Full Moon Serenades

Swainson's Thrush & Western Meadowlark Courtesy US NPS Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush) Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark) Combined by Patrick Kelly
Swainson’s Thrush & Western Meadowlark
Courtesy US NPS
Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush)
Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark)
Combined by Patrick Kelly
The serenades around where I live begin early. Today it was during the full moon at 3am, in a break from the blessed rain. The chorus is mostly of robins, but one voice sticks out as new; a call I do not know; a love letter to curiosity of who could make such a call. I have hope that I’ll be able to find who sings like a Geddy Lee who has found Xanadu. It isn’t the first mystery bird I’ve encountered though.

I do remember my first, how can one not, that first call which bamboozled and hypnotized me years ago, both awakening and soothing that inside of me which makes me human. I used to live in a small cabin in the middle of Alaska, and during the eternal summers I’d hear this bird’s haunting call lull me to sleep. It was a Weddell seal of the woods. A UAP that sang.

At first, I didn’t want to know who it was filling the woods with quicksilver honeydew, drop by drop. I somehow felt that the magic would be lost, that by knowing the source I would ruin the spring. But then one day, the music maker appeareth. He was brown, squat, with a small thin beak, just sitting on a spruce branch at my eye level. When he sang, I found I was not disappointed. The Eden of unknowing bliss was not left behind. Instead, where once I saw an it, now I saw a thou. He was singing. The noble, sylvan Swainson’s Thrush.

This trend continued on for me, and once I moved to Utah, I found even more new strange songs. I learned to let the choir sing from their perches, and wait for them to show themselves. The newest singer I discovered was last summer, out in the last intact meadows which border the Bonneville Shoreline trail in Cache Valley, fast disappearing to the grind of half-acre plots and four-car garages which confuse godliness with gaudiness. In their loss, also deplete becomes their song.

Once I heard this new serenader, an avian Van Halen, I began repeating the trail just to hear his song. Like the thrush, which at this point was many years prior, his song seemed to have no source, it simply emanated from the golden grasses and muted sage which, pressed by wind, created a woven mat of gestalt terroir and echoed off the small crevices which led to the mountainsides.

So days and weeks went by as I hiked with my dogs. I’d keep an ear to the pastures and when I heard him, or his premonition upon the wind, I’d freeze and bend in. And sure enough, a certain day came where on this hike I listened, heard, and then saw him. Speckled brown back, golden chest with a black chevron, perched atop a scrubby little juniper calling into the wind. A Western Meadowlark at work.

So if this summer you hear a new sound in the full moon morning and don’t know who makes it, don’t shy, ignore, nor give up. The best thing you can do is to keep listening and keep waiting, be it your first or just most recent. Eventually the caller will pull the curtain back of their own accord and be revealed. So here’s my wish of good luck to you, that you will find what you’re listening for out in the world.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US National Park Service(NPS) Robbie Hannawacker, Photographer (thrush) & Albert Myran, Photographer (meadowlark)
Audio: Courtesy US NPS Media / David Betchkal (thrush) & US NPS & MSU Acoustic Atlas/Jennifer Jerrett (meadowlark)
Additional Audio Courtesy & © Kevin Colver, J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Logan Canyon Hiking, Bridgerland Audubon & Cache Hikers, site per Sarah Ohms, https://logancanyonhiking.com/bonneville.htm

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Cache Hikers, http://www.cachehikers.org/Descriptions/BonnevilleShorelineTrail.html

Bonneville Shoreline Trail, Official Site(2016), http://www.bonnevilleshorelinetrail.org/

Swainson’s Thrush, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/overview

Swainson’s Thrush, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/bird/swainsons-thrush/

Swainson’s Thrush, UtahBirds.org, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/SwainsonsThrush.htm

Western Meadowlark, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Western_Meadowlark

See Western Meadowlark in Sagebrush Communities in the Intermountain West, Bird Habitat Guide, American Bird Conservancy, https://abcbirds.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/SagebrushGuide.pdf

Western Meadowlark, UtahBirds.org, http://www.utahbirds.org/birdsofutah/ProfilesS-Z/WesternMeadowlark.htm

Flippant Gripes and Labyrinthian Gratitude

Flippant Gripes and Labyrinthian Gratitude: In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats. Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats.
Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly, Photographer
I love the sun. Now, I don’t always like it, but I always do love it. It’s a relationship that is both iterative and consistent, built by years of experience and yet left open for surprises. It provides, draws me out, pushes me inside, and draws me out once more. Like the four valves of our hearts, the seasons each give new direction.

In winter, I seek it out and try and absorb as much vitamin D as I can. I can appreciate that it gives us nutrition, life, longevity. I inhale as I look up and if I try hard enough I think I can gently photosynthesize. If I get real desperate, I’ll make my optometrist’s scorn roll out of my mind as I play some lighthearted sunstare, burning a gentle nimbus of black into what was once a perfectly fine astigmatism.

In spring I feel as though I can count myself among the ilk of flowering trees, alien hybrids in their own right. The sun bakes my own winterlogged bark, and I too reach forth beyond my skin. I use my palms as leaves stretching upwards and my warmed respite as flowers. I allow myself to feel awakened, thawed beyond simply thawing, and into growth. I exhale as I look up and warm my bones by that big yellow fire in the sky.

In summer I begin to gripe and wear increasingly larger hats. I deeply feel what semi-arid means, and eventually begin to ponder if that’s just marketing against the surely true aridity I feel. My dormant joints rediscover their ranges of motion and youthful play blooms perennial in my lexicon. And, it gets hot. Hot hot. My love, though, does not wane as I seek increasingly dense shade through the season. This love persists in the dog days of summer because while I pant in lily-skinned evapotranspiration, a life of hard winters reminds me to hyperphage my vitamins while I can. I inhale as I look around and see the life which feeds from the sun just as I do. We are all in the same boat.

In fall my solar binge takes full stride, paired neatly with cool winds foreboding the coming darkness. Just how summer mirrors winter, fall mirrors spring as I stock up and prepare for another winter. As want gives way to need, I try and push the sun into my own roots. I store memory, reflection, and nostalgia in one cellar, and hard cider, wild berry jams, and garden salsa in the other. I exhale and stoke the coals which will carry me to yet another spring.

So this spring as you, too, are finding your own leaves and flowers bend to the fresh-stoked fire in the sky, I invite you to reflect upon your own relationship with the sun. See how it molds you. Feel your gripes as flippant and your gratitude as labyrinthian. Hear how it draws the world in and out of breath. Even if you don’t always like it, discover how you love it.

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy & © Patrick Kelly
Audio: Courtesy & © Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Songs of Spring

Songs of Spring: American Robin Turdis migratorius Finding a high point to sing and be seen Courtesy US FWS Peter Pearsall, Photographer
American Robin
Turdis migratorius
Finding a high point to sing and be seen
Courtesy US FWS
Peter Pearsall, Photographer
In the time of year which straddles Winter’s Ligeti and Summer’s Scheherezade lies Spring’s perpetual Peer Gynt Morning Mood. Spring is a unique juxtaposition of an ubiquitous ice patch in the sun, a gentle awakening from a static annual ablution. And the birds are back, too.Songs of Spring

For me, my first indicator of spring is the call of the male American Robin who warbles from the top of the nearest thing with a top to warble from, melting away the dark with his song. He will announce himself as Spring incarnate, and honest be told I think he really is. He is staking his territory, newly thawed, full of history and habitat and hope. Warble on, dude.

The air brings music too, our next sign of the season. It is always in harmony with the budding willow velvet, emerging daffodil spears, and wild bedheaded leaves which survived winter under the weight of its blanket. It’s the kind of music that sends shivers up your spine and reminds you that the sun is here, yes, but don’t have your sweater too far away. You’ll need it.

The last in the choir of Spring is the low basso profundo of good mud; that sound you can smell. It’s not the mud caused by summer rainfall which is dainty underfoot and easily run off, but the mud which strives to be that of the marshlands. It is not privy to splishes nor splashes, but instead grips you by the ankle like a playful toddler upon their parent, and when pulled up, if you’re lucky enough to still have your boot, releases everyone’s favorite sound to make in a packed van. It echos with each step. The juvenile earth cannot be quelled.

So this spring, keep your ear to the ground, upon the wind, and towards the trees for the music of the free world. It is the wellspring source of all our own imitated humanly scores, and so will always be true. Happy Spring everyone. Get outside and lose a boot. You’ll be glad you did.

I’m Patrick Kelly and I’m Wild About Utah
 
Credits:

Images: Courtesy US FWS, Peter Pearsall, Photographer https://digitalmedia.fws.gov/digital/collection/natdiglib/id/29913/rec/10
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver and J. Chase and K.W. Baldwin.
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://www.logannature.org
Included Links: Patrick Kelly & Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Wild About Utah, Posts by Patrick Kelly

Stokes Nature Center in Logan Canyon, https://www.logannature.org/

Winter-Lux Aeterna, György Ligeti, A Capella Amsterdam, Daniel Reuss and Suzanne van Els, Posted December 9, 2009, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-iVYu5lyX5M
Spring-Peer Gynt, Suite No.1, Op.46 – 1. Morning Mood, Edvard Grieg, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Herbert von Karajan, Deutsche Grammophone Stereo 410026-02, Posted July 30, 2018, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fATAQtY9ag
Summer-Scheherazade, Rimsky Korsakov, Philadelphia Orchestra, Riccardo Muti, Posted April 10,2020 by Matthew Roman, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V4rylqeyD5c
Fall-The Fall of the Leaf (1963): II. Vivace, Imogen Holst, Posted September 21, 2017, Thomas Hewett Jones, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=llkFjUm3nPI
Also suggested by Patrick:
The Trout(Die Forelle), Franz Schubert transcribed by Franz Liszt, Evgeny Kissin, Recorded at the Salle des Combins (Verbier, Switzerland), on 26 Jul. 2013. © Idéale Audience / MUSEEC, Medici.tv, https://youtu.be/HkGcNt3ohog

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

A Questionably Lodgepole Pine: Lodgepole Pine stand Yellowstone Collection Courtesy US National Parks Service, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer October 27, 1988
Lodgepole Pine stand
Yellowstone Collection
Courtesy US National Parks Service,
Bob Stevensoon, Photographer
October 27, 1988
Sometimes I have a hard time coming up with fun or fancy things to say for the radio. It’s just a thing that happens. A Questionably Lodgepole Pine

When that happens, sometimes I’ll just go outside and pick something happening around me, or something I think of when outside and write about that. Sometimes or almost always, creativity for me is not clean-cut. It can be kinda formulaic: talk about things you see, feel, and think in a way that hopefully helps folks balance listening, their imagination, and hopefully hope all at the same time. It’s at least an ideal.

But sometimes instead what comes out when you’re outdoors, is stuff that is kinda dumb and pretty funny. Truth be told, I prefer dumb funny things. I think stuff that is funny is better than stuff that isn’t funny. Funny stuff is fun.

And so, here’s me sitting in a big gold puffy coat and well-napkined Carhartts in a foldable lawn chair under gray winter sky, and jack is happening around me. No birds tweeting. No fresh tracks. Not even no dim ray of sunshine. Just hands as cold as cold hands can be. Then I see a dead skyward and questionably lodgepole pine. I thought it could maybe have a second life as a flagpole, the name I thought it could be and all. And then I wondered…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly
Regardless I doubt they’d much care if it was green
Beings they’ve got no eyes

No eyes no ears no tongue no nose
Not even fully developed human hands which spring from their roots so

And then I thought…

If ducks could sing opera
Like dark Verdi arias
I think they’d quack less good
But dig in no less mud

No lips no fur lays eggs webbed toes
Brains like walnuts, only knows where south goes

And then…

If clouds could pick
What unit of measure that they preferred
I’d reckon volume’d be tricky
Be hard to pin down where the mass does now occur

No lungs no feet bring snow turns sleet
Don’t even got clocks to keep time.

And that’s where it ended. Stream ran Utah dry. And that’s ok.

And even though when I read what I wrote to my partner she gave me that look of, “you sure?” I couldn’t help but think, “yup!” so I laughed and smiled wide.

So here’s me saying to you that sometimes, when you go looking for inspiration about the world from that old all-about-us well that is the world, don’t turn up your nose on silly things. Funny things that pop into your mind, even if they are dumb. Because once, someone probably thought something wild and dumb that ended up being kind of neat. Or something that they thought about. And who knows, maybe one day we’ll have to ask ourselves again…

If trees wove a flag
What color would they fly?
Would they measure it in cubits,
Or some other unit from the sky?

I’m Patrick Kelly, and I’m Wild About Utah.
 
Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy US National Park Service, Yellowstone Collection, Bob Stevensoon, Photographer https://www.nps.gov/features/yell/slidefile/plants/conifers/pine/Page-3.htm
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver https://wildstore.wildsanctuary.com/collections/special-collections
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org/
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

McNally, Catherine, How to Cure Writer’s Block: Go Green, Medium, October 7, 2019, https://medium.com/@catherine.mcnally/how-to-cure-writers-block-go-green-e0c00e8e614

Lodgepole Pine, Range Plants of Utah, Utah State University Extension, https://extension.usu.edu/rangeplants/shrubs-and-trees/LodgepolePine