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October 23rd 2009

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    I recall the first Phoebe I saw.  It was in a June garden in Northern Virginia.  Straightaway I recognized the bird as a flycatcher and I was charmed by her, because she contained within her movements and within her call memories of distant time.

    The word 'Phoebe', I understood, came from an Ancient Greek name, meaning 'Bright'.  'Bright', may occasionally be applied by the English language to personality, but so far as I know it is not applied as a given name.  And if it were to be applied as a given name, I would think it better suited to male than to female.  I do so because "Bright Smith" strikes me mostly as a male person.  Possibly there are minds which would think of "Bright Smith" as a female person.  And too often there may be disagreement in these things because of qualities within the word 'Bright'.  

    Lore suggests that Phoebes got their name because the word echoes their call, rather than a reference to her "brightness" or otherwise.  And I was always glad that when I saw this pretty creature I did not have to offend her by giving her a name that had a duality of meaning.  I can simply think of her as Phoebe, without the interjection of "bright" or "dull".

   

    

   However, in our early relationship I was constantly surprised by Phoebe stubbornness in the fall of the year.  She was so apparently meek that I considered it a given that as soon as frost came she should up and leave for gentler weather.  Not in the least.  On she would cling to favorite places, and in so doing would cause me to regularly worry incase she had a sickness that left her unaware of the migratory pattern her being required for adequate sustenance. 

   Then, in the accidental way, I discovered that Phoebe are amongst those who take nests from swallows.  When I learned this, I looked at the Phoebe in different light, and briefly thought her lazy and spiteful, until I again heard her call and saw her flight, and I again fell to an acceptance of the tooth and the claw.

   More recently I discovered that a northern limit to a Phoebe's winter range is no more than a short trip south of us.  Which means that my many years of worry and concern for Phoebe seasonal wellbeing has been quite wasted.  

    Now, I have no doubt that in the matter of deceiving me the Phoebe is brilliant.  

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tim candler

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(4004 BC