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Live Things

I’m always surprised when people are horrified by my love of dead things. Whenever someone comes over and I give them the tour of our apartment, the icing on the cake is always the mummified mice at St. Peter’s Gate  displayed in our bedroom. When I look at those mice, I see beauty. Their perfect little forms, tiny paws curled to silken whiskers, tails twisted and springing in mid-air, they are exquisite. Tiny sculptures formed by Mother Nature Herself. Which is why, even though it happens over and over, I am always surprised when my guest’s inevitable reaction is, “Ew. That is really gross. Are you okay?”

This is where I would like to assure everyone that I am not, in fact, some sort of psychopath. Honestly. I’m not interested in blood and gore. Photos of animals ripped up by cars make me cry. Animal cruelty is intolerable. I’m interested in the process of how our bodies go back to the earth. I’m interested in mummies. I’m interested in bones. And I’m not just interested in dead things. I’m also interested live things.

The following is a whole slew of pictures I snapped one afternoon while watching the birds at our feeder. (It is also an example of why I need an SLR.*)


The blur in the background, between the lantern and the bird feeder, is Atticus in flight.




How many birds can you see in this picture?**


Are you guys tired of bird pictures yet? Good! Because there are only 18 more to go. Just kidding. (Or am I?)


Look at them! I want to scoop them up and smother them in kisses! There’s four! And they’re all alive!

The joy that stupid bird feeder brings me is totally worth the fact that every surface of our balcony is covered with bird poop. It’s totally worth it. Totally worth it.

(At least dead things don’t poop.)

*I finally decided, by the way. I’m going to buy an SLR, but I’m not going to take it to Bolivia. I know it would take insane pictures, but I do not want that sh*t around my neck while I’m hiking. Do. Not. Want. It. More on that later.

**there are four! (One of them is not real.)


The weather has been so lovely that I’ve been able to spend my work days out on the balcony, the little dogs at my feet, and a family of house finches squabbling over my shoulder.  They don’t mind me at all. The big orange feeder full of black oil sunflower seeds is far too wonderful to ignore just because there is a large possible predator mammal sitting a mere three feet away.


This is Gertrude.  As in Stein, of course.  She’s a house finch and she is very brave. I call her mate Atticus (I have to thank Kate for that one) and I know he’s Gertrude’s mate because they always fly in together. But they never eat at the same time, oh no.  Gertrude is very particular and insists that Atticus wait on a nearby lantern while she and her best girlfriend Anastasia eat their fill.  Atticus isn’t particularly fond of this arrangement.  He gets impatient and will frequently drop off of the lantern, wings spread, toes aimed at the lip of the feeder. When Gertrude realizes he’s left his post (the nerve!) she flaps her wings furiously and squawks at him, sending him back to the lantern in a flurry of feathers. This will happen two or three times, he drops, she squawks and flaps, till finally she’s sick of it and follows him to the lantern, wings beating, squawk! Squawk! Squawk! Now he knows he’s in trouble so he flies to the next lantern, a little further away. Gertrude circles him once, squawks a final warning, and goes back to finish her meal. When I move to pick up my coffee, the females startle and fly off in a spray of seeds. Atticus will dart from the lantern to the lip of the feeder, just long enough to grab a mouthful of seeds before he’s off after the girls.

They have such lovely and complicated lives. Like us.

Or else I am totally anthropomorphizing.

Bird Watching

bird watching

For two weeks our little seed bell didn’t get any traffic at all. Not one single bird came to visit. When I complained to my mom about it, she suggested that perhaps we had hung it too far out in the open. Maybe the birds weren’t interested because they’d be too visible to hawks and other predators, and if we moved it further under the balcony’s overhang, we might get more traffic.

So we moved it. And within fifteen minutes there were two little birds chomping away. And pooping away. That’s the side of a bird feeder I hadn’t counted on: The bird poop side. But it’s totally worth it. I think.

Also, it’s excellent entertainment for the cats.