Daniel Menaker

Brave and Faintly Ridiculous

Sunday, May 22, 2016

If you go near the birdhouse on a pole in the back yard of the farmhouse here in New Marlborough, MA, a house that you inherited from your uncle, the resident bluebirds will dive-bomb you, swooping down right over your head, making these little clicking sounds, which sound a little like a windup kitchen timer–the best they can do in terms of scare tactics against your hulking, primate, earthbound self. They must have bluechicks in there right now. The birdhouse is near the back garden, and you feel guilty for going out to tend it, because it agitates the bluebirds so much.

Who would have predicted that you would be noticing and caring about such things, to say nothing of consulting bird books to help you distinguish between flickers and red-bellied woodpeckers, to say less than nothing of tending a garden, when you were twenty-five and looking for girls in bars and buying scalped tickets to Knicks games and dancing all night and playing pickup basketball in Riverside Park and writing cynical poetry and going to DC to protest the war and sharing summer houses on Fire Island and body surfing out there and idolizing Hunter Thompson and George Jones?

When gorgeous birds right in front of your nose or in back of your uncle’s house earned, from you, a brief appreciative nod at best, after your mother, in her sixties, pointed them out to you?

When you knew you would grow old but never believed it until now, when you have begun to find some kind of world of meaning in a bluebird’s brave and faintly ridiculous aerial assaults and a patch of lettuce and the kale that you don’t even like but grow anyway?

When you never would have guessed that you would be writing something like this, to say nothing of writing at all?

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