An English In Kentucky



















May 17th 2009

    I am a big fan of the Summer Tanager.  This time of year he is full of verve.  That hopping and skipping that makes for enthusiasm.  His call has a joyousness, but even though he is very beautiful he will never sing in the front row of a choir.

    Later in this year, I will hear him and begin to worry about him.  I will hear not joyousness but what I once believed was desperation.  His call grates on a hot afternoon, and I wish he would just stop.

    Many birds nest late into the season.  I have seen Bluebird chicks and Cardinal chicks in August.  I have seen baby dove in September.  So I imagine the Summer Tanager has every reason to announce himself in the way that he does.  Long into the summer, this Tanager calls, all the way until September begins to touch that moment when it feels like November.



    Around July, when the afternoon is hot, and the sensible ones are taking it easy, the tanager will be there on the dying sycamore just yelling away.  In August the same thing.  In September when the swallows are gathering for their movement south, I will see him still in the sycamore tree with what I begin to feel is a tear in his eye.  I begin to think he has failed in his mission.

    But in recent years, rather than perceiving desperation in him, I see him as a post-structuralist.  I say this because I think of him as one who has no desire to be labeled.  His song is not to be placed within a dichotomy of breeding territory and the season.  He sings, simply because he thinks he is wonderful and wishes to share his genius.  

    "Enjoy it while you can," he says to me.  And I have often endeavored to.

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