These darn birds. They taunt me all day long, buzzing by my window, sometimes sitting on a tree limb no more than six feet away on the other side of the glass. When I look his way, I swear he’s looking right at me–and he tilts his head. Then, there are the sounds. The male white-rumped shama perches outside one open window and the female takes a position outside the opposite open window. Then, they call to each other–all afternoon, in stereo, begging me to come play with them. Finally, I succumbed, and one result is above.
I’ve been researching Mark Twain’s depiction of animals in his writings.
Later in his life, he became well-known for his views on animal rights, writing a short story called A Dog’s Tale about a family dog who saves a baby from a fire. At first, the dog gets the royal treatment, a hero. Then, things go downhill from there when some men start a philosophical–and, then, medical–debate about the dog’s motivating behavior. It’s a stunning short story, one of my favorite’s of Twains, and in its time was quickly adopted as a manifesto worldwide by anti-vivisection societies–those against the use of a living animals in experiments. That short story makes up for the Old Bastard losing his Maui notebook and sending me on a wild goose chase.
On a lighter note, Twain wrote loads of humorous stuff about animals, even birds. Take this passage about crows in India from Following the Equator:
If I sat on one end of the balcony, the crows would gather on the railing at the other end and talk about me; and edge closer, little by little, till I could almost reach them; and they would sit there, in the most unabashed way, and talk about my clothes, and my hair, and my complexion, and probable character and vocation and politics, and how I came to be in India, and what I had been doing, and how many days I had got for it, and how I had happened to go unhanged so long, and when would it probably come off, and might there be more of my sort where I came from, and when would they be hanged, – and so on, and so on, until I could not longer endure the embarrassment of it; then I would shoo them away, and they would circle around in the air a little while, laughing and deriding and mocking, and presently settle on the rail and do it all over again.
And this about birdsong, also in Following the Equator:
The song of the nightingale is the deadliest known to ornithology. That demoniacal shriek can kill at thirty yards. The note of the cue-owl is infinitely soft and sweet–soft and sweet as the whisper of a flute. But penetrating–oh, beyond belief, it can bore through boiler-iron. It is a lingering note, and comes in triplets, on the one unchanging key: hoo-o-o, hoo-o-o, hoo-o-o; then a silence of fifteen seconds, then the triplet again; and so on, all night. At first it is divine; then less so; then trying; then distressing; then excruciating; then agonizing, and at the end two hours the listener is a maniac.
When Eric got home and started working on the bench, papa shama decided to inspect. Darn birds. They’ll be sleeping in our bed next.
Hawaii added two new cases, bringing our COVID-19 total to 643.