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,
a very cautious, if not downright shy, bird that insisted on keeping a tree between the two of us ,
though after nearly a half hour it finally rushed down the fence line.
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.