I'm thinking today about the first time I saw an indigo bunting - on my first *real* bird walk - and the naturalist who was responsible for my seeing it and many other firsts that day. During the ten years or so since, I've thought back to how fortunate I was to have met Don and the rest of that little group of old folks that day when I was feeling so new to birds and, quite honestly, clueless.
I had this new pair of cheap binoculars that I hardly knew how to use and all the enthusiasm in the world. But I didn't know anyone to teach me about birds, so I signed myself up for a walk around the nature center where I had also just recently agreed to volunteer once a month. I recall being embarassed with myself for knowing nothing and not seeing a familiar face amongst the group. But Don was leading and there were other friendly faces that I soon learned belonged to more volunteers at the nature center. We saw all the birds that were common to the neighborhood around the center (set in the middle of a cornfield, basically) and they were all wonderful and new to me then. The indigo bunting was the first bird I saw, and I mean really saw, and wow - I was just bewildered with its beauty and the seeming magic of the gentle man who pulled it out of the treeline, by its song alone, for me to see.
I remember his patience with me, the new kid, repeating the words to the song over and over, patience with me while I struggled to find that little blue bird singing from the treetops; "Fire-fire, where-where, here-here, see it-see it, put it out-put it out..."
As it turned out, Don was a neighbor, and I'd run into him on my walks in the woods near home, or in the grocery store, or in Cape May, or at the local Audubon meetings and we'd talk birds and share our latest good finds from the neighborhood. He often suggested that I call his wife and invite her along when I went looking for birds because he didn't have the time to do as much birding as either of them might have liked.
The last time I saw Don was a few months back at the memorial service for another local birding buddy. Don wasn't himself then; he'd been sick for a while, with something the doctors hadn't been able to figure out. I read today that Don died this week from ALS that had only recently been diagnosed. What a terrible shock.
Do me a kindness and take a minute to read his obit and think a kind thought or say a prayer for his family. I'll think of him and remember the bunting's song and be glad to have known this quiet man who shared his love of nature so willingly with others.
festival of Lights
2 weeks ago