Sunday, August 12, 2012


Today, after fifteen days of recovery, I finally managed to ride my bicycle again. Still awkward from injury, I pedaled about the campground paths today in wobbly, fledgeling fashion, but sprung from this nest of healing and perhaps ready to fly off to campus tomorrow. My definition of "nearby" has suddenly expanded again.

Fifteen days is a long time to be injured, but a short period of time for certain other things. It's about the time it too those birds I spent a spring watching to fledge. I mean, of course, it varied from species to species, but a lot of them took about two weeks, and this suddenly struck me yesterday, when I realized I could try my bike upon the morrow. I thought, if a gnatchatcher had hatched on the day I fell, then it would be ready to fly now.

I can't remember that number reliably, by the way. I have 12 days or 14 days stuck in my head, but I don't know that it's right. It's been years, years during which I have not had occasion to watch even one bird childhood closely, and I don't remember numbers well. But I do remember that nest, about waist-high in a curiously hedge-like row of little grey bushes on the edge of the main water-course of the Chemhuevi Wash. A little tributary stripe of dry sand flowed into the wash just there, and a blue palo verde marked the intersection, and if we were mad enough to go there I could find the spot for you tomorrow, show you the branch that supported that tiny cup and that plucky little pair and their brief babies. It has been four years. The nest is long gone, except in my mind,and maybe only my mind, for the birds themselves would have no reason to remember, and by now they might all have died. Yet, I can walk around in that mental picture and see and touch and smell. In my memory, as I look, the sky is blue and pale and streaked with mare's tails. There is a bit of a breeze, and the air is not hot yet.

Memory is funny, less a recording than a creation, and a thing that is recreated continually as we go. Most obviously there has been the changing faces of my two ex-boyfriends, who shone warm and glamorous for me once but have come to seem silly, embarrassing, or worse, as I have gained perspective. My account of what happened would be different now, even though the events themselves are locked in the past and cannot be changed.

Sometimes this changing of stories, this rewriting of internal monologue, assumes tragicomic proportions. I remember applying for college, writing all of those essays, and writing of my life as a story of growing competence and maturity, until at the climax of my account I was hired for my dream job as a back-country site caretaker, the thing I was born to do, thus proving I was ready for college! Ta-da! Except in the middle of all my essay writing, I found out I wasn't welcome back to be a caretaker. Apparently, I wasn't very good at it. So, there went my narrative....

The timing was comic, but if the disorientation I felt at suddenly having to rewrite my self-concept was also funny, then I have yet to get the joke. I can, at least, smile at the silliness of being able to have such a problem. I was seriously bent out of shape by my own thoughts. Somehow, I don't think gnatcatchers have that problem. 

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