by B. Nagel
Bombycillidae is the family name. A silky bird that, full-grown, would be the size of my hand less the thumb, less the index, less the middle and most of the palm. A poetic name conveying heft and power in the first syllabic thrust, Bom, then bouncing into a lit and tapering off, -bycillidae, haunting the speaker with a sneaking smile and the temptation to glance skyward.
I wonder that Tolkien never admitted of the influence. It seems fairly obvious and he generally credited his influences, but I believe he wanted Tom to be a sticky wicket, a talking point, a non sequitor in a world ruled by consequence.
Neither here nor there, here nor there. In the winter, these little Bombycilla cedrorum, Cedar Waxwings, abandon their northern climes and journey south. But as soon the ice melts in Missouri, the waxwings begin retracing their pilgrimage. On the ragged edge of winter, the hedges of High Creek are covered with proud juveniles three-quarters of the way through their first migration. Tufted teenagers, really. Perpetually motive, mobbing bushes and trees for berries, gobbling, chittering, squabbling, cuddling, fighting. The antic motion reassures us that seasons turn, that February isn’t so far from spring. It reminds me of the month’s Latin roots.
To be young again. To shed coat for shirt-sleeves, cards for baseball, books for girls. But that was many years ago, before I met your mother. It was an early spring when I did, you know. We rode bicycles to picnic on the quad and watched the birds in their winter coats. She brought a blanket and some seed. What a planner. That was the day we started keeping a bird book between us.
Would you believe that when we met, she couldn’t tell a cowbird from a finch? There were several seasons walking at the refuge or camped beside the lake. If I remember correctly, the book was two-thirds full. Then you came along and the book stood on the window seat accumulating dust. Instead of titmice and nuthatches, we watched you.
Then she died and the world changed, yet the birds still flew their routes. One day I found myself sitting with you in the window, pointing out the brown heads of male cowbirds among the Agelaius phoeniceus along the waterway. Once again the world turned and you and I began our own bird book.
I am sorry to see these young ones lie so still. Most likely, they were deceived by the reflection or glare on a library window and tried to fly through. But as we know, life is fragile and we savor what we can while we can.
I miss her very much and I know you do too.
Now, we can’t write these down today, but if we turn to the right, I’m certain we can catch their siblings flitting among the juniper.