Artist Robert Beck takes time to consider those little birds in the park.
By Robert Beck
I used to go into the park three or four times a day for dog walks when Jack was alive. Now it’s just a few times a week to stretch my legs. Jack was a large and very handsome dog, often mistaken for George Clooney. He had a way of identifying people who had treats in their pockets and politely sitting in front of them with his tail sweeping the ground and a big smile on his face. It always worked. Sometimes twice.
This past week had a couple of four-star weather days that found me working inside the apartment. I could see the branches on the trees at the park swaying gently, and finally decided I could gather my thoughts there just as well as at my desk. I grabbed a pen and copybook and slipped out for an off-site.
I walked into the park to one of those long rows of green benches on a path removed from the more traveled road. About a dozen properly-distanced people were reading and looking at their phones. A lady conveniently got up just as I arrived, so I didn’t have to break the spacing rhythm. I sat down, opened the book on my leg, and surrendered to the sunlight and late summer breeze.
My thoughts were lazily adrift when a little bird appeared on the fence across the path, then three. By the time I focused on them, there were seven, lightly perched on one of those wire mesh barriers that doesn’t stop anybody from doing whatever they want. The birds jumped down to the ground in front of my feet, were replaced by more, and joined from the sides until three or four dozen small, brown, twitching featherballs were spread out in front of me, also equally distanced, and keen on keeping me in sight. Not interested in any of my benchmates, though; just me.
I don’t know a Junko from a Nuthatch. To me, they all look like small brownish birds, except some have stripes on their heads, yellow bits on their tails, or dark hoods. I think these were sparrows. We regarded each other for a while, me motionless, them hopping and flitting, always keeping one eye in my direction. I suppose they were looking for food, but they didn’t display the suave charm that Jack had used to great success.
Then, by unanimous agreement, it was decided they needed to be somewhere else. The flock lifted off the ground as one, and scooted down the path in a flurry, into the trees and out of sight. Someplace to go. Something to do. Someone else to examine.