Between the long-promised rainy winter arriving and holiday activities, I only managed to get out birding once in the last two weeks of December. Even though Christmas is my favorite time of the year, I was beginning to feel cabin fever. On my birthday, I spotted a Varied Thrush in the backyard, but by the time I ran upstairs and got my camera it had disappeared. Disappointed, I left my camera in the dining room hoping it would return as it had in previous years.

Though I kept a lookout the whole day and most of the next day, New Year’s Eve, I didn’t spot it until 5:00 P.M., nearly dusk this time of year. At first all I could see was a silhouette that looked like an ordinary, if slender, robin. Only the magic of my Canon EOS 1D, Apple’s Aperture, and Adobe’s Photoshop revealed it was, indeed, a Varied Thrush,

male Varied Thrush

a very cautious, if not downright shy, bird that insisted on keeping a tree between the two of us ,

male Varied Thrush

though after nearly a half hour it finally rushed down the fence line.

male Varied Thrush

Somehow it seemed like the perfect end to the year, completing another turn of the wheel, and once again bringing to mind Hardy’s Darkling Thrush:

I leant upon a coppice gate
      When Frost was spectre-grey,
And Winter’s dregs made desolate
      The weakening eye of day.
The tangled bine-stems scored the sky
      Like strings of broken lyres,
And all mankind that haunted nigh
      Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be
      The Century’s corpse outleant,
His crypt the cloudy canopy,
      The wind his death-lament.
The ancient pulse of germ and birth
      Was shrunken hard and dry,
And every spirit upon earth
      Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among
      The bleak twigs overhead
In a full-hearted evensong
      Of joy illimited;
An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,
      In blast-beruffled plume,
Had chosen thus to fling his soul
      Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings
      Of such ecstatic sound
Was written on terrestrial things
      Afar or nigh around,
That I could think there trembled through
      His happy good-night air
Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew
      And I was unaware.

the first poem I ever voluntarily memorized, the one that inspired me to switch from a physics major to an English major and served as my New Year’s Day post for many years.

3 thoughts on “Tantalizing”

  1. love the connection to the poem. “Upon the growing gloom” how apt for these days which seem to be darker though i know it is the other side of solstice. kjm

  2. Beautiful, beautiful post, Loren. It was first class already with just the photos and the story. One could feel the tension between the thrush’s intentions and your wishes. To finish off with the poem was truly inspired. Combining it with a bit of your personal history made the whole package just perfect.

    1. Sometimes when you’re hard pressed for something to say, you actually get inspired and find out you have more to say than you thought you did.

      One of the reasons I encourage other people to blog.

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