Archive for February, 2014


Tuesday, February 25th, 2014

Years ago, you’re in an office on the 26th floor of a Chicago skyscraper, doing work profoundly unrelated to nature.

You have the feeling of being watched.

You look over your shoulder.

On the other side of your window there’s a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, clinging to the building, meeting your gaze.


The bird had picked your window. Not the window of some guy who wouldn’t know a sapsucker from his elbow.

You grab a cheap throw-away camera and get a picture.

The shot is poor. Dark and fuzzy. You find it recently, while cleaning out a desk.

Back when you saw the sapsucker, you had the momentary feeling that it sought you out, personally.

Looking at the old picture, you still wonder about that.

But you shake off the thought.

You just chalk it up to the simple truth that sometimes you watch the birds, and sometimes they watch you.

Bird points and ice-age basketball.

Monday, February 10th, 2014

You get the paper from the bottom of your driveway on this winter morning.

Heading back, you notice that heavy icicles hang from your roof. They look like downward-pointing swords high above the doorstep.

But more about them in a moment…

"4 points!"

“4 points!”

Inside, from a kitchen window you notice the backyard bird feeders.

They’re busy, and you stop to watch. An idea hits.

You assign points to the birds you see.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers and Blue Jays: four points.

Cardinals and White-breasted Nuthatches, three.

Downy Woodpeckers and Song Sparrows, two. Slate-colored Juncos, one. You get bonus points for a deer that joins the seed-eating, its breath steaming.

It occurs to you that the word ‘point’ is used in a lot of games. Why?

Did ancient athletes poke opponents with sword points, and each point counted?

Maybe the word ‘point’ then evolved to measure scoring in other kinds of contests.

Something to wonder about. But the thought of swords and points reminds you of those icicles.

You leave the house and go out front. You bring your basketball from the cold garage. It’s rock hard.

You shoot the ball toward the roof. A high, arching jump shot.

Bam, it smashes the longest icicle, knocking it down.

Heavy ice splatters the steps.

Hey, a three pointer.

There are more icicles. You assign points to them.

A three. A two. You shoot. You score.

This is fun. You’ve got ice points in the front. Bird points in the back. Let’s hear it for winter sports.