No, I Haven’t Given Up Birding

I’ve been fixated on literature lately, but I was still shocked when I realized that I hadn’t downloaded a single picture that I took in November, even though I’ve managed to get out birding several times between rainstorms. No matter what gets presented here, if it’s sunny I’m outside birding most of the day, not slumped over a book or staring at a computer screen. Sunshine is too valuable in the Pacific Northwest to waste.

That said, I’ll have to admit that birding hasn’t been particularly spectacular in November. Some of the overwintering birds haven’t returned yet and summer residents seem to have disappeared.

Still, I enjoy the challenge of getting shots of the many small birds that winter here. I’ve managed to get several shots of Ruby Crowned Kinglets, despite their tendency to hide in the thickets.

Ruby Crowned Kinglet

I was also pleased with this shot of an orange-colored male House Finch,

orange colored male House Finch

a color I’ve never seen before.

I also like this shot of an Black-Capped Chickadee,

Black-Capped Chickadee

one of the few small birds, along with the song sparrow and Towhee, that seems more than willing to pose for a shot.

Get It Right the Next Time

This is another entry that has been sitting around on the desktop since I wrote about
Wistawa Szymborska’s “Nothing Twice.” For some reason that poem triggered a memory of Gerry Rafferty’s “Get It Right the Next Time.” In fact, in my first version of that blog entry I was going to compare her poem and Rafferty’s song, but I couldn’t figure out how to actually put it together and say what I wanted to say about her book and that poem so I decided to break them into separate entries but never got around to finishing this one, which will now be quite different.

I spent years trying to buy a record or CD with this song but could never find a copy, though I continued to hear it regularly on Portland’s KINK. I didn’t find it until Apple started iTunes. I ended up buying three of Rafferty’s albums but only play “Get it Right the Next Time,” “Right Down the Line, ” and “Baker Street,” my favorite Rafferty song. Most of the other songs are actually grayed out because I don’t even want to listen to them when I’m listening to a shuffle. I would have a hard time identifying any of Rafferty’s other songs, but I recognize these three by the first three notes. Perhaps you will, too:


Get It Right the Next Time

Out on the street I was talkin’ to a man
He said “there’s so much of this life of mine that I don’t understand”
You shouldn’t worry yes that ain’t no crime
Cause if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time (next time).

You need direction, yeah you need a name
When you’re standing in the crossroads every highway looks the same
After a while you can recognize the signs
So if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time (next time).

Life is a liar yeah life is a cheat
It’ll lead you on and pull the ground from underneath your feet
No use complainin’, don’t you worry, don’t you whine
Cause if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time (next time).

You gotta grow, you gotta learn by your mistakes
You gotta die a little everyday just to try to stay awake
When you believe there’s no mountain you can climb
And if you get it wrong you’ll get it right next time (next time).

Next time, next time

The number of Ground Hog Day remakes I’ve seen says this is a modern cliche′, but it’s still one I’ve had a hard time accepting. Though I’ve never been much of a complainer or whiner, except inside my head, the perfectionist in me hates it when I screw up something when I should have known better. It took awhile before I learned to accept that life is full of mistakes and the best I could expect is that I’ll learn from them and avoid making the same mistake in the future.

The most frightening line has to be “you got to die a little everyday just to try to stay awake,” but Rafferty’s most famous song, “Baker Street,” as well as his life itself, seems to suggest the truth of that line.

Winding your way down on Baker Street
Light in your head and dead on your feet
Well, another crazy day
You’ll drink the night away
And forget about everything
This city desert makes you feel so cold
It’s got so many people, but it’s got no soul
And it’s taken you so long
To find out you were wrong
When you thought it held everything

You used to think that it was so easy
You used to say that it was so easy
But you’re trying, you’re trying now
Another year and then you’d be happy
Just one more year and then you’d be happy
But you’re crying, you’re crying now

Way down the street there’s a light in his place
He opens the door, he’s got that look on his face
And he asks you where you’ve been
You tell him who you’ve seen
And you talk about anything
He’s got this dream about buying some land
He’s gonna give up the booze and the one-night stands
And then he’ll settle down
In some quiet little town
And forget about everything

But you know he’ll always keep moving
You know he’s never gonna stop moving
‘Cause he’s rolling, he’s the rolling stone
And when you wake up, it’s a new morning
The sun is shining, it’s a new morning
And you’re going, you’re going home

This is one of the most haunting rock songs I know, especially when you read about Rafferty’s own feelings about being a rock star and his struggles with alcoholism. There’s something about the ambiguity of the song that attracts me, the same kind of ambiguity I mentioned earlier in discussing Bobby Bland’s “I Pity the Fool.” The narrator seems both to see the foolishness of his situation and be unable to escape it. The narrator is in the same position as the man he meets who’s never going to give up the booze and one-night stands.

Of course, I think I would have bought this song, lyrics or no lyrics, just for the saxophone solos, a haunting sound played against darkling lyrics.

I Get Lost in My Mind

“Lost In My Mind”

Put your dreams away for now
I won’t see you for some time
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind

Momma once told me
You’re already home where you feel loved
I am lost in my mind
I get lost in my mind

Oh my brother
Your wisdom is older than me
Oh my brother
Don’t you worry ’bout me

Don’t you worry
Don’t you worry, don’t worry about me

How’s that bricklayin’ comin’?
How’s your engine runnin’?
Is that bridge gettin’ built?
Are your hands gettin’ filled?
Won’t you tell me, my brother?

‘Cause there are stars
Up above

We can start
Moving forward

How’s that bricklayin’ comin’?
How’s your engine runnin’?
Is that bridge gettin’ built?
Are your hands gettin’ filled?
Won’t you tell me, my brother?

‘Cause there are stars
Up above

We can start
Moving forward

Lost in my mind
Lost in my mind
Oh I get lost in my mind
Lost, I get lost

I get lost in my mind
Lost in my mind
Yes I get lost in my mind,
Lost, I get lost
I get lost

Oh I get lost

Oh I get…

Of course you knew this already if you drop by very often.

I just looked back at my monthly blog entries and realized I’ve been lost in my mind trying to make sense of books I’ve read recently that I’ve only been posting intermittently, despite feeling that it’s the most intellectually alive I’ve been in quite awhile.

Andrew’s recent post on how his daughter led him to discover new artists reminded me that I had started to write about this song but had never finished, leaving it on the desktop to be finished some day soon. I discovered the song when I saw Silver Linings Playbook, a favorite movie of the last year. Naturally when I discovered that the group had started in Seattle I had to buy the album, and they’ve been accompanying Solitaire since.

I’m more apt to purchase artists from the past than I am contemporary artists. Even when I buy a new album, it’s usually by someone like Van Morrison or Mark Knopfler or old artists like John Prine that I had never heard of until Mike sent me a song. And since I invariably listen to my iPhone when on the road, I’m not exposed to new singers or groups like I used to be when my car radio was always tuned to KINK.

When Lael wanted to me to put songs on the iPod I gave her, I didn’t know, much less own, a single artist she requested. Talk about generation gap. That said, I’m sure there are hundreds if not thousands of artists I would enjoy if I actually knew of them.

I’d be tempted to ask you who are some new singers worth listening to, but I suspect most of the people that comment are listening to the same music from the past that I am.

Christian Wiman’s Every Riven Thing

After reading Andrew’s Reflections From the Abyss: The God Quest of Poet Christian Wiman in July I was intrigued enough to search the web for Christian Wiman. Although Andrew was responding to Wiman’s latest book of essays, when I discovered he was also a poet I opted to buy his latest book of poetry instead of the memoir since I generally prefer poetry to essays. As it turned out, that might have been a mistake because after reading two of his essays online I think I prefer the essays to the poems themselves, or, more specifically, I preferred the poems when they’re imbedded in his essays.

Although I struggled to find an earlier poem that I really liked in Wiman’s Every Riven Thing, except, perhaps, for the title poem, I found considerably more that I liked in the second half of the book. This one captures the kind of moment that I often try to record here:


for W S. Di Piero

It is good to sit even a rotting body
in sunlight uncompromised
by God, or lack of God,

to see the bee beyond
all the plundered flowers
air— stagger toward you

and like a delicate helicopter
hover above your knee
until it finds you to be

not sweet but at least
not flinching, its hair—legs
on the hair of your leg

a coolness through you
like a soul of nerve.

What more can one ask for than to bask in sunlight, bees buzzing about? Even better if the bees recognize you only as part of nature, unthreatening, unafraid.

I did mark this poem when I read it at the beginning of the volume, but I appreciated it more after reading it in the context of Wiman’s essay where he ties the poem in with the modern problem of anxiety, calling modern American life a “collective ADHD.”



O the screech and heat and hate
we have for each day’s commute,

the long wait at the last stop
before we go screaming

underground, while the pigeons
court and shit and rut

insolently on the tracks
because this train is always late,

always aimed at only us,
who when it comes with its

blunt snout, its thousand mouths,
cram and curse and contort

into one creature, all claws and eyes,
tunneling, tunneling, tunneling

toward money.

Although I loved Seattle most of my life, I decided to leave at 25 when the work commute became overwhelming. I ended up moving hundreds of miles south so I could get to work in less than 10 minutes. Few things are more mind-numbing, soul-defiling, than hours spent backed up on a freeway trying to get to a job that probably already is stressing you out.

Another online essay Gazing into the Abyss convinced me that I needed to add his My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer to my Amazon Wish List. Although I don’t agree with all of what Wiman has to say, I find plenty that makes me think, and that’s all that I demand from those that I read. For instance, this quotation:

I was brought up with the poisonous notion that you had to renounce love of the earth in order to receive the love of God. My experience has been just the opposite: a love of the earth and existences so overflowing that it implied, or included, or even absolutely demanded, God. Love did not deliver me from the earth, but into it.

made me wonder if that’s one of the reason I decided I’d rather spend my Sundays out enjoying nature rather than listening to a preacher lecture on the world’s many sins. It’s well worth your time to check out the online essays, if nothing more than to remind yourself once again that there is great stuff online for free if we can just stand to wade through all the other stuff to find it.