Followed by Raptors
Some of the large birds in my neighborhood are interested in my son, while others are interest in my French bulldog
Finding myself with a bit of extra time on my hands this Tuesday, I’ve decided to go on a nature walk.
All through this worldwide pandemic, I have found that the best way to keep a safe social distance while spending time with my nonverbal son Jukie has been to walk the greenbelts, streets, and arboretums (arboreta?) of Davis, California. Consistency has been our key to success. Whether or not I reach my goal of walking 2021 miles over the course of 2021 (I think I will), I have enjoyed setting aside part of every day to escape from the oversized office chair from which I am compelled to write essays, poems, and comments on students’ essays, and stepping outside to listen to an audiobook, talk through my ever-present headphones to my favorite new LA resident (my mom), or just notice the patterns of breezes, the sound of the laughter of our new neighbors’ children, or the distant plaintive croon of the Capitol Corridor train that is speeding towards the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta. On these walks, moving much more patiently than the speedy bicycle of my onetime commute, Jukie and I have found many moments of quiet reflection.
Just yesterday, for example, as we were crossing a low footbridge across Putah Creek at the north end of Willowbank Road in unincorporated South Davis, Jukie stopped and stared up into the trees above us. Jukie has taught me how to slow down, or at least to double-back to give him a high five while gobbling up a few more steps towards my daily quota. Jukie’s pauses and serene observations determine our dawdling pace, turning every weekday afternoon into an unhurried Sunday. Down at ground-level, one finds ample evidence that this particular grove is populated at the treetops by turkey vultures, those huge foreboding birds that always reminded me of the malevolent Skeksis, the 18 vulture-dragon antagonists of the 1982 Jim Henson film The Dark Crystal.
Yesterday evening Jukie could tell that the turkey vultures were watching us from 40 or 50 feet above us, noting the slow and careful path we took through their territory. One could imagine the vultures making eye contact with Jukie and offering him a nod of recognition and of respect, for perhaps they know that Jukie will never yell at them, or aim a weapon in their direction. Because these creatures lack a syrinx, the equivalent of the voice box of birds, they can hiss or grunt, as Jukie does sometimes, but never sing. Both Jukie and the vultures must find atypical means to communicate.
Although not the best-smelling birds, those turkey vultures who watch us on our walks are gentle giants. This is not the case with all the birds overhead. The first week that our French bulldog puppy Margot joined us, one of our avian neighbors also came to visit to check out the addition to the family. This happened in the back yard in October of 2018. Margot stepped outside to frolic in our back yard, attracting the notice of a rather large red-tailed hawk who swooped down to land on our wooden play structure. In all the years that we had our 40-lb English bulldog, Dilly, no raptors came to watch her play in the back yard, but our 12-lb Margot made this hawk wonder if she were strong enough to carry away such a muscular little morsel. After taking the bird’s picture – no telephoto needed – I recommended that she go hunt elsewhere. She did.
Now weighing in at a hefty 20 lbs, Margot confidently patrols our neighborhood parks seeking to make friends with birds, squirrels, cats, dogs, and, her favorite species, humans. I get to walk her at various times of the week, and I appreciate all the locals whom she has “introduced” me to. With some extra time on my hands, now I can take her out to make friends (perhaps including you!) on Tuesday evenings, as well. I will keep one eye open for raptors.
If you haven’t done so already, I invite you to subscribe to my pub quiz. A few dozen fans of the quiz receive weekly trivia in their mailboxes and find the 31 questions posted on Patreon. Now even those pledging but $10 a week will receive more than 120 new questions every month. Some even save 15% by buying a year’s subscription. Now that we can’t meet weekly, I invite you to enjoy the fun with friends remotely. I will post on Patreon those the top scores that people report to me. Thanks especially to Kari and another anonymous patron for being my newest subscribers. I hope to add your name to this list!
This week’s (I almost wrote “tonight’s”) pub quiz will feature questions on the following topics: film taglines, videogames, China, Gene Autry, notable islands, Goths, Ireland exports, strong seasons, patrilinear successions, space travel, obsessions, African placenames, unusual heroes, punctuality and responsibility, well-read trials, Christmas gifts, alcoholic beverages, typicality, recognizable flower colors, actors who do accents, popular lights emphasizing “touch,” sitcoms, Egyptian blinds, US Senators, flight behaviors, all stars, Detroit comparisons, current events, and Shakespeare.
If you are wondering whether or not to subscribe to the weekly quiz, just send me an email expressing your interest, and I will send you tonight’s quiz as a generous sample.
If you want to hang out, I am hosting a poetry reading Thursday night here in Davis. You are invited! Details below. Be well.
Here are three questions from our last Pub Quiz at de Vere’s Irish Pub:
Mottos and Slogans. The Japanese company that uses the slogan “Revs Your Heart” started making harmonicas in 1914, motorcycles in 1955, and today is the world's largest piano manufacturing company. Name the company, which shares a name with its founder.
Newspaper Headlines. The Attorney General of what state said he will continue the his 2020 election investigation even though the “official” audit in his state was widely considered a big flop?
Four for Four. Which of the following, if any, lasted as long as the time that de Vere’s Irish Pub has been found at 217 E Street in Davis? The American Revolutionary War, The Chunnel Construction Time, Mayor McCheese, The Reign of King Tut.
P.P.S. Poetry Night is Thursday.
Join us at 7 PM on Thursday, October 7th, at the John Natsoulas Gallery, 521 1st Street in Davis. We will be joined by two standout Sacramento poets, Tom Goff and Aaron Bradford
Tom Goff is the winner of the 2021 Robinson Jeffers Tor House Poetry Prize. An instructional assistant in the Reading and Writing Center at Folsom Lake College, Goff has degrees in music performance from Sacramento State University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He has written five chapbooks of poetry and one full-length collection, Twelve-Tone Row: Music in Words (I Street Press, 2018). He recently has been published in Spectral Realms #14 (Hippocampus Press, 2021), and is represented in Fire and Rain: Ecopoetry of California (Scarlet Tanager Press, 2018).
Opening for Tom Goff will be Aaron Bradford.
Aaron Bradford teaches creative writing, argument, and literature courses at American River College. Bradford writes about being a father of daughters during the era of global climate change and pandemic, including the anxiety and the slivers of hope that can embed into daily life. His poems have appeared in Tule Review, Pearl, Chiron Review, and Nerve Cowboy and the anthologies Incidental Buildings & Accidental Beauty, Burning the Little Candle, and Late Peaches.
The Poetry Night Reading Series, taking place on the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7 PM, is generously supported by the people and poets of the Sacramento Valley, and by John Natsoulas and the staff at the John Natsoulas Gallery. Find the Facebook event page for this event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/197469059125790 .
P.P.P.S. If you want to see examples of excellent and original bird photography, follow my friend Jonathan on Twitter: https://twitter.com/phylogenomics. As a bonus, you will also learn about microbes.