Monthly Archives: March 2015

Nemesis no more

In the world of birding a nemesis bird is a bird that a birder has gone to some (often great) lengths to see but has had no luck. While I am an incidental birder at best, and probably have no right to call any bird my nemesis bird, I did go to some lengths to see a painted bunting on a number of occasions, yet when an opportunity arose to drive 45 minutes to see one a few years ago, I did not go.

The painted bunting is probably the most colorful bird the United States has to offer. I was so taken with this bird that I considered using its name as my online name but thought it might be a little too suggestive so chose cedar waxwing instead.

A number of springs ago I arranged a vacation for my family and another family to stay on Tybee Island near Savannah in Georgia so I could see a painted bunting — something the island is known for. Even though I went to the places painted buntings usually hang out a couple of times that week, I never saw one. In fact, the folks there said that they’d not seen one that year.

There was a painted bunting sighting in Annapolis a few years ago, as reported on a birding list I subscribe to. I considered trying to see the bird, but shyness won out. One Saturday I had a conversation with a woman at a rugby game whose son was on the opposing team from Andrew’s team and she mentioned that she had a painted bunting at her feeder in Annapolis (I must have had binoculars with me). It turned out it was the same bird that was mentioned on the list and she invited me to visit the next week for coffee to see the bird for myself. I said I might and we exchanged telephone numbers, but I didn’t go.

Whenever we visited Florida I’d keep the painted bunting on my mind whenever we were in a natural area. The two times I visited Mississippi I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse of one — but no luck.

We always visit Merrritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Playalinda Beach when we visit Dean’s sister, Diane, who lives in Orlando, Florida. This year we headed to Vero Beach / wetlands first, but it began raining and we didn’t see too many birds on our brief, wet walk. I suggested we drive up to Merritt Island, have lunch, then go birding there. After lunch at Sonny’s BBQ we stopped at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor’s center. I immediately checked the log to see if a painted bunting had been seen (one had — right at the visitor’s center). I went outside and saw a man with a camera who was saying to his female companion something about how the female looked so different from the male. I knew, then, I was going to see a painted bunting. I asked him if he was talking about a painted bunting, explaining that it was my nemesis bird. He moved away from the railing so I could get a good look. There in the bushes was a blue, red, green and yellow bird. The man with the camera said, “Nemesis no more” and moved on to let me enjoy my ex-nemesis bird in solitude.

Dean took a photo for me, I took a few more, Diane even took a photo.

As I turned around to leave, two other very excited people were walking towards the feeder saying, “Painted bunting! It is a painted bunting!” I smiled, knowingly. at them, knowing exactly how they felt.

Mr. Tumnus and me

4 black and white images of me holding Mr. Tumnus
Mr. Tumnus and me.

Back, a very long time ago, I enjoyed shopping at K-mart. Our family would drive to the K-mart either on the East side of Elgin, or another local K-mart — perhaps one in Meadowdale, if there was one there. Anyway, my memories of shopping with my parents at K-mart are all pleasant. We’d usually stop at the deli and pick up a sub-sandwich. I liked the ham they put in their sandwiches, and remember the bread being tasty. I even liked the raw onions and processed orange cheese they put in the sandwiches.

I didn’t often buy anything with my own money on these shopping trips, but remember one purchase when I was in my late teens. I remember walking along one of the main aisles — the area where they kept their seasonal specials — and stopping, mouth in an “o” shape, eyes wide, possibly making an ahhhhhhhh! sound of pure joy. I saw a display full of 16 or so inch bronze-colored ceramic fauns at the low, low price of $20. It may not have been a blue-light special, but it was something I could not live without. I picked one up, hugged it and placed it gently in our shopping cart.

“It’s Mr. Tumnus!” I announced to my family. “From Narnia. And I am buying him!”

Because my parents knew about my obsession with The Chronicles of Narnia, they did not try to talk me out of buying the statue. And I don’t know if it was then and there that my dad came up with his nickname for the statue, but I can just imagine him telling the check-out clerk that his daughter just had to have Mr. Numbnuts. (I do remember Dad calling the statue “Mr. Numbnuts” when he was helping us pack up my Elgin apartment for the move to Pittsburgh.)

Mr. Tumnus traveled with me from my parents house to my first apartment, to Pittsburgh, to two houses in Alexandria, then finally to his last home, Bethesda. He stood in the gardens of several of those homes, but  because he was not made out of weatherproof material, he eventually disintegrated into a white powder. He was too far gone by the time we moved to Bethesda to stand next to the gas lamppost in our front yard.

For years I looked for a similar, more weatherproof, version of Mr. Tumnus, but never found one I could afford or one that looked like my Mr. Tumnus. I no longer plan to replace Mr. Tumnus — that obsession has gone, but I cannot help looking for Mr. Tumnus when we visit garden stores or pass places that carry statues.

I thought I’d never see him again until I opened an old book I found at my mom’s a few years ago and found a photo booth set of photos of me and Mr. Tumnus. (Likely taken at K-mart the day I found him.) He’s over there, to your left — with a long-haired pig-tailed youngster that used to be me.

 

When I opened my eyes I couldn’t believe what I saw!

I was sitting in a moderately crowded church and realized I could not easily open my eyes. I was finally able to slightly open one eye and looked around at the rest of the attendees. Everyone appeared to be sleeping, some with their heads rolled to the side or resting on the back of the pew. Suddenly everyone opened their eyes and sat up straight as the pastor walked up the aisle to the pulpit.

During the service I deduced what happened. Each Sunday the pastor wanted quiet in the church before ascending the pulpit. The only way he could accomplish that was to drug the congregation with a quick-acting quick-recovery sleep-inducing vapor. What the vapor was, how it was introduced to the congregation and if it were dangerous were the questions still on my mind when I confronted the pastor after the service.

“I refused to be drugged in a church,” I announced to the pastor.

“You are welcome to not be drugged in a church,” replied the pastor, “but not in my church.”

I knew I needed to let others know about this, but I didn’t know how do do so without causing a riot. The first thing I needed to find out was what the drug was and how it was introduced into the air. I also knew I needed an ally.

I assumed that since the pastor was a good man, he would not want to harm anyone, but perhaps he’d not thought about unborn children and the effects of the drug on them. I approached a woman I knew was pregnant and whispered to her what I knew. She became outraged and said she’d meet me in the fellowship hall after talking to the pastor.

I then noticed my son, who was responsible for ringing the tower bell before the service, and asked him what he knew about the vapor. He admitted that he was instructed to push a button just before the bell began to toll. He also told me the name of the drug that was released into the sanctuary when the button was pushed. I wrote it down, planning on Googling it later.

I then began talking to other people in the fellowship hall — many of whom were not in the sanctuary. It seemed many people knew about the drugging and opted, since the pastor was otherwise a good man, just to stay out of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

I still needed to know where the vapor entered the sanctuary, so went back into the sanctuary just before a second service was about to begin. That is when I noticed the brass decorations on either end of the pews — what I’d always thought to be speakers. I got close to one and heard a hissing sound. Holding my breath I ran up the aisle to escape being drugged for a second time that morning, of course I couldn’t run very fast and my lungs were bursting. I escaped just in time.

I never saw the pregnant woman again, but talked more to some of the women in the fellowship hall.

Then I woke up.