dailybell: 11/23/08 - 11/30/08

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where have all the birds gone?

11/26 AM

There are a few really large trees in the nearby back yards and they must house 100’s of birds. I remember wondering in the spring where all the birds had gone. Was their absence some new indicator of either global environmental change or crow dominance in our local area. Perhaps it turns out to be partly seasonal. Wintering in San Francisco?

I realize that even after a year of watching and listening to the bird activity in my own back yard, I know very little about what’s going on. Are the birds in peril? Are their times when there are more birds than others? Do certain birds dominate at different times of year? And where does one go to find out information about one’s local bird activity? So I started searching the web for some answers. I googled “San Francisco seasonal bird population” and went from there. 
Here’s what I found. The birds are in peril- sometimes. They are seasonal. When it’s a quiet morning and there aren’t many birds around, can I tell the difference? Do I know if everyone is present and accounted for? How can I know if some birds are dead, never born or are merely elsewhere? I still don’t know. But I do have a small audio record of their songs and presence in my yard over this past year. In the overall scheme of things- eras and eons- I do have a very tiny sampling to use for comparison in the upcoming year.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Third Week of November

11/16 AM
This morning I woke Lisa up with the gong she had given me for Christmas last year. It’s the same gong I rang for Warren when he was so ill. Every morning and every night when I open or close the curtains, I ring that gong and think about the sound carrying blessings out beyond those windows. Of course, this morning, I just wanted to wake Lisa with it.

11/17 AM Cazadero Wake Up
This is working out so nicely. The sun rises just about the time Lisa needs to wake up to get ready for her conference each day. So I get to be her wake up call. It reminds me of being at Cazadero Music Camp more than 30 years ago. Cazadero was a summer camp in a redwood forest in Northern California where city kids from the Bay Area would go for a few weeks each summer to sleep in tents at night and play music all day. We’d have up to 170 kids there at a time, and we needed to wake them all up by 7:30 in the morning. So one by one, day-by-day, each tent full of kids or faculty would take turns waking everybody up. It was called Creative Wake-up and it was sort of a contest to see who could come up with the most imaginative and effective way to wake everybody up. Running around yelling and screaming at people to wake up was low on the list. A small band of strolling musicians was regarded much more highly. Having a group of people think about, plan and perform a ritual wake-up call was a really lovely way to be nudged out of what was usually a very deep sleep. I thought about this when I woke my sister up this morning as I gently rang the gong for her.

11/17 PM Norman is working with our former neighbor, Will to build several of Norman's OscylinderScopes that the Exploratorium has ordered from him for resale to other science museums. They were working in the garage all day and took a break to ring some cowbells with Lisa. Then she wanted to ring the big bell in the car, so we ran out to the street to set up. We discovered that the hearing protection was missing (I guess they needed it for the metal cutting) so Lisa only rang the bell a couple of times. It hurt her ears.

11/18 AM We didn’t have to wake my sister this morning since she finished her conference yesterday. She wanted to sleep in. So Norman and I rang the hotel bell-disguised-bicycle bell and Hy’s little hand bell without getting out of bed ourselves. They sounded really nice together. The fog has returned. Or the sun is leaving with Lisa. It’s cold again.

11/18 PM
Will and Norman were still working on the OscylinderScopes this evening. They took a break from the welding and cutting of the metal to clang some (audio).

11/19 AM I had so enjoyed this combination of bells the other day that I wanted to record them. Unfortunately for the recording, I opened the door to go outside and made a lot of noise with the mic cable. I’ll try again another day.

11/19 PM A dream come true!
It’s been great ringing the big bell on my street every evening. It feels like part of the expected landscape. Part of the day. The other day when someone down the street honked a car horn in rhythm with the bell, it was so unexpected and exciting. Last night was even more so. Norman and I zipped home just in time for the sunset. I had carried lots of bells around in the car with me all day- just in case I didn’t make it home. So we pulled the bag out of the car and Norman picked the little tingsha bells as I hurried up and opened the back of the car. Fortunately, I had found the hearing protection in the garage after the construction job was finished and had already replaced them in my car. Just as we started ringing, our neighbors from a few doors down pulled up in front of their house. Mary ran inside to get her bell and she came out with her daughter and father. I was already beside myself that they had come uninvited when another neighbor from further down the street came walking over with her daughter running in front of her. Everyone rang bells and we hung out until the sun went down. It was so good.

11/20 AM When the alarm went off this morning, I was more alert than usual. So I went and got the bowl bell and took it outside while Norman rang Hy’s bell in the bed. Malcolm was also more alert than usual, and he tried to escape out the back door. However, I managed to slip out on my own and quietly stirred the bowl for the birds. There were so many.

11/20 PM I love when other people come out to join us. So casual and normal.

11/21 AM The sun is rising at almost 7AM, and during the week it is really humming out there. The roar from the traffic has displaced what had been a delicate spaciousness. The soft band of noise that is the sound 1000’s of cars moving all over the city is constant, thick and indistinct. It is everywhere, yet nowhere you can point to. It fills the air in the same way as background music. It doesn’t really command attention but it occupies space and washes out other, smaller details. Because the ambient sound level is so much louder and more present, it makes it more difficult to hear and appreciate small, local sounds. Quiet sounds with brittle edges like a rustling leaf or the flap of a bird’s wing. Even the sharp burst of a bird’s call is smothered. These tiny, bright sounds are lost, muffled or buried in the dense ambience of so many distant car engines.

11/21 PM Chewing on some bells

Krys and I in the mosh pit with the Obama boys.

11/22 AM Another lazy morning just looking out the window at sunrise and ringing bells in the bed.

11/22 PM We rang the big bell outside again this evening. (audio). This time nobody came. It was very foggy. Cold and wet. Better to stay inside.

11/23 AM

Last night, Norman finished turning Bob’s bell into our doorbell. (See entry: Bob's Bell One Year Later)

11/23 PM For the past few months, my friend Evangel King has been creating a monthly series of dance performances she calls “Dance As It’s Made”. She invites the audience to first witness her in the process of creating dance and then to discuss it over tea immediately following her performance. This was the first one I was able to attend, and it was very special. I enjoy watching work in progress and sharing that experience with others. The feeling in the audience is relaxed and engaged and it’s extremely pleasurable for me. Since I hadn’t seen Vangie in a long time, we went out to eat afterwards and our meal coincided with the sunset. We rang bells at our table and when I offered our waiter a free bell, he wanted to know how many he could have. He took several and shared them with other people working in the restaurant.