Bird TV

bird tv: Flicker, Courtesy Pixabay
Flicker, Courtesy Pixabay
There are some days that I just don’t have it in me to get outside. Maybe it’s the winter blues; maybe it’s exhaustion from a full day’s work. Either way, there are days where all I want to do is sit in the shelter of my home next to the heat ducts, or under the shade of a porch, and just exhale for hours. Sometimes, getting into the thick or exploring one of the many unmapped nooks of Utah’s majesty just isn’t happening.

I used to feel bad about this. I have but one life, one short blip of time upon this earth, I should be making use of every second. Whether it’s laboring on an overdue chore, or out testing my grit in harmony with Utah’s character, I need to be doing or I am dying; wasting the one life I am given.

bird tv: Two American Robins and a Northern Flicker Drinking from a Bird Bath Copyright © 2012 Linda Kervin
Two American Robins and a
Northern Flicker Drinking from a Bird Bath
Copyright © 2012 Linda Kervin
It took me some good time to not overcome this mentality, but see my struggle with new eyes: to wash them and see the world fresh. My ablution began by asking a simple question: how can I love the still wild land that has provided for my family, my nation, my species for millennia, even when I don’t have it in me to go out and commune with it as I know I should daily?

The answer for me was to find a way to appreciate and give in such a way that allows me great joy and relaxation, yet fulfills that higher narrative which only the world beyond human influence can provide. My answer was watching birds at my small backyard bird feeder.

While it may not sound as exciting as fording a river while carrying my dog, or submitting a mountain that still holds on to deep winter snows (again with my dog), it gives me a chance to still learn about the cut of my jib, to see what character I’m made of, and to see my place in the world, in creation, and in life.

bird tv: Chickadee Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay
Chickadee
Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay
I test my grit upon the stillness of my mind when cheerful chickadees begin to see me as a part of the scenery and perch ever closer and closer to the branches above me, or my honest acceptance when rackets of starlings come to steal the suet left out in hope of a Stellar’s jay or lost mountain bluebird, or my reflection on where my body will one day go as scraps from my last hunt are eaten by the local neighborhood magpie clan.

This is an activity I have dubbed Bird TV for those who will often find my attention turn suddenly from conversation with them to quickly confirming the flicker drumming on the feeder’s home tree marking its stake. Through the lessons of my wild neighbors and in my observation of them, I can still hold true to myself in seeking to commune with the real world daily. By watching Bird TV, I can learn the calls of different species, notice when they change with the food supply or weather, and reflect upon my place within this world and within this life, no narration but the sounds of the real world, alive and vibrant in front of me.

So when you don’t have the energy or time to be upon the land from which has given life to your family, our nation, and all species, consider setting out sunflower seeds, nuts, raw meat, or even jams for the birds. Set them someplace you can catch yourself noticing who’s visiting out of the corner of your eye through a window at any moment, and if another human asks as to why you’re being distracted by a what’s outside and not by the usual glowing rectangle, just let them know that it’s Bird TV. Invite them to watch too, and catch them up on what’s been going on in the world. Hopefully then they’ll learn to tune in too.

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

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Project Feederwatch, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, https://feederwatch.org/

Axelson, Gustave, 30 Years of Project FeederWatch Yield New Insights About Backyard Birds, All About Birds, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Cornell University, January 11, 2017, https://www.allaboutbirds.org/news/30-years-of-project-feederwatch-yield-new-insights-about-backyard-birds/

Morning Routine

Morning Routine: Patrick Kelly Courtesy Patrick Kelly, Photographer
Morning Routine Patrick Kelly Courtesy Patrick Kelly, Photographer
Every morning, me and my dog Sable go on a hike. It’s not a trek, but just an early morning walk up our favorite hidden canyon which lies in plain sight. We set off from our house right about 8 o’clock and drive up the hillsides to the canyon mouth. We weave out of our little town and into the next, winding up and up, past the houses that weren’t here 15 years ago, then 10 years ago, then 5. We rise higher than any business, home, or other building as we approach our morning trailhead. It’s good, that above all of the buildings we’ve constructed over the years, still lies the land eternal. I like that.

As we get out of the car, Sable springs and sprints immediately, starting up the berm just past the parking lot. She lives for the forest and the canyons. Up here, as nowhere in our small town’s limits, she can let loose off leash, be wild, go running after squirrels (which tree and evade her each time,) smell the logbook rocks of dogs before us, and be a very happy free dog. And if you believe that dogs smile as I know, then she beams radiant like the sun as she runs like the wind. I like that most of all.

At the top of the berm lies a retention dam, just in case anything should happen up our little canyon as to not damage the new homes below. But on top of this lies our first view of our valley floor home. Only from the edge of things can we first see them truly. The valley and the mountains on her other rim are a sweeping view in every season, in every weather, in every light or dark. I stand, breathe deep seeing the world below like an astronaut, and turn my back on this beauty, for that is the only way up the canyon.

We begin our journey up, up, up. We meander along the trail past picnic tables and illegal fire rings. We move past small open fields where Sable leans into full sprint, and into the maple and juniper thickets, dense with the quieting effect of treestands, allowing our canyon to cease being just at the edge of town, and to become the morning wilderness heartbeat we both seek. If we hear a branch snap, we’ll both stop dead in our tracks, hold our breath, and listen long. I love these moments. A man and a dog, two species in one moment sharing how we approach the world of the unknown. Then, in our united journey, we set off again through the morning wild.

On our morning walks, we do not go far, certainly less than a mile. It usually takes us just 15 minutes to get to our turnaround point, a Forest Service gate meant to keep cattle from running into the retention dam and the town below. Sometimes when I am feeling slow or want to soak up the canyon a bit more, there is a small cavelet just off from the gate. I’ll go and sit on the rocks within, observing how the mosses grow on the seeping water and listen to the invisible birds around me.

From our turnaround gate, I always stop and let Sable run a bit further up trail before she comes back. She’s good at checking in, even after some of her more worrisome decisions of scaling the canyon sides into its cliffed faces in search of ground squirrel chatter. After she comes back, we turn back towards town in knowing silence, descending to the world in which we live.

Going down always takes less time, too little time it seems sometimes. On the descent, Sable is like a bobsledder: an unstoppable force of energy hugging the luge of the trail. It’s truly beautiful to see such athleticism paired with boundless joy in running. It must be the greatest fun to be a dog in the forest.

When we both finally pop out of the trees back at the retention dam, the town below opens into view. I don’t stop this time. I keep on trodding to the car with Sable. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the view of town on the way down, it’s that I don’t need to dip my toe in in order to be brave enough to plunge by now. Back to life’s duties and hullabaloo.

Driving down, I drop Sable off at home to sleep in the sunny backyard or chew on an elk bone for the day, and I head off to my own work. All day though, I can keep thinking back to our shared morning walk, not even half an hour, but worth its more than its weight in sunrise gold. All day I feel good and alive, and I know Sable does too from just a short jaunt. I know that she loves living in a beautiful, wild place just as much as I do. We both know the goodness in such places and in living in such places. Two species, one shared love for this land and our favorite hidden canyon which lies in plain sight.

My name is Patrick Kelly and I am Wild About Utah.
 
Morning Routine-Credits:

Images: Image Courtesy & Copyright Patrick Kelly, Photographer, all rights reserved
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Morning Routine-Additional Reading

Cache County Trails, Cache County, https://trails.cachecounty.org/

Hiking Trail Guide, Cache Valley Visitors Bureau/Logan Ranger District, Wasatch-Cache National Forest, https://www.explorelogan.com/assets/files/brochures/hiking.pdf

Cache Trails, A hiking guide for the trails of the Cache Valley, Bridgerland Audubon Society, https://bridgerlandaudubon.org/our-projects/publications/

Legacy Beyond Memory

Legacy Beyond Memory: Sunrise over Stunning Landscape Image by <a href="https://pixabay.com/users/skeeze-272447/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1949939">skeeze</a> from <a href="https://pixabay.com/?utm_source=link-attribution&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=image&utm_content=1949939">Pixabay</a>
Sunrise over Stunning Landscape
Image by skeeze from Pixabay
My mother’s father died of cancer three months before I was born. From his memory, I carry his first name as my middle: Orville.

For most of my life, this was all I had of his. Others had stories of him, photos, old reels of film. Through these means, I began over the years to better understand, perhaps not my grandfather as he was, but certainly as he was remembered. I began to see the meaning of my name but only within the memory of others.

Orv was an avid outdoorsman and hunter in the north woods of Wisconsin. He loved nothing more than setting out with his firearm and kit, and coming home with game from that still wild mist. My grandmother refused to clean his wild harvests, and his children, my mother and her sisters, refused as well. Orv’s tradition was not their own.

So my grandfather always cleaned his harvests himself. Each feather he’d pluck and each hide he’d skin defined how others remembered him and how I would know him. He always completed the hunt. This was the only way. When he passed, his ways did as well.

Now, growing up after Orv’s death, my family’s meat came from the grocery store already butchered; no longer an animal: just a morsel for consumption. There was no understanding of life attached to the chicken breasts and the ground beef. Orv’s progeny had no interest in striking out into the woods or marsh before light, or in the taking of a life, even though that take always gave to good cause. They had no interest in cold hands, cold feet, blood, bile, and organs. Why then did Orv? What called him to this tradition, to keep it, to provide by its ways? I felt an indescribable pull towards my lost grandfather, and such the lost grandfathers before him who shared in this tradition of provision.

So one winter, I found Orv’s firearms in my aunt’s basement closet by chance, neglected of care, much less use, for 30 years. Seeing them there I knew that they needed to be used and no longer lay wrapped in an old sheet hidden behind older luggage. I did not want my grandfather to be an artifact of the past. I wanted him to be still of use: to be a grandfather. I wanted to be connected to the man I never knew.

And so I inherited his firearms that he used to provide for his family, my family, for so many years. After good repair, Orv, held in those heirlooms for so long, became alive again and a future opened back up for him. By reliving his ways, I could resurrect him from the stories, photos, and film reels. Together, we could see the world, hunt, and better understand what is beyond life and death.

So with my grandfather’s firearms revived, I began to learn how to hunt from experienced ethical friends. I learned how to aim to kill so that no animal may suffer. I learned my bag limits, my off limits, and the eternal unwritten rules on how to consider the life of another living thing with the greatest respect. We hunt for the necessity of food, tradition, and remembering where we come from and must one day go.

It has been years since Orv’s guns came to me, and I to them. Since then, I have learned from more friends how to lay in wait in Cutler Marsh for ducks, or where to walk in the Cache for grouse. I have discovered that Utah is more than its cultures, its economy, its governments. I have discovered that this land called Utah allows me chances like no other to walk with my grandfather: to feel my cold hands and cold feet as his must have been, to have the shared blood on my hands symbolising that highest tradition of provision, respect, and admiration for life.

This land called Utah is magical. Utah allows ghosts to escape the purgatory of memory for life renewed. Utah allows invisible and forgotten families to be whole again. Utah lets us better live a life of respect and gratitude for every living creature, harvested, missed, or let on by.

From my grandfather, I now can hope with great joy that one day I will be able to live beyond my remembrance as well, guiding from the grave those who come next on what it means to live with the land as my grandfather did, and giving eyes to see the real Utah, the land, as beautifully as we do.

I’m Patrick Orville Kelly, my grandfather is Orville Carl Knutson, and we are Wild About Utah.

 
Legacy Beyond Memory-Credits:

Images: Sunrise image Courtesy Pixabay, Public Domain
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Friend Weller, Utah Public Radio includes audio courtesy and copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Legacy Beyond Memory-Additional Reading

Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Our Team, Stokes Nature Center, http://logannature.org/staff [referenced 8 Jan 2020]

Legacy Beyond Memory
Legacy Beyond Memory

As a Child I Loved Nature

As a Child I Loved Nature: Chickadee Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay
Chickadee
Courtesy edbo23, photographer and Pixabay
As a child I loved nature. Not liked: loved.

I consumed it. I learned the names and types of animals especially, from all over the world. My love was ceaseless, carefree, and itself consuming.

There were phases of course, too. First it was bats, then dinosaurs but back before they had feathers, then penguins, dogs, spider monkeys, and sharks. With each new kind of animal I learned about, I was drawn in closer by what makes them special and sets them apart. I could imagine myself as any one of a million kinds of critter. I could play as if I were one, hunt or forage like one, build a den or nest like one. I was what I imagined myself to be and I loved it. My world was infinite.

Those days though are decades behind. For a long while now, I’ve thought about what happened to that child; what happened to that infinite world? Years of schooling and structure had pushed my attention into books, screens, and facts. The world did not leave me, I neglected that infinite world, and so it too became schooled and structured and sterile.

This realization of what had happened first hit me when I began student teaching kindergarten a few years ago. One day at recess a child asked me to play with them. I realized then that I couldn’t remember how to play and imagine and see the world as infinite still. I awoke from the dream of education and discovered that I had not learned but books, screens, and facts.

Since then, it’s been hard to relearn how to play and imagine. This relearning casts a shadow of struggle over you, especially as a teacher. It can drive you to try and find what obscures and what shines.

My search for reprieve from a knowable world has taken me all over this country: from coast to coast, and from northern desert to southern swamp. Just the other day though I finally found a true breadcrumb back to the infinite world: a black-capped chickadee.

Sitting in my springtime backyard, one came to my only, lone bird feeder that I got at the grocery store. As it sized up the plastic tube full of food, I began to do something that I hadn’t done for a very long while: I just watched it. It was not like how I watch ducks or deer or loose neighborhood turkeys, as food if only it came in range or the city ordinances were a bit more forgiving, but instead I watched it just to see what it did and who it was.

The small songbird flew from its perch and simply rummaged through my discount bird feed until it found a black sunflower seed and flew back to a higher branch. It worked the shell off the seed with diligence, determination, and intelligence. No schooling required. After eating the morsel within, it flew back for another and ate that one in the same wild manner. It then called out, perhaps to pay the good fortune forward, and flew off without giving the feeder another glance. The momentary abandonment of gluttony is the privilege of spring.

It felt strange to just watch a bird for a few minutes. It felt foreign. My mind kept asking me why I was watching such an unassuming creature and for why. There were books that need reading, screens that need seeing, and facts that need knowing. In the end though, it felt good to stick it to what organized my wild instincts and to just watch the chickadee like a true human being again.

I could in that moment imagine that I was that chickadee: wild, rebellious, and free. Never before had I thought of myself as a chickadee though, truth be told. If any bird, I would have before liked to be a Canada jay, or a raven, or a Swainson’s thrush. But after seeing that chickadee, and thinking on it, the chickadee seems the best of me now and the best of who I want to be. It can be humble, measured, and cooperative, or proud, excitable, and driven, depending on the needs of the season. It’s easily seen, easily unnoticed, and easily pleased.

Importantly, though it reminds me of that child with the infinite world. It reminds me why I loved nature. It gives me hope that I can again.

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

Images: Courtesy and Copyright Stephen Peterson, Photographer
Audio: Contains audio Courtesy & Copyright Kevin Colver
Text:    Patrick Kelly, Director of Education, Stokes Nature Center, https://logannature.org
Included Links: Lyle Bingham, Webmaster, WildAboutUtah.org

Additional Reading

Kelly, Patrick, The Canyon, Wild About Utah, Jan 28, 2019, https://wildaboututah.org/the-canyon/