So there I was, minding my own business at the dining room table, when I noticed about eight different kinds of birds in what would be the garden if all the plants weren't dead. There were two kinds of woodpeckers, some cardinals, chickadees, a tufty-headed thing, a bunch of bluebirds and some other things I couldn't identify. Honestly, you're lucky you got that much information. Is there a phone app that has facial recognition for birds? I used to have a book, but looking up birds in the bird book is like looking up a word in the dictionary to find out how to spell it. Yes, it must be done - but where do you start?
It was the bluebirds that really got me. I never see bluebirds. Don't they know it's December? Don't the other birds know? This wasn't the usual assortment of ornithological drabbery we generally get at this time of year. This was a veritable Hallmark card of songbirds.*
I sat there wondering what cataclysmic meteorological event had driven them into my yard. That's the only possible explanation - like when all the woodland creatures take flight in Bambi. They weren't bluebirds of happiness in my yard. They were bluebirds of imminent doom.
This new outlook is either a sign that a) the End of Times is truly near or b) I have lived in New England too long.
I grew up in Colorado, where people are less cynical.
Colorado: "Look! Really, really fuzzy caterpillars! It's going to be a great ski season!"
New England: "We'll probably lose power for six weeks, maybe more. If not in this storm, surely the next."
Things were generally more upbeat and optimistic in Colorado. I blame the altitude and resulting lack of oxygen to the brain. I don't know what to blame the pessimism of the northeast on. I'm going with either the Puritans or higher education.
When I came here, people knew I was from Somewhere Else. I have lived here long enough so now instead of auspicious signs, I see omens. I fit in better now.
But it's hard not to find the birds weirdly reassuring. Four of them piled into our birdbath and splashed around - two bluebirds and two something-elses. They didn't seem panicked or rushed. There was nothing about their frolicking that signaled an approaching tsunami. They were... pretty.
In the early fall we had a... swarm? herd? flurry? ...of dragonflies in the garden. There were probably a hundred of them. I think it's technically impossible to signal global tragedy with dragonflies. Ditto ladybugs. We get a lot of those, too.
Maybe the take-away is that beautiful things show up at unexpected times. Maybe it's that we'll all find a place to land when we need it.
Maybe it's that I don't know a thing about birds. Maybe this is the normal time to migrate and all the different kinds were just carpooling.
Maybe I just don't look up often enough.
*It's okay, I don't know what a Hallmark card of songbirds looks like, either.