Her name was Mrs. Lipsky. She was my fifth grade teacher. I have no idea whether she was married. Or had a family. I was a kid, and she was just my teacher, gray-haired and headed toward retirement.
She took a group of us out at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings to bird watch. It seemed fairly boring at the time. Birds were just…birds. They perched up in the trees. Sometimes made noises. I don’t know why I persisted in this endeavor.
Now I do. Now I really get it.
I stand in the brisk Oklahoma wind, not moving, staring up into every branch, watching for movement.
The trees are still bare, stark and pointed toward the sky. I wait, trying not to blink. I don’t want to miss what I know I hear.
I move mere inches while keeping my eyes on the branches. Of course I manage to step in dog poo in just those few inches. Shoot. These are the only shoes I can wear, athletic shoes with an orthotic insert.
I curse my luck. But that doesn’t take me away from the task at hand. I have finally spotted it far up in the tree next door. I bring my camera up to focus on this bird.
This is what I live for.
I notice this particular tree is showing signs of spring. There are feathery buds clinging to the branches. The cycle of nature is the most predictable thing in this world. No matter what, the seasons will change, blend into one another.
There are many things I’ve long ago decided I’m not good at: being married, or living with another person. Which I suppose is one and the same. Yet I find that pets are fantastic company.
I can’t read maps or know automatically which way is north or south.
I think perhaps I was meant to live alone with my furry babies, focusing on the slideshow that is nature. Which of course is constantly evolving.
I’m far from patient.
Yet I can stand here for long periods, ankle and foot protesting, and watch until I see something move up in the trees. And then I am relentless until my eyes find it.
I spot it. And I feel joy. My camera is trained on this beauty and I’m clicking away.
I guess the seeds for this were sown back in Mrs. Lipsky’s fifth grade class. In her getting up so very early to take a bunch of silly fifth graders, who naturally can’t be quiet or watchful, out to do just what I’m doing now.
I didn’t know it then, but once I gained use of a camera, after I started blogging, this somehow became my mission. My reward for the dog poo clinging to the bottom of my shoe and squished into the heel crevices.
The yard pretty much looks like this everywhere. Dead stalks that have long ago given up the ghost and fallen over. But I notice growth showing through. And this makes me smile, poo or not. And of course the fact that I got some good shots this time out.
Every day I will come out here and watch for minute signs of growth. I might not be the gardener that could take to tasks like I did last year. Or the year before that.
But a gardener, in whatever form I am able, I will always be. And a watcher of birds.
Thank you, Mrs. Lipsky.