Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Viola da Gamba / The mystery bird is a male bushtit / "Mountain!" / Night sky

My dear friend who died in late February was musically gifted.  As a small child, she learned to play the accordion. She taught herself to play the gamba in the early part of this century.  Music sustained her.

Here is a note I received yesterday from an Audubon Society member who identifies birds:

That is a BUSHTIT, male.  The female has a pale eye, the male's eye is dark as in your photo.

My sister, in Santa Maria, had a pair of nesting Bushtits in her backyard. They kept pecking at their reflections in her windows: a territorial behavior.

In non-breeding season you will see them, in flocks of 20 or more, moving quickly thru bushes and willows, foraging as they go.  I also live in Cambria and have had flocks coming to my suet feeder, almost covering both sides!

Here is a photo of my friend in 1993 on one of her many walks in search of birds to photograph:

Below is a photo of her as a small child, growing up in Southern California.  Notice the duckling standing next to her in the first photo.  Her story that went with these photos is that as she was busy drawing, one of her parents asked her what she was drawing.

She pointed emphatically in the direction of a mountain and said, "Mountain!"

My friend struggled with depression throughout her life.  In the last few years, she diagnosed herself as having Asperger's and felt some relief experiencing herself in that light.  That explained many of the difficulties that had plagued her throughout her life. 

Beginning in the 1990s, she suffered from arthritis.  She seemed relatively healthy when I visited in 2008, although she was noticeably underweight and admitted to eating very little due to digestive upsets.  She had not been to a doctor in the Western tradition of medicine in years, although she occasionally sought help from alternative sources, including the use of medical marijuana.  In the last month of her life when with extreme reluctance she turned to Western medicine for help, the doctors and nurses were baffled to find that there were absolutely no medical records that could be found for her. 

In the last years of her life, her passions were for astronomy and caring for her beloved disabled pigeons as she had been doing since the early 1990s.  She sent me an article written by a man with Asperger's who found solace in looking deep into the night sky.  My friend studied star charts and searched for obscure stars and delighted in finding them.  As has been the case for many years, whenever I look into the night sky, I think of her. 

This morning I woke up at 3 a.m. so that I could experience the darkness before the dawn and then the gradually building chorus of birds and frogs.  In the days before and after the Summer Solstice, I feel uneasy here in what is the northernmost part of the U.S. except for Alaska.  I am grateful that my father's ancestors left Norway in the 1800s, as I would have had a harder time living with months of daylight than living with months of darkness.  The long hours of daylight at this latitude begin to feel exhausting and oppressive to me.  I need the respite of darkness and starlight and moonlight.  This year especially.

My friend got to know and appreciate those of you who have been visiting my blog since 2007 and enjoyed reading your comments and occasionally visited your blogs.  Although she never commented on my blog, she visited here intermittently.  She did not particularly like using computers.  I'm not sure if she had visited my blog anytime recently.


37paddington said...

"This morning I woke up at 3 a.m. so that I could experience the darkness before the dawn and then the gradually building chorus of birds and frogs." What a beautiful way to commune with your friend and to express how much you love her. She sounds like a wonderful soul, very reflective and a true artist. I can feel in this post how much you miss her. Sending love.

ellen abbott said...

I'm sorry that you lost your friend. she sounds like someone worth knowing.

Sabine said...

What a beautiful post full of remembrance and love. Thank you for sharing your friend's life with us in this personal way. I feel we got to know her in a way.
And now that you know what kind of bird this is, your memories of this remarkable person will be connected to another beautiful creature!

Sackerson said...

Having been a treble viol player and compulsive naked eye astronomer I like the sound of your late friend.

Jenny Woolf said...

Your friend sounds like a true original and a personal with a good soul. I love the gamba too, and wonder what the piece is and who the performers are. The pictures of her as a child are so very touching.

Jenny Woolf said...

I just realised that it had the names at the beginning. Sorry.

My life so far said...

I'm so sorry your friend died. I realize as I get older that there will be more and more losses as I age, if I'm lucky I suppose. Not looking forward to that.

I'm glad your friend visited you though, in the form of a bushtit. That's lovely.

bev said...

That was a lovely tribute to your friend, am. The photos of her at the easel with a duckling a at her feet are wonderful. Your words describe a free spirit who lived life on her own terms. I'm sorry for your loss. I've lost a few friends in just the past few months and, in fact, another last week.. I suppose that is the way it will be in this chapter of life.

I found it interesting to read how you feel about the long days of midsummer. I love the early dawns, but not so much the long days waiting for darkness. As you may know, I photograph night moths in my garden, so I look forward to the darkness when the moths begin to come to the black light. I've always loved the night - the sounds, the starry skies. In summer, I spend a lot of time out in the garden at night. Growing up, I always felt there was a kind of safety in darkness -- especially when you well know your home territory and can move through it by memory and instinct.