“Both male and female S. rufus are territorial; however, they defend different types of territories. The more aggressive males fight to defend areas with dense flowers, pushing females into areas with more sparsely populated flowers. Males generally have shorter wings than females, therefore their metabolic cost for hovering is higher. This allows males to beat their wings at high frequencies, giving them the ability to chase and attack other birds to defend their territory. The metabolic cost of short wings is compensated for by the fact that these males do not need to waste energy foraging for food, because their defended territory provides plenty of sustenance. Females on the other hand are not given access to the high concentration food sources, because the males fight them off. Therefore, females generally defend larger territories, where flowers are more sparsely populated, forcing them to fly farther between food sources. The metabolic cost of flying farther is compensated for with longer wings providing more efficient flight for females. The differences in wing length for S. rufus demonstrate a distinct sexual dimorphism, allowing each sex to best exploit resources in an area.”
I copied this straight from Wikipedia. Fascinating. Fair? For some reason, I trust their information for basic science, though I might be skeptical for more subjective knowledge. Around here, we call these birds “little bulldogs,” or more subjective epithets. I love them despite their aggression; they are beautiful, remarkable creatures. I am grateful to have the Rufous and the other two species zipping around the yarden all day, intensifying in the evening.
It arrived yesterday, just an hour too late to capture the newly fledged phoebes. After a busy day, I took it out to play this evening, just fooling around with the zoom, without even learning the thousand and one functions and settings. I’m grateful for the means to purchase this amazing camera, grateful for the technology that allows me to have far more ‘film’ than time so I can shoot to my heart’s content and throw away a thousand images to save one good one. I’m grateful for B&H Photo in NYC for their help and expertise whenever I need new camera gear, and grateful to JT for turning me on to them. Following the gratitude trail, I’m grateful for the countless individuals who designed, experimented, and constructed for many decades to create this camera, and for the materials, and for the countless people who mined and melted and melded those raw materials into this astounding piece of equipment; and for the FedEx lady who delivered it a scant 27 hours after I ordered it, and for all the human ingenuity and labor, and the transportation and infrastructure, that allowed that. It’s an amazing world, despite the tragedies perpetrated by our species.
It’s not that these transient pleasures, like a cheese sandwich or a dog walk or the phoebes, in and of themselves bring genuine happiness. It’s that appreciating the simple pleasures of a complex world, among my confounding species, on this fragile planet, imbues life with contentment for me. I finally feel as safe as is humanly possible, walking out here on the edge of impermanence, after all those years chasing certainty and running from death.
I woke feeling sad, after yesterday’s descent into the stark reality of climate chaos. I thought I might feel sad forever. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept sadness, and impermanence: I’m grateful for allowing things to be as they are in each moment, and for the reassuring knowledge that everything changes, nothing remains the same for long.
Nothing external has changed, of course: insects are still in decline worldwide. But I trudged out on this crisp, damp morning with Stellar and Topaz by my side, and strolled to visit this split tree. I felt better already, just letting myself be sad, and finding beauty at the same time, balancing grief and gratitude within equanimity.
And then there’s the cheese sandwich, cookout edition. I’ve been thinking about this for days. I had frozen a hot dog leftover from Michael’s memorial, which I thawed and sliced. All the hot dog condiments slathered on wheat bread, sliced cheddar, and potato chips completed the assemblage: a whole cookout in a single sandwich. Yes, it’s a temporary pleasure, lasting only as long as the sandwich itself; but, the making of it, the thinking it up, and definitely the eating of it, all while remembering Michael and last week’s party, lifted my spirits. Life’s simple pleasures. I’m grateful that my life includes the conditions to have on hand all the ingredients of a cheese sandwich, the technology to keep them fresh, the leisure to dream about then make one, the awareness to savor the process and every bite, and the reasonable expectation that I will eat again tomorrow.
I’m grateful for every little thing about this day, starting with I woke up alive, and relatively pain free. From there, anything else is gravy. I didn’t do much today. I didn’t even think or feel much. I’m on staycation. But I paid attention to the phoebes, the jays, the magpies; to weather, lightning, potential rain; to nutrition, mine and others. I paid attention to the moment as consistently as I could, and remembered quite often to breathe, or rather, to notice my breath, each inhalation, each exhalation, the exact conditions of the body at the time. I’m grateful for each breath that allowed me to read some things, to watch some TV: I’m grateful for things to read and TV to watch, and various individuals who make those entertainments possible. I’m grateful for these five or six senses that let me make sense of, or at least interpret, the world outside this body-mind.
Yesterday I felt glum. I may have spoken too soon, expressing gratitude that both phoebe parents were alive. All day long the chicks screeched non-stop, while only one parent came to feed them, instead of two flying back and forth as they had been. It seemed like an hour at a time went by without anyone stuffing a mouth. When it cooled off, I sat outside and timed it, and there were intervals as long as 20 minutes while the babies cried before someone came to feed one. I wondered many things: was one parent killed by a falcon? or a cat? had one simply quit? was the other one out searching for its mate and just coming back intermittently with a token dragonfly or cricket? would the chicks survive? should I buy mealworms? Or, was I misperceiving reality?
I’m grateful to Deb for checking on the mealworm supply in town this morning, and grateful that they didn’t seem to be needed after all. Today, it still seems only one parent is feeding, but at least it’s more frequent, and the babies are full enough to fall asleep between bugs.
But what is happening? It’s a mystery, compounded by the fact that this evening I saw two perfectly-adult-looking phoebes land in the apricot tree, and one fed the other a grasshopper. Is one phoebe parent still out feeding some from the first clutch? maybe that last straggler out of the nest? Or, did one parent run off to court a new mate? Or, were those two grown chicks from the first clutch, courting, playing, or practicing? And, how does this situation relate to what I observed a few days ago, two phoebes chasing one another through the junipers?
I’m grateful for how the mystery of nature piques my curiosity, and grateful that I’m not attached to knowing answers. I’m grateful the babies seem to be getting enough food again after yesterday’s mysterious, vociferous hunger. I’ll be grateful tomorrow if I wake up alive and get to watch the phoebe mystery further unfold.
Grateful for another sunset, another fulfilling, exhausting day in fellowship with the kindest, most mindful people I know. Two-thirds through our graduation retreat, twelve hours each day together virtually yet meaningfully, sharing lessons, learnings, creativity, and cultivating heartfelt connection with people across the country and a world away. Grateful for one of the most transformative experiences of my short life, this past Mindful Learning Year. Grateful for another day with dear Stellar still moving pretty well, and another precious day of relative safety here, while fires ravage the land elsewhere and paint the sun orange again.