Spring Update

It occurs to me that I should be using this blog more, to record the things that happen around me, so that when the wheel of the year turns, I can see how the years connect one to another. Nature has a round of which most of us are completely unaware, and what a shame that is. Because I am up and walking Amy in the mornings, when the local birds are up and active, I’m able to tune in to the birdsong, and have been waiting, as the weather has warmed up, to hear my friends from last spring.

The red-winged blackbird was back with a vengeance on St Patrick’s Day. I can recognize that call so easily because the song is remarkably similar to the Station 51 alarm in the 1970s medical show Emergency!. The National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America says the song is “a liquid, gurgling konk-la-reee, ending in a trill.” But believe me. It sounds like the alarm for Station 51. If you think you might have heard a red-winged blackbird but have not confirmed this visually, go to Hulu and watch an episode of Emergency!. Did the bird you heard sound like the Station 51 alarm? Then you heard a red-winged blackbird.

Amy and I were out at Nut Island a couple weeks ago and glimpsed a bay-going duck that was either a Common or a Barrow’s Goldeneye. They’re very similar, and we were on the pier almost directly above it, and I’m depending on my memory because I only picked up my Field Guide to identify the bird today. The Common Goldeneye is, obviously, the more common bird, so I’ll assume that’s what we saw, until I see the bird again and can ascertain otherwise. (I’m writing both down on my list with a question mark, though.)

On Friday, Meghan & Co. and I day-tripped to Newport for my birthday. Happy birthday surprise! Neither one of us likes a surprise, and yet for the last three years, we’ve created the tradition of taking each other on a surprise birthday outing, usually comprised of a meal and an activity. We had a FANTASTIC lunch at Cafe Zelda on Thames Street (hello, goat-cheese-and-mushroom omelette and grilled chicken with harissa mayo, and cafe frites dipped in harissa mayo). It was a very cozy, nautical-themed eatery. The lunch menu was indulgent; the dinner menu looked as though you should be required to show your latest cholesterol test before ordering. Because it was the off season, we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

And then to the “activity” portion. We’re in Newport — Can you guess? Cornelius Vanderbilt’s “summer cottage” The Breakers! I was bowled over by two things: the amount of imported European art amalgamated in to a distinct Gilded Age Americanized European Renaissance style, and the size of The Breakers. Not how large it is, no — how small. It is a small mansion. It really is a cottage. Not in the same way that my house is a cottage, but when it could have been so much larger and more lavish, it isn’t.

Then we walked down the Cliff Walk to the place where it gets all rocky, and sat for almost 2 hours while the tide inched in and the sun set. The weather was perfectly, quintessentially New England spring. It makes you glad to be a New Englander. The change of a season always does. Before long we’ll be itching for summer, July 4th, and baseball (which starts on April 1, not that I’ve got it on the calendar or anything). And not too long after that, we’ll be yearning for cool weather and apple picking. New Englanders are never actually happy with the season they’re in; they’re always longing for the next one. I think that means that we live constantly in anticipation of the joys of the year, constantly marvelling in world we live in.

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