I had intended to make today’s review about Shovel Knight, and I’m sure some of you will be devastated, but it’s been bumped back to make room for a much better discussion. One on people. And birds. Three people I met at the park yesterday in-between fits of rain.
Some history. I am an introvert. Still am, though I’ve gotten somewhat better. My comfort zone is and will always be found within a book away from others, but I can at least hold my own inside a small crowd now, and not want to push myself slowly through a sheet of plated glass. This, by definition, is progress. A large portion of that progress is attributed to my wife who is far better at being extroverted than I. She too is an introvert at heart, but she’s much braver at stepping outside her bubble than I am, often realizing in order to grow as a person you need to be willing to sometimes walk/run off that ledge no matter how high or low to the ground said ledge might be. Talking to others is small potatoes in the grand scheme, sure, it’s just not where I’d generally like to spend my time. However, in an effort to be more, say, broad, I’ve attempted to open myself up to stranger experiences. More natural experiences. Interactions, maybe. My wife would call this “following the crow”, which is a whole review in and of itself which I may touch on somewhere down the road, but I feel the moniker is pretty self-explanatory as a stand-alone statement, so you likely get the gist. But, by quick way of definition: I was in Asheville, North Carolina recently, and drove by a sign which said “Come Meet So-and-So, An Authentic North Carolina Hillbilly” and, on the sign, a crow was perched. I said heck with it, I’ll meet a hillbilly, and pulled over. Following the crow.
There is no crow in this story, but there is a bird, which is mostly the same thing.
I try and take my dog to the park as often as I can. One, because he needs to lose weight. Two, because I need out of the house. And three, I like seeing his ears spread out when there’s a breeze. A handful of times now – say three, maybe four – there has been a trio on the trail when I’m there, always with binoculars, and always staring off toward some indeterminate point. They all appear to be late sixties, early seventies, the man with the white-white beard every day wearing a hat so wide and floppy he would do well in Ladies In Lavender were we living on an English countryside, and the women both in coats long enough to double as Hogwarts attire. I don’t know the politics of small-talk when passing a person on a nature trail, and I’m awkward enough when opening the window to any conversation, which led me, I believe, to blurt out “We must be on the same schedule”, leading them, I believe, to lower their binoculars in unison (or in unison in my memory), and stare. This may have lasted seconds, hours, both possible when your dog is trying to get someone’s or something’s attention by wiggling on his leash like a fish fighting for air. Alek, with a “K”, broke the pause with a very loud “I remember you”, which was directed at Jenkins – my dog – and not me.
This is how I met Alek, Louise, and Louisa.
Louise, and Louisa are twins, one with shoulder-length gray hair and one with shoulder-length red, dyed, I’m told, for Halloween, though she doesn’t have a costume. The three of them are from southern Ohio, staying in Columbus having heard there were some sightings of American Pipits in the area, which I had to look up, a bird none of them had seen and were anxious to check off their list. Ohio is on the Pipit migratory path, though supposedly we don’t see them all too often, according to Alek (whom I trust, what with his binoculars and his hat, and his infectious enthusiasm when talking birds), making this season “particularly exciting”. We were on the upper part of a slope, the shore and heavier mud hidden by trees, Louise or Louisa looking down toward the water again and waving me over. I am not a bird person. I like them just fine, but I am more likely to go out of my way for a rare sandwich than I am a bird (who could turn out to be a sandwich, now that I think about it), but I will admit to having a strange spine-shock moment putting the lenses to my face and seeing a tiny group of brown-speckled birds hoping clump to clump in the mud they match. I’d never heard of a Pipit. Had to text myself the name just so I’d remember to look them up. Maybe I’ve stumbled across them already in my travels and never thought to look up or down or twice at them. And like the birds, I’ve passed thousands of Aleks and Louises and Louisas and also never looked up or down or twice at them, which is a shame, though I don’t know if I see myself ever getting comfortable enough to completely change. I will say, it’s a neat thing when you can get to know a person, really get to know a person, without sharing too many words.
That, like a Pipit in my neck of the woods, is rare, and deserves some attention.