Saturday, February 09, 2008

Fire-fire, where-where, here-here...

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.

18 comments:

bunnygirl said...

How sad that such a wonderful person died so young! It just doesn't seem fair.

MojoMan said...

Yes, it's especially sad when someone so good dies so young. The cycling world lost a similar inspirational and helpful figure (Sheldon Brown) this week. Maybe when such people pass on, we can honor them by trying to be better people ourselves to take up the slack.

nina said...

So sad for your loss of someone so important in your life.
I'm sure you'll think of him often.
A reminder of how what we pass on to others lives on after we're no longer here.

valown said...

Sorry to hear this. He sounded like such a great person. I honor people like him that share their love of nature with others. I recently wrote a post on people losing touch with nature and subsequently not caring about it, and how I think that those of us who love it should do all that we can to get people excited about it if we can. It sounds like he lived his life that way. We need more souls like him.

Jayne said...

Prayers ascend for Don and his family. How wonderful he touched so many lives while here on earth. He'll continue to shine down upon Cape May I am sure.

Lynne said...

Prayers went up for Don and his family. He sure sounds like a nice fellow. You can remember him when you help others find the joy of birding when you volunteer.

Dave said...

Sorry for the loss of someone so important in your life. Because of his kindness and his willing to share, you'll remember him at every bird outing you go on. Don't forget what he said about asking his wife to go along on your trips. That's probably more important now.

ncmountainwoman said...

How sad when we lose someone who contributed so much to our lives and the lives of others. And at such a young age. How fortunate you were to know him.

As someone once said, "Don't grieve because he is gone. Celebrate because he was here." He sounds like a wonderful man.

Mary said...

My smile turned to tears for you. I'm so sorry. I'll think of both of you the first time I see an Indigo Bunting. You'll never forget him.

Larry said...

als-what a scary neurological disease that is. I'm sorry to hear that.-Indigo Bunting was the first bird that really shocked me at my feeder.-I thought that I had something really rare-it was to me at least.

Susan Gets Native said...

I'm so sorry for you, Laura. And his family. 53 is too young.
What a spectacular bird for him to find for you.

Mary said...

I just came back to read his obit. Way too young. I'm almost his age. He made a difference in this world.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Sounds like your friend left plenty of people to follow in his path. Can't ask for much better than that!

Good you knew him, eh?

Endment said...

What a wonderful memory to leave behind!

KGMom said...

Laura--what a wonderful tribute in your words. The measure of a person--who have you touched in your life. He obviously touched you.
ALS is a cruel disease--it so robs people: of life, of youth, of muscle control. The only thing it doesn't take as a person wastes away is the mind.

Susan said...

Laura,
I'm so sorry about your friend.

Patty said...

I know this is a very old post, but I am new to your wonderful blog. Thank you for bringing back a beautiful memory. A lifetime ago, although sometimes seems like yesterday, I was Donnie's very first student and an Indigo Bunting was the first bird he helped me to find. I am sorry for your loss, Laura. I loved him too.

LauraHinNJ said...

Patty: Thank you so much for your comment! It feels really wonderful to remember Don and know that there's others out there thinking about him, still.