When I was walking in the SC Botanical Gardens last week, a catbird came and landed in a Beautyberry shrub just beside me on the path. I stood stock still, unable to believe my luck. But then, being me, I couldn’t actually stay that way very long. Instead, I fell back on my tried and true method for interacting with nature: just be yourself.
“Hello there,” I said brightly to the bird, who was by now gorging himself on winter’s leftovers, shriveled, purple, Beautyberry berries.* “Did you want to have your portrait taken?”
Mr. Catbird** cocked his head at me as if considering my proposal, but somehow didn’t startle at being verbally addressed by a human being only a few feet away.
Taking this as encouragement, I began to fumble for my camera while staring him directly in the eye. “We’re actually having a promotional special today, “I added, “a free photo session for all birds friendly enough to stop by this bush.”
He actually hopped a little closer. I raised the camera slowly into range.
And that’s when everything went wrong.*** He flew gently onto the branch closest to me and looked up at me patiently, so close I could have stroked his feathered head — at which point I completely lost my own. I was so surprised that I snapped photos without even adjusting the range, with just the barest glance at the screen.
My eyes were all for him as he daintily nibbled another bright berry, tilting to watch my face the whole time, and the pictures I took show it plainly. I was definitely woman-interacting-with-bird and not would-be-nature-photographer. (Real nature photographers truly deserve our respect.)
The second he flew to another branch, much farther away, I snapped out of my trance and got a decent shot of his backside. Classic.
But hey, we shared a little moment, and that’s worth more than a photo to me.
Mr. Catbird’s portrait session is brought to you today by the beginnings of a cold or flu which also caught me by surprise and curtailed my plans to plant**** peas and mustard today. Instead, I sat in a super hot bath simulating a fever to try and get rid of the bug before it goes farther. Not very garden-related… although I did take a delightful seed catalog with me for comfort, and I plan to read a garden-related novel while I rest this afternoon.
With luck, this will be the second time I beat back a cold-like tendril of an illness this season, not allowing it to take hold. I have learned that it is much better for me to just drop everything and focus on getting better immediately upon noticing symptoms than to do what I did formerly, i.e. just ignore it and hope it goes away — and end up still dealing with lingering unpleasantness weeks later.
Just a quick note for those of you keeping track of my year of Focus. The photograph for week four is ready, but I didn’t feel remotely up to writing the accompanying post. (I suspect you’ll understand why once you read it.) That post will come tomorrow, or if need be later in the week.
* Yes, this is actually correct. You can look it up.
** No, I don’t know if it was a Mr. Catbird or a Ms. I don’t even know the proper species name for “catbird,” or if the bird in question has a more fitting common name. That is what my Dad always called these birds, and I’ve never had the pleasure of a genuine interaction with one before. You can be sure I plan to educate myself soon. And feel free to enlighten me with whatever you already know in the comments section.
*** Not really. Everything actually went just right… albeit not as expected.
**** Oh, well, those who garden by the moon say we are “moon in Virgo,” a barren yet moist period when planting is not advised. So maybe it’ll all work out for the best.
[Update 2/2/10: That was not a catbird that I saw. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology (love that place), this is a Catbird. Commonly confused with the catbird — and I’ll have to tell my Dad — is the Northern Mockingbird. Luckily, I never called my friend by name, so he did not get offended by my mistake. A particular sentence in the Cornell Lab’s description made me laugh: “The Northern Mockingbird enjoys making its presence known.” Indeed.]