birdwatching and other notes

In the middle of March I thought I’d be posting here regularly. But, if you’re anything like me, you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m pretty tired of computer screens. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful we can connect with our loved ones via these digital pathways. But, ugh, a computer screen for *fun?* Hardly.

That said, I do want to check in now and again so here I am.

A few weeks ago I bought myself some binoculars and a bird feeder to hang outside our window. Both of these purchases are related to my newly forming interest in watching birds. It started a few summers ago, but it’s only this pandemic that’s got me slowed down enough to pursue it in earnest.

This week, I opened the box and brought out the binoculars. I tried them out when we were up in the mountains of Maine with very, very little success. Who would’ve thought it difficult to find birds?

It’s not, actually. It’s just that I was sitting there scanning the woods with the things instead of listening for the songs and calls and guiding my view there. I suspect many metaphors for life will come from this newfound interest. (Paying attention, focusing, slowing down.)

In probably less than an hour, total, or maybe closer to two, I’ve finally learned pretty well how to use the binoculars properly and have spotted some birds: grey catbirds, crows (who needs binoculars? but they are extraordinary close up!), chickadees, goldfinches, house sparrows, cardinals, and today I saw a pair of magnolia warblers! I’ve never seen those before in my whole 50 years, so that was a treat. I didn’t even know they lived around here? I’d never heard of them. Here’s a picture of what they look like, though I’m not going to delve into trying to get photos myself until I’ve gotten much, much better at simply spotting them.

Magnolia Warbler (Setophaga magnolia) (14023131977)
Magnolia Warbler (male)

Meeting for Worship

Like so many of us, I’m feeling pretty zoom’d out. But I’m happy to report that Meeting for Worship with my Society of Friends community “works” via this online format. It probably sounds strange if you aren’t used to unprogrammed Quaker Meeting for Worship, but we join together in silence — or “waiting worship” — for an hour. If someone is moved to share, if they feel led by Spirit, or the Light, or God… (there are many ways to describe it) they may speak out of the silence.

In our family, we turn off the video during Meeting, though most people leave it on. I don’t insist my kiddos sit still in the silence; I’m grateful they’re willing to join me in Worship at all. My younger daughter usually plays quietly or reads, and my older has lately been drawing and painting. This is something she drew during Meeting for Worship in April. The quote, “There is something in my mind that I do not invite,” was said by someone in worship.

One of the advantages of this new way of living is it’s easier than ever to join Meeting for Worship. If you’d like to join us, it’s at 10:30am EST on Sundays. Our website has the zoom info.

working from home(s)

Folks who live here in Maine are rightfully angry at vacationers who are traveling from New York City to come to their summer homes, quite possibly bringing the coronavirus with them. Others who are moving to their summer homes in rural areas to get away from the crowds are also quite possibly being selfish jerks because if they get sick, they may require care from rural hospitals that may not have the resources to care for the year-round residents.

Keeping these truths in mind, I feel somewhat sheepish about the fact that my daughters and I sometimes go to my parents’ summer place to “get away from it all” for a while. We pack everything we will need — we won’t use local grocery stores, etc. — and if one of us gets sick, we will return to our home city. That is to say, if one of us needs a hospital, we will use the hospital by our real home.

Today, I went to the summer place to check on the furnace. It turns out it needed to be bled (bleeded?) so I waited there while the repairman took care of it. This photo shows my home office this morning as I was working from one of the two homes I call home:

cast iron stove with glowing embers peeking through the bottom openings

brain focus/cognitive load

Writing requires a certain kind of brain function that feels too challenging lately. Or, rather, focusing on the work of writing — of running a business that requires I write grant applications and reports for nonprofit organizations — feels impossible. I can’t focus. I can’t stay sitting at the computer for long enough to process the questions and come up with the answers. (I can sit at the computer if I am mindlessly clicking on links or reading twitter or other brain hog activities just fine.)

This reminds me of the worst times of my post-concussion syndrome healing. It’s different (that was slippery thoughts that I couldn’t get to stay in my head) but similar.

Even writing this feels like a mistake. Have I used up some writing brain space that I should’ve reserved for billable work? (Probably?) (Yes!) In fact I just asked my editor at Black Girl In Maine Media if I could have an extension, as writing a post about racism that would be worth sharing publicly feels flat out impossible.

The brutality of unchecked late-stage capitalism, the weight of hundreds of years of oppression on people across the world and in the USA, the small daily challenges of trying to make a birthday party fun for my now-11 year old, sharing Easter with my parents and uncle, or facing the massive fact that my children’s childhood memories and development will include this history-making traumatic time… all of it.

Add to that the putting away laundry, making meals, getting dressed (???), creating routines (what day is it?), knowing that while we are 100% not in this alone many people are suffering far more than our family is but that doesn’t mean this isn’t difficult. And I miss my brain. I miss my ability to sit at the computer, look at a task list, prioritize it, and get writing on an application to submit it in advance of the deadline.

This post reminds me that I’ve decided to just write whatever I want in this space without editing or revising. It’s a personal record for me more than anything else. Thanks for reading, if you still are. :-)