Updated: Nov 28, 2020
In the patch of garden between our tiny house and Merrynook, a Hermit Thrush — furtive, skulking — appears, reappears, disappears. Moist vegetation growing low, and the dark shelter of the adjacent deck, gives her, in a hop or two, the multiple safe zones necessary for her songbird lifestyle.
Oh, if only she would take care: cats also lurk. Frederick has already bagged a baby quail in that very spot. But this thrush is indeed discreet; I have never heard her sing, and only once did her call flush me out of the house to see the reason for her alarm.
Why am I so attentive to this thrush? What a personality! So sure of herself, confidently standing upright after each little sprint. She stares right back at me with big, open, and very round eyes. Yet her tender vulnerability is nervously punctuated by impatient wing flicking, alternating with a languid lowering of the tail: a dance-standing-still.
But of all her physical traits, I am perhaps most attracted to her unseen, essentially invisible, presence. So well-disguised she makes herself in the shrubbery that only when she makes a quick dash for another perch, or down under cover, do I become aware of her closeness. Often, I just sense her. A sidelong awareness of that soft brown back … the speckled white breast … a quick dash of drab bird. Like a cubist painting, the succession of ardently observed shapes and color come together as … my thrush? I’m almost sure.
I promise myself that next time I will stop my incessant bustle long enough to quietly observe the pattern of her breast spots. She is a Hermit Thrush, yes? But in the reality of the days that pass and the spirited life of my heart that grows within them, the clinical school-book exercise of identification is completely unwarranted. She is My Thrush. Instead of naming her, I will greet her, advise her, warn her, adore her, whether or not she consents to be seen.