograph? My suspicion: free tickets.
I went several days with this secret knowledge until one morning Katherine said “You know who Derek Jeter is, right?”
It took all of my willpower not to answer “Derek? Derek Jeter?”
Instead, I asked her why she wanted to know.
“This will sound strange,” she said, “but there’s a bird out there who keeps saying something that sounds like Derek Jeter.”
I nodded knowingly, a difficult move to perfect unless practiced regularly in front of a mirror.
“You’ve heard it?”
“Sure,” I said in the precise tone called for after nodding knowingly.
“Well, what kind of bird is it?”
I chuckled knowingly. (A subtly different move than nodding knowingly, but still a member of the knowingly family.)
“It’s a Derek Jeter bird.”
She stared at me, unconvinced.
“It’s probably where the real Derek Jeter got his name,” I said.
Katherine replied with piercing logic: “You mean his parents didn’t have a last name until he was born?”
“I don’t know,” I said defensively. The thing you learn after studying mysteries of the universe is that they don’t always have an answer. Like the impossibility of knowing how to use a corkscrew. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be called mysteries.
“Maybe Derek is his first name and Jeter is his middle name,” I said. “There are lots of famous people who go around with first names and middle names but no last name. Like Ann Margaret. Or Jimmie John. Or 50 cent.
“The rapper? Shouldn’t his name be 50 cents?”
“I think the s is silent,” I replied. “And also invisible. I mean, that’s my educated guess.”
But, then again, it may be just another one of those mysteries of the universe. He said knowingly.
©Patrick A. McGuire and A Hint of Light 2013, all rights reserved