The sounds of the 80’s ringing in my ears.
As I sit in my living room on a Tuesday (which feels like any other day of the week at this point) enjoying a bit of Billy Joel, my first thought is that I haven’t listened to his catalog nearly enough (listening to Songs in the Attic at the moment). Secondly, I find myself contemplating the shit-show that is 2020. Which, admittedly, I think about on a near hourly basis, some days. The year has been a mess. At this point in any year, it’s typical to start seeing “Good riddance to the year” posts on Facebook, but every one of them is warranted for 2020.
It’s easy to dive into the negative and bathe in the agreeing masses. Maybe it’s the beer, or maybe it’s 32 year-old Billy performing live through the speakers, but for me, it has me thinking about how important perspective is and even some of the ‘non-shit’ moments of the year.
“They say these are not the best of times, but they’re the only times I’ve ever known. And I believe there is a time for meditation in cathedrals of our own… For we are always what our situations hand us. It’s either sadness or euphoria.”
– Billy Joel; Summer, Highland Falls
Silver linings are often talked about, but this year, silver might be too expensive. I hesitate to even say ‘focus on the little things,’ because sometimes those “little” things are massively important and sometimes, they are all we have. I challenge you to take just a moment today (not even a whole minute if you don’t have the time) and pause to remember something that made you overwhelmed with love or happiness during the year. Find one of those moments. Or make one of those moments. This is the time for meditation in cathedrals of our own. Your world. Your home. Your favorite local birding patch or on a first time adventure to a new location. Remember those moments.
There is no euphoria without sadness
In February of this year my wife, Sara, and I lost one of our two 13 year-old cats. We adopted Mia and Vincent in September of 2006, on the way home from our honeymoon. Vincent was diagnosed with diabetes years ago, but managed that like a champ. He would even let us know if we were running late with his insulin shot. Cancer is what got him this past February. We had never known a day at “home” without our two “kittens.”
But then, as most people this year, we found ourselves home nearly all the time. Sara and I have been fortunate to be able to work from home since March and getting to spend so much time around Mia has been comforting for all three of us. We went from worrying about Mia being lonely, to being in awe of her immediate change in personality. Formerly, the loner of the house, she became much more loving, playful and outright needy. And she’s very vocal about it all. Always needing a lap to nap on, or face-rubs or wanting us to go to bed, so she can curl up between the two of us. Without being home, I’m not sure any of that would have happened. And we’ll never know, but these are moments that I know I will remember and be thankful for, for the rest of my life.
We are what our situations hand us
Being home all the time also has given us more time to pay attention to our avian friends in and around our yard. I know with this forum, I am most likely preaching to the choir when it comes to love and interest in birds. But sometimes birding feels like I have a cheat-code to moments of happiness and exhilaration. Having a Fox Sparrow show up at our yard this past Sunday totally set the day up for random, unprompted dancing through the house (I do that, not Sara). The joy of birds is sustaining. And if your yard isn’t providing birds, they are out there. Go and find them!
Indiana is, as I’m sure other states are, having a record year for bird species. As of November 10th, the state’s total reported species was 336, which is three species ahead of the previous 2016 record. Some of these more recent rarities have include Magnificent Frigatebird, Varied Thrush, and a very reliable Anna’s Hummingbird. Also, with the boom-year for northern birds we are seeing a large influx of Pine Siskins, Crossbills, and even Evening Grosbeaks!
Sara and I headed to northern Indiana to make some new moments of happiness the second week of November. Goals were to see the Anna’s Hummingbird and search for Crossbills around the Indiana Dunes. We had the best day, getting to spend some early morning time with the Anna’s in 50 degree weather.
By the time we hit the Ogden Dunes Pinery, the sun was bright and we were enjoying a 70 degree day in November on the lake-shore! Were the winter birds going to show on such a warm day? Yep, and we didn’t have to wait long. Red Crossbills! A half-dozen of them were bouncing among the Jack Pines. We spent 90 minutes observing and photographing them as they gorged on the cones. Luck had been good that day, so we made one more stop.
We arrived masked-up at the Indiana Dunes Nature Center to check their feeders, since Evening Grosbeaks have been popping up all over the state. It totally paid off. A pair of Evening Grosbeaks made a few short appearances at one of the pan feeders. The yellow on these ‘winter-birds’ fills me with the warmth of a spring warbler. The following day, more than 30 Evening Grosbeaks were at the same location.
Although we are very limited in what we can safely do with our free time during a pandemic, I am thankful for a hobby like birding and very thankful for sharing that hobby with my best friend and wife. It has given us so many happy moments, even while feeder watching at home. Our recent highlights at home have been the seasonal Juncos, Pine Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatch, the aforementioned Fox Sparrow, and a leucistic house sparrow visiting regularly we fondly call Lu.
With the holidays approaching, and tough times ahead, there is still hope and still joy to be found. I hope that you can find your moments, and while deep in the midst of them, relish every second.
I’m not just a fan of chasing birds but I’m always looking for a good beer-release from some of my favorite Indiana Breweries. I have been doing carryout at many places since March, and greatly appreciate all of the local breweries keeping it safe and clean. Indiana City Brewing Co., started up in 2013 and is set near downtown Indianapolis within a pre-prohibition era Bottling House. They have dedicated themselves to “elevating the craft beer scene of Indianapolis.” I also love their slogan, seen around the brewery, encouraging everyone to “Do Dope Shit.”
Speaking of “Dope Shit,” Indiana City came out with a topically-titled beer a couple of weeks after the September 29th presidential debate labelled “Will You Shut Up, Man?” This tasty beverage is a Blonde Ale featuring orange, vanilla and coffee. The fragrance of the orange is very apparent, as the citrus flavor is very on-the-nose. For those who remember McDonalds ‘Orange Drink,’ it’s reminiscent of that, initially (in a good way). The flavor quickly moves to a bit of vanilla and then a smooth coffee bean taste. Smooth and light, this is an easy drinking favorite that will be gone too soon.
(Yes, I avoided political snarkiness!)
Beer Info –
Brewery – Indiana City Brewing Co.
Location – Indianapolis, IN
Beer – “Will You Shut Up, Man?”
Style – Vanilla Orange Coffee Blonde
ABV – 7%
Untappd Rating – 4.5/5
URL – https://shop.indianacitybeer.com
Bird Photo Info –
Species – Red Crossbill – female
Nikon D850 / Nikon 200-500 lens
Photo Settings: 1/2500s @ F5.6; ISO 400 – 460mm – Manual Priority – Spot Metering
Handheld – No Flash
Location – Ogden Dunes, Indiana Dunes
Date – November 8th, 2020