Do you love any, do you love none
Do you love twenty, can you love one
Do you love…me?

A long time ago, it seems ages, I fell in love with a bird. He was a long, dark bird, with sun in his feathers and sleepy yellow eyes. He was very different from most birds his kind, and a non-native, a starling (Sturnus vulgaris).

We met one night near the train tracks. I sat alone, waiting for my ride, and he called to me from a power line, “you are so beautiful, may I nestle in your red locks?” I giggled and looked away, and when I looked back he had hopped to the top of a eucalyptus and flown away.

And so it went, these chance meetings, and he would only appear when I was alone. Sitting on a bench near the ferry terminal, he would fly down and peer at me from an empty chair; rattle, whirr, and whistle – fly a little farther away, and do it again.

For a while, starling and I only exchanged fleeting moments like this. One day he dropped a little bookmark at my feet. It looked like a gold paperclip with a small rose engraved at the top. He flew down next to me and watched my expression as I picked it up. I could smell his feathers from where he landed, the heat and the heart underneath them, and I was smitten.

Starlings are relatives of the Myna bird, and like them they have impressive vocal abilities and a gift for mimicry. He learned how to imitate the words “Habibi,” and “maybe,” but I think they might have been the same words, it just depended on which day he said them. I would hang on those words, and depending on which one I thought he said it could make or break me, until we met again.

When we weren’t together, starling would travel with a pack of grackles and blackbirds. I would hear from the house finch “yes, I saw him over on Chestnut, drinking from a gutter and whispering sweet nothings to another.” I did not flinch. I knew that starlings were known for their brood parasitism, and he was only looking for a new, temporary nest. But as I mentioned, he was different from the other starlings, he wasn’t so much interested in proliferation, but the addiction of connection.

Watch while the queen
In one false move
Turns herself into a pawn

Sleepy and shaken

And watching while the blurry night
Turns into a very clear dawn

As the days went on, we became closer and closer. He would abandon his main nest more often, and we would sit together, saying nothing, breathing each other in, learning the other’s own special language. Though he would go back to his home high above the hill the time we spent together was enough to sustain me. I would drive dreamily home, still smelling of the oil from his wings.

I am thinking of your woman
Who is crying in the hall
It’s like drinking gasoline
To quench a thirst
Until there’s nothing there left at all

Alas, it…
Was not meant to be

No clean transition
Wish there was a better ending
The hottest love has the coldest end


Mourning Dove


Today I was feeling very happy. Recently, a kind, gentle person from Iowa contacted me and told me that she would like to use some posts from my blog to teach her nature writing class. For a while, this filled me with love, and not to mention a longing to visit Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Truth be told, I still feel that love, and probably will for a while.

That is how it is with me, that when someone cherishes me for something I did that was born of passion, I tend to feel love, and loved. It’s something I secretly cling to, and long for more of.

And it got me to thinking about love: who I love, and what love is.

Today I learned that someone I deeply love had to experience death and the possible dissolution of their marriage, all in a span of ten days. I ached. I felt a pain in my heart that was not unlike yearning, but I felt a little more lost, and more unsure. It was like peering into space with the feeling that if you didn’t hold on, you might go into a black hole.

In times like these, I like to turn to animals for a lesson. What can animals teach me about love, and loss.

For some reason, when I think of love, I think of last Halloween, when my Greyhound, Jack, plucked a eastern grey squirrel from the Catalpa tree in our backyard, broke its neck, and proceeded to eat it. I shouted “Jack! No! Leave it!” Not only until I pinched his ear did he drop it. His body shook in a primeval way, and I could see he hurt from not only from me pinching his ear but from my disappointment.

I stood on my porch, in the rain, looking at the unbrushed lower teeth and gentle paws of the dead squirrel on my steps, and all I could do is be present with my feelings, that somehow I was responsible for its death. I was hyper-aware of the temperature, the cloudy sky, and my breath as I wondered how to best deal with Rocky. The odd thing is that I never felt more alive, even in death.

This is how it is to be in love, when you experience life without any filters. It’s also when you can let go of expectations and perfection, and learn to enjoy your backyard, even in the driest of winters.