Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Thirty-Five

“It’s gray here,” I texted my friend Anne this morning. We often write together virtually first thing in the morning. “How are things in your neck of the woods?”

“Sunny,” she replied. Anne lives in California. “Birds are singing.”

“Here, too,” I wrote.

“I can’t imagine a world without birds,” she said.

“Our first line of connection with nature—in cities, neighborhoods, the country.” I added.

Inspired by Mary Oliver’s advice from yesterday, I chose to start my day among trees. With a mug of tea and my collection of Jane Hirshfield’s poetry tucked under my arm, Lulu and I headed out for a walk among the trees in our yard.

Shortly after we were outside, the sieve of gray skies started leaking water; however, a thick umbrella of kukui leaves kept me dry.

“We need a bench down here,” I said to Lulu. She was busy fixating on a scent on a blade of grass. Likely a pig or cat roamed through the yard in the night. We haven’t seem much evidence of pigs lately; however, cats woke me up with their screeching two nights this week.

I found a level spot where Eric had trimmed a tree branch and placed my mug on it. Then, I flipped to the next poem in Jane’s collection. Ironically, or not, the poem’s title was “Branch.” I kid you not. In it, she asks:

Is there anywhere on earth one branch that has never been perched on?
That is not what branches exist for. Yet the birds come.

I want to edit my earlier statement to Anne. Birds are not our only first line of connection with nature. Trees are, too.

Trees are useful umbrellas during short rain bursts. They’re also where birds nest, where birds find food, where birds roost, where birds sleep.

shama thrush
Really old, really bad photo of White-rumped shama.

The birds around my home that I hear frequently are White-rumped shama, Northern cardinal, and common myna. Sometimes, western meadowlark, too. All are non-native, meaning they were introduced to our islands by humans. Because they evolved in areas with mosquitoes, these introduced birds arrived with built-in immunities to avian diseases like pox and malaria. That’s why these introduced birds survive alongside mosquitoes at lower and warmer elevations in Hawaii, unlike Hawaii’s native forest birds. Hawaii’s birds are still adjusting to these diseases that are spread by mosquitoes. Unfortunately, many of Hawaii’s beautiful forest bird species died out before they could develop immunities. In fact, only a couple species show even a hint of developing any resistance fo these two diseases.

It didn’t take long for the rain to stop, and Lulu and I made our way back to the house, and I heard the cooing of a Zebra dove, reminding me that not all birds rise with the sun, like my husband. Some prefer to sleep in a bit, like me.

Speaking of the hubs, I’ll have to break it to him later that he has another project on his to-do list: A bench.
Hawaii’s statewide COVID-19 case count grew by five to 601. Unfortunately, two more people died, bringing the death count to 14. Kauai continues to remain at 21 cases.

Be well.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Michael Shintani says:

    “where birds roots,”?  roost?

    We have chickens, chicks, shama, meijiro, doves, egrets, myna, …

    Mahalo, Michael


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Good catch. Thanks. But a couple days ago you missed “thirty-thee.” 😉


  2. Anne C. says:

    Our exchange this morning had me thinking of those… I’m not sure what the right adjective is… not silly, but something more profound… humans who think it’d be just fine–an adventure!–to settle on the moon–or on Mars! No birds there. No trees with branches. No nuttin’. Except maybe in a hothouse, we we know what happens in that case, thanks to Matt Damon. And here, in your post, I was struck by the mention of immunity. Something Covid-19 should be making all of us think about for the near-long term. How will we know if we’re safe? The birds, and Natives, didn’t even have an inkling before they were wiped out… I hope the husband makes you and Lulu that bench very soon! xox


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      No birds on the moon. No trees on Mars. No thank you! Yes, I could have definitely circled by to COVID-19 by exploring the idea of immunity more. Drats!


  3. Anne C. says:

    *BUT we know what happens–darn inability to edit (or to proofread, as the case may be 😉


  4. diane tilley says:

    Looking at your picture of the white -rumped Shama bird and realizing how I miss its wonderful song. My robins here in Ontario are similar in size and colour, but do not sing the beautiful song of the Shama.


    1. Kim Steutermann Rogers says:

      Good point. Shama have always reminded me of robins, too. But I hadn’t really thought about the call of robins. It’s been so long since I’ve heard one.


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