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Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Of birds and memories

This morning, while taking a bird walk break at work, there were over a dozen White-throated Sparrows in the woods. Where I grew up in Oregon, White-throated Sparrows are rare winter visitors; most people would be lucky to see one at all, and active birders may see only a few each winter.

While watching the birds this morning, and listening to them sing their whistled song, I got thinking about the first one I ever saw. It was the day that my grandfather died. He had been in the hospital for a few weeks after suffering a heart attack, when he died on my grandmother's birthday. It was the middle of October, and the family gathered at my grandmother's house to celebrate her birthday and mourn the passing of my grandfather.

At some point, the whole scene was a bit too much for a teenager, so I went for a walk down to the creek with my grandparent's dog Poco. Some sparrows in the brush caught my eye, and I quickly saw that it was a White-throated Sparrow. Up until that time, it was one of the rarest birds I'd found on my own--a bitter-sweet moment on a day of tender emotions.

I don't think of that day every time I see a White-throated Sparrow, but it is always there, just beneath the surface. Every bird that we come to know has a wealth of associations attached to it...just waiting for us to enjoy if we take the time to remember. Just another way that birds enrich our lives, by connecting us to the important people, places, and events of our personal histories.

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