Writing in the time of COVID-19: Day Sixty Six

I’m sitting on the lanai, waiting on birds. If I lived in Alaska, I might be sitting around waiting for brown bears to awaken from hibernation. In Missouri, it might be deer and their fawn I wait to see emerge from the woods.

Lulu and my camera keep me company. A poem or two by Jane Hirshfield also gets read. The final pages of Barry Lopez’ latest book, Horizon, get turned. A few words of my own get jotted down in a notebook.

Myna always seem to be about, always making a mess of my lanai with their first, second, third, fourth attempts at nest-making in the eaves overhead. Chickens parade by. One hen is minus a chick today, from four yesterday to three today. Another hen tilts her head, and with one eye that she lasers my direction, she gurgles a stream of gibberish that I assume would translate as, “Feed me, lady.” I don’t. A swallowtail skips by.

I look up breadfruit gnocchi recipes and print out two, thanks to the magic of a wireless printer that’s inside the house in my office. I’m one step closer to turning the ‘ulu my friend gave me yesterday into something we eat. It’s the fourth ‘ulu she’s given me. One I re-gifted to the friend who gifted me with a mask. One sat around and got so soft we had to throw it out—to the chickens. A third still sits on our counter, so soft I might as well toss it to the begging chicken in the yard. But I might turn it into a dessert. Ripe ‘ulu turn sweet, making them perfect for pies. Laurel, the neighbor who drops off ‘ulu, won an award for her Kauai Paradise Pie, a breadfruit take on chocolate mousse.

Based on my unscientific anecdotal report of a single season of spring fledging, I’ve decided the order of birds in my yard goes like this: White-rumped shama, Northern cardinal, and, now, Japanese white-eye.

Japanese white eye with ti fruitAlso known as Mejiro and Warbling white-eye and scientifically as Zosterops japonicus, the Japanese white-eye could be classified as that anything-but-scientific group known as LGJ: Little Green Jobs.

Only this little green job is easily identifiable by the bright white rings around its eye. It looks like someone pulled out an old bottle of white-out—from the ancient days of typewriters—and painted a perfect circle around both eyes.

These little green jobs measure about four inches in length and weigh the equivalent of three to five pennies. They are omnivorous, feeding mostly on insects and nectar. Soon enough, one flies by, alighting in the bushes in front of the lanai, and I watch as it swallows a pea-sized fruit from a ti plant.

Mejiro were first introduced to Hawaii in 1929 to help control insect pests. According to the State of Hawaii’s website, they are now the most abundant land bird in the Islands. Unfortunately, they also compete with our rare birds like ‘i’iwi and ‘akeke’e for food. Unlike our native forest birds, mejiro have built up immunities to survive the avian diseases that kill Hawaii’s native forest birds, so they’re found from sea level up to Kokee on Kauai.

According to Cornell’s Birds of the World website, they sleep with their heads tucked in their back feathers, often with one leg drawn up into its feathers. Right now, they’re busy birds, hopping along branches, hardly spending much time in any one spot. Unlike me today. We’re staying put. Again. Still.

Since today is Memorial Day, I’d like to recognize a few of my ancestors who served our country. This isn’t a complete list; just a few, ranging back to the War of 1812:

Wayne Heger
Ray Spaunhorst
Otto Spaunhorst
Edwin Spaunhorst
Lawrence Steutermann
Captain Micajah McClenny

Hawaii holds at 643 COVID-19 cases for the second day in a row.

Be well.

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