A rogue yellow blossom has annexed the cilantro’s territory. The butter bright petals bob at the end of a stalk that’s bolted into white lace.
In a blink, the flower takes flight. It circles the railing and alights on the end a strand of Thai basil. Slender feathers flash golden black. The breeze coruscates leaf, stalk, bird, into a kaleidoscope of shapes falling together, spilling away.
I am far across the room. If I had missed that moment of flight, it could still be butterfly, bumblebee, invading weed. I step closer and see now that the bird is dipping the brush of its beak into a tiny violet thimble budding from the basil stem. Its vertical sips meet a circular breeze. The oblique collision jars this usually quiet corner of the garden.
My Audobon book is unopened on a shelf in the bedroom. When I head to the woods, I try to remember to pack it along with the wildflower guide and The Trees of North America. To be honest, the opportunity for a hike rarely presents itself these days. When one comes to fruition, it tends to be a scrap shim I jam in to shore up the edges of this teetering palafitte of responsibilities.
The last trip out, I was halfway to the mountains before realizing the hiking boots and trail food were sitting back by the front door at home. After a few detours, I was strolling through the meadows of a local nature preserve. Hungry and shod in busted sneakers, I found modest satisfaction in having brought my guidebooks. One told me that the fragrant flowering shrub bursting along the forest edge is called a Small White Rambling Rose.
This bird here may be an oriole. A finch. A butterwing, sunpincher, pinbrush. It could be Ramone for all I know. Taxonomies of my animal kingdom neighbors are as foreign to me as the musical notations of a zither. I try to step closer to see what I can discern about this fellow’s tail or shape, but he’s done with his snack and flits up, around, down to the concrete floor, up against the glass door, then off into the much bigger green shadowing this modest corner.
His name goes with him.
Or maybe he left it here with me, that odd marking made by someone who only imagines the scratch and heat inside a nest, who only wonders how the nectar of summer’s purple herb tastes against the tongue’s single song.