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MailTribune.com
  • Unplugged and unwired, down by the river

  • The red wing blackbird is the first to brave my pesky presence. He keeps one wary eye on me and the other on the prize.
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  • The red wing blackbird is the first to brave my pesky presence. He keeps one wary eye on me and the other on the prize.
    With a twist of his body, he quickly slips his beak between the wires of the copper-domed feeder, nipping out a single black oil sunflower seed.
    Then gleaming onyx wings sporting beautiful scarlet badges carry my avian visitor off across the yard. He disappears into the stand of nearby poplar trees.
    The five feeders are once again devoid of customers. And I am rethinking my plan.
    Intruding into this feathered food court was not even on my mind when I purposefully left all my distractions inside that afternoon.
    My original goal was to free myself from the pings, dings or rings of my phone, iPad and computer. For I fear I'm becoming one of those overly connected individuals, always looking down at some sort of electronic device.
    Lately, when my heart nudges me to go down to the river to replenish my soul, instead of accepting the opportunity to reconnect with all that settles me, I gather my gadgetry.
    It occurs to me I might as well be sitting in a closet instead of one of the loveliest spots I know. So this day I eschew even Luddite distractions. No book. No magazine. Nada.
    My goal is to simply sit, watch the river roll. And be. Still.
    That's the plan, anyway. But, the thing is, I've actually never been very good at meditation. My mind likes to meander. And I like to let it.
    Next thing I know I'm engaged in a science experiment. I'm channeling an article about a fellow who sat quietly in his own yard — in the same chair, in the same pose, in the same clothes — with an outstretched hand filled with bird seed. Within days he's become a human feeder to a host of hungry chickadees.
    I don't have that kind of patience. Or time. But I wonder how close I can sit by my own five feeders, and what level of communion might ensue. Dragging the aluminum rocker a scant 3 feet from the feeders, I plop down, slouch into a comfortable pose, and immediately begin to fret. Hey, it's what I do. Hence my need to turn my head off.
    I'm worried my experiment might somehow cause harm to the wild ones. The hummingbirds and swallows who feed and nest on the back deck are used to me flitting about. But I don't have as close a relationship with these wild ones.
    Because I don't want anyone to go to bed hungry, I move my chair back another 2 feet. And "ommm" peacefulness. That's when Mr. Blackbird arrives.
    A brilliantly hued, male goldfinch is next to belly-up to the bar. The little guy alights on the green shepherd's hook, his black-topped Mohawk in stark relief to his brilliant yellow plumage. Tipping his head back, Elvis cuts loose with a surprisingly loud song. Then, without sampling a single thistle seed, he flits away across the river.
    Maybe I should skootch back a bit farther? But before I can shift in my blue-cushioned seat, he's back. Along with his bride. She starts feeding immediately while he sits lookout on the top of the feeder.
    Soon a white-breasted nuthatch is hanging upside down plucking seeds. A mourning dove calls plaintively from across the yard. She wants to nibble the seeds that drop to the ground. But now there's a featherless stranger in the mix.
    "Who're youuu?" she says. "Who're youuuu?"
    Twin flashes of orange and black signal the return of the Bullock's orioles to feed their young. I look right at a killdeer running across the grass. A northern flicker blasts past my gaze. He's flying low and heading upriver.
    Higher in the sky, a bald eagle flies down river. Keeping his path far to the right, the hunter keeps his huge shadow traveling along the shoreline, safely out of sight of his piscine prey.
    "I wish you guys could see this," I mentally whisper to my friends.
    Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or sspecht@mailtribune.com.
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