Farewells – Part 2

All your hours are wings that beat through space from self to self.

A nonbreeding male American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis) perched on a branch (2009_12_19_044964)

He who wears his morality but as his best garment were better naked.

A nonbreeding Harris's sparrow (Zonotrichia querula) perched on a branch (2009_12_20_045764)

The wind and the sun will tear no holes in his skin.

An orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata) perched in a bush (2009_12_13_044384)

And he who defines his conduct by ethics imprisons his song-bird in a cage.

An adult yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius) climbing the side of a tree (2009_11_28_042637)

The freest song comes not through bars and wires.

An American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) standing on the shore (2009_11_26_041712)

And he to whom worshipping is a window, to open but also to shut, has not yet visited the house of his soul whose windows are from dawn to dawn.

— — — — — — — — — —

Text from The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran; all images from White Rock Lake.


[1] American goldfinch (Carduelis tristis)

[2] Harris’s sparrow (Zonotrichia querula)

[3] Orange-crowned warbler (Vermivora celata)

[4] Yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicus varius)

[5] American white pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)

They once darkened the plains

When I visited the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wildlife Refuge last year, I fell in love with the only wild American bison (a.k.a. American buffalo; Bison bison) I had ever seen in my life.  Though ‘wild’ is somewhat of a misnomer given they are isolated to the refuge.

An American bison (a.k.a. American buffalo; Bison bison) standing in a small pond (2009_05_22_020940)

Nevertheless, the moment I saw a small herd meandering across a meadow toward the distant trees, I had to stop to snap a few images of the two who stayed behind to mill about a small pond.  I felt as though my eyes rested on a piece of history nearly lost and now only a remnant of its once great glory.

An American bison (a.k.a. American buffalo; Bison bison) scratching its face on a tree (2009_05_22_020943)

Watching one of them scratch its face on a tree enchanted me as though I watched an alchemist conjure gold from lead.  What a common, simple act, yet I could not turn away.

An American bison (a.k.a. American buffalo; Bison bison) standing in a meadow (2009_05_22_019935)

There was a time when the ground shook under the feet of herds so vast that they covered the land from horizon to horizon.  There was a time when the plains turned dark as night as these behemoths moved about in numbers so great that it would boggle the mind.  There was a time when they roamed their world with freedom.  Though I haven’t the power to give that back to them, I can give them my respect and admiration.  They deserve as much.

Hiding in plain sight

It takes but the promise of warmth for life to bubble to the surface.  True cold remains an oddity here, a brief flirtation with that which has no hold on our world.  What freezes the lake today melts it tomorrow; what covers the world with snow this hour brushes it into history the next; what chills us into parkas and gloves this morning guides us into shorts and t-shirts this evening.

And so we in Texas are never truly without our insect brethren, never truly sans the company of the most prolific class of animals ever imagined.  For that which makes up more than half the planet’s biomass does not leave us but instead only rests and waits for the spot of warm sunshine that must certainly come.

So today’s snow follows only on the springtime temperatures that cloaked the world on Sunday.  Even as I stood on the patio letting bright skies and warm temperatures envelope me, I was not the only one who saw fit to bask in the delight of a comfortable winter day.

A rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on a tree trunk (2009_12_19_045499)

Dark ale sipped from a cold bottle did nothing to sway my attention.  My sunglasses could not hide the creature who appeared only in that secretive realm that exists betwixt light and dark, betwixt sunshine and shadow.

A rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on a tree trunk (2009_12_19_045505)

Climbing the tree before me was this small and appreciable life.  It moved deliberately yet without course: up then down, left then right, in circles from time to time.  Yet never did it leave the border where its self became a whole of halves, one lit and one unlit.

A rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on a tree trunk (2009_12_19_045514)

I watched it dance in the ethereal realm of dichotomies.  I watched it meander through a world split asunder by the sun.  I watched it travel a path where the center line cut existence in two.  And I watched it with great joy.

A rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on a tree trunk (2009_12_19_045537)

It takes but the promise of warmth for life to bubble to the surface.  True comfort remains a constant here, a friend always at the ready who cloaks us at a moment’s notice.  What heats our skin today will heat it tomorrow; what blankets the world with earnest glow this hour will brighten it the next; what melts away the chills of momentary winter always stays nearby with reliable kinship.

A rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on a tree trunk (2009_12_19_045552)

And through it all, more often than not the most prolific life on earth hides right in front of our eyes.

[photos of a rough stink bug (Parabrochymena arborea) on the tree outside my patio]


She is the goddess of the hunt.  She is the goddess of fertility and childbirth.  She is the goddess of the forests and hills.  She is Artemis.  And she is known to me.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched in a treetop (2009_10_23_033199)

Like Baket the female Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) who lives and nests close by, Artemis, a female red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus), has lived near my home for some time.  She has raised children in the woods around Dixon Branch for at least the past five years.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) looking at me (2009_10_31_036080)

She and her male companion are no strangers to love.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a branch (2010_01_24_049066)

Though I have watched them for many years, they always have nested in dense woodlands that surround the Sunset Bay confluence at White Rock Lake, and more often than not their nest hid in the treetops of one of the many small islands that remain inaccessible to all but winged visitors.

A red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) perched on a low branch (2010_01_12_048378)

Yet several weeks ago I sent a missive to a few friends letting them know both Artemis and her mate had expanded their territorial display to areas further south of their normal range.  In addition, I had watched them investigating several large trees outside the woods that historically had cloaked their nest.  I felt perhaps the two raptors might move into the open—relatively speaking—and that perhaps careful observers might have a chance to watch them nest and raise young.

A mated pair of red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) at their new nest (2010_02_20_049858)

Then yesterday under a sky dark with heavy clouds, I found it.  As you can see, she was settled in the nest while her mate stood beside her.  Both had just arrived with twigs to add to their nursery.  And they did in fact choose a tree outside the near impenetrable forest.

They remain within their territory, yes, but they now offer me an opportunity which has never been offered before.  All things being equal, the location and height of the nest indicate a distinct possibility to watch them rear young.

Farewells – Part 1

The mockingbirds sing and display, their aerial ballets worthy of the finest stages across the globe and their diverse songs reminiscent of the finest works of Mozart.  The first purple martin arrived yesterday, a vanguard leading the way for many others to follow, and soon they will fill the days with profound beauty.  The merlin waded into the crystal river and began its long swim northward, putting behind it this cold season in the south and setting its eyes on love to be found in another place and at another time.  The mourning doves pour upon the sunrise their woeful dirge until my eyes water at the sadness of the sound, yet to them it is not sad but joyous, a plaintive call that seeks to warm the heart of another.

Even as more snow is forecast next week, nature prepares her children for the season that is to come.  An eclectic celebration of dance and music.  The building of nests and the starting of families.  The putting on of fine colors and patterns, the best dress available, the finest suit.  And her migrating offspring begin their journeys.  While many will leave, many more will arrive.  Yet it is the farewells which cut us deeply, not the hellos.

So in honor of the endings that now beset us and the beginnings they foretell, I offer this brief series in celebration of the lives with whom I’ve shared a brief moment this winter, the faces that will now pass into memory as new faces take their place.  And because I believe no life is complete without reading it, I will include the divine words of Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet alongside the beauty of that which even now passes into history.

Farewell to you and the youth I have spent with you.

Yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata) perched in a bush (2010_02_06_049418)

It was but yesterday we met in a dream.

Cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum) perched on a branch (2010_02_06_049331)

You have sung to me in my aloneness, and I of your longings have built a tower in the sky.

Brown creeper (Certhia americana) climbing the side of a tree (2010_02_07_049537)

But now our sleep has fled and our dream is over, and it is no longer dawn.

A mated pair of northern pintails (Anas acuta) swimming in the bay (2010_01_24_048844)

The noontide is upon us and our half waking has turned to fuller day, and we must part.

Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) perched in winter reeds (2010_01_12_048009)

If in the twilight of memory we should meet once more, we shall speak again together and you shall sing to me a deeper song.

Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis) standing on a submerged log (2009_12_20_045591)

And if our hands should meet in another dream we shall build another tower in the sky.

— — — — — — — — — —

For those looking to fill your weekend not with farewells but with hellos, I turn your attention to these delectable blog carnivals.

Friday Ark #283: Steve ushers critters aboard the ark throughout the weekend, so visit now and visit often.  Through Sunday you will find a growing collection of marvels both great and small.

I and the Birds #119: The Cult of Birds: I cannot recommend enough that you visit Laura’s edition of this bird carnival.  She is someone I look up to as a writer, a naturalist, a feeler of emotions.  Her edition of this celebration of all things winged is the preeminent presentation that should not be missed.

An Inordinate Fondness #1 – Inaugural Issue: A man for whom I have developed a sincere admiration and great fondness, Ted MacRae offers up the inaugural edition of a carnival celebrating the largest group of animals on the planet: beetles.  His passion manifests clearly in this festival, and he sets the bar high for future versions that no doubt will struggle to meet this standard.


[1] Juvenile yellow-rumped warbler (a.k.a. myrtle warbler or Audubon’s warbler; Dendroica coronata)

[2] Subadult cedar waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum)

[3] Brown creeper (Certhia americana)

[4] Mated pair of northern pintails (Anas acuta)

[5] Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

[6] Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis)