they chose me

“Didn’t know you were such a dedicated bird photographer!” My response is always a surprised….“Neither did I!”

I survived last Fall/Winter (in a cast boot and rolling on a jaunty scooter) by dreaming of standing in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

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Visualizing the crisp air, the bellowing bison, the pristine river valley and me knee deep in all of it, I planned the trip when I wasn’t certain I would be walking unaided. I assembled my group of fellow-dreamers. My diagnosis of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy transported me to a new normal. Doctors stressed the chronic and progressive nature of this disease. No cure. The pain, the fatigue, the barrage of puzzling symptoms laid me low. My nervous system was shot. Did I have any role in designing my new reality?

I knew I needed a new camera. My last trip to YNP involved shuffling lenses. I never had the proper lens. A rainbow!….quick get the wide-angle on! A bear…..OMG!where is the long lens? I drove the Texan crazy and exhausted myself with equipment requirements.

Since I wasn’t able to do much but nurse my wounds on the bedroom sofa, I researched new cameras. It was time to fold my lens poker hand. I won’t go into detail now, but I purchased the Sony RX10M4 to take to Yellowstone. I spent weeks scouring the manual trying to learn to take a decent photo. Where IS that ‘on’ button? (I won’t write about it now, but if anyone would like to know more about this camera or read a review of it, I’m happy to oblige.)

Now….back to the birds. As I gained mobility, I practiced with my new camera. I walked in the country and pointed the lens at birds barely visible to my naked eye.

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As I exercised my doxy in the front yard, birds dive-bombed me. Birds….longing to be photographed! I had no idea avians were such attention-seekers. A kite dive bombed me while he was hunting. He landed in a tree and let me snap photos while scarcely 5 feet away.

blackshoulderedkiteI had multiple close sightings of a red-tailed hawk calmly displaying his beauty and proclaiming his affection for Amarillo.

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Thrashers were hovering over cholla, scissor-tailed flycatchers were swooping, quail were partying in my backyard and there were cardinals perched on my roof.

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Look up!….look at me!….they sang in unison.

Boy…did I ever notice! A hawk parent with 2 babies to feed.

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An eagle regally perched on a tall dead tree on….Independence Day! He let me get ridiculously close before flying away.

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I observed the lanky blue heron as he shyly revealed himself to me. Had me crawling and creeping through the brush…adorned in camo…to watch him fish and fly and to get a decent capture. He was a model of patience.

The sweet momma on the side of our cabin sitting on her eggs every day. She taught me a lesson in devotion.

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The towhee who energetically ate insects off my parked car. He was an industrious superstar and exuded energy.

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The birds were everywhere. I witnessed a colorful parade every time I raised my chin. I felt like a breathless 6-year-old seeing these wondrous creatures for the very first time.

That’s the story of my bird photography. They present themselves and I try to observe. ‘Oww….my foot is feeling crushed today….oh look, there’s a meadowlark!

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‘My feet and hands are in the fires of hell and I’m scared!…..oh wow, did you see that falcon!?’

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‘My back won’t let me get out of bed……you say there’s a pair of kites copulating in the front yard?? I’m getting up!’ ‘This relentless, annoying ringing in my ears is making me batty. Now I know why Van Gogh chopped off his ear. I think I understand the motive for suicide now….but look at that rufous hummingbird!’

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The birds are my ‘SQUIRREL!!’, I guess.

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This fondness for the birds can make me….how should I say it?….a wee bit strange. During my last two golfing attempts…..while trying to tee off….

“Kathy….what are you doing?”

Can’t you hear THAT?

“What?”

There’s a hawk calling!

“Hit the d*** ball!!”

But the blackbirds! The blackbirds are telling me they’re on the reeds by the pond!

“Will you please address the ball? There’s a group behind us!”

My aim is not to take professional quality photographs, although I’m doing my best and learning along the way. I’m simply observing these gorgeous cheerleaders as I wobble along my meandering path. I’m making impossible decisions about my health and my body. The birds remind me to keep my gaze fixed skyward. I can be like a sticky, annoying 6-year-old shoving my latest artwork in your face. But, perhaps your path is uneven, steep, shadowy and your stride is tentative and stumbling. Maybe you could use a glimpse of something insignificant yet impossibly glorious as you begin your day’s journey.  I admit it….I want you to feel astonishment that the God who created the eagle, the flycatcher and the dazzling rufous thought the world needed one of you, too.

That’s my bird story. Time to go…I hear a blue quail calling.

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6-year-old love to all.