There’s a sort of cliché that it’s boring to listen to someone describe their dreams. It seems strange that it should be so, considering dreams exist in a bright, perplexing, logic-defying world. A world where anything and everything is possible; where fears, desires, and memories mingle. A world where you can create anything you can imagine, you can create things you can’t even imagine. A world where you can fly!
I was thinking the other day that it’s a little like that with birdwatching. When you see a certain bird, it seems like the most important moment in the world, and something you should tell everyone about, but maybe nobody wants to hear about it.
So I won’t tell you how every morning in May we wake up early (I do not love waking up early) and we go to a different place so beautiful I feel lucky to live where I do. And we walk slowly, haltingly, stopping at every shifting leaf or burst of song, while the world and the field warm up, and the sun brings out the sharp sweet smells of grass and nettles, multiflora rose and honeysuckle. After so many years we know who to expect in each place, certain birds come back year after year. But in May–in May–the warblers pass through. Where are they coming from? Where are they going? They never tell us! Canada to Mexico? Farther? Some stay with us for the summer, but many only stop by for a day or two, so to see one is remarkable, a bit of grace. They’re small and bright and feisty and busy. They each have their own song, which we to learn again each year, which comes back like the memory of a dream. A yellow warbler sings Sweeta Sweeta Sweet Sweet Sweet from the treetops, a blue winged warbler hides in the dappled leaf-shade, and has a song like a sigh, inhale/exhale.
By mid-June it’s the old familiar birds, we hope to see them–we expect to see them. David loves to hear the wood thrush and the veery, who both have songs you almost feel more than hear. The sound is moving on a different level from any other bird song, from any other sound in the world. I love the indigo bunting. A top-of-the-tree singer. Dark and unremarkable in certain lights, but when the sun hits him just right he’s the most beautiful, glowing, singing blue–shifting cerulean, lapis, indigo. I love anything that changes depending on the way you look at it.
And of course it feels more valuable to see a rarer bird. A blue jay or a cardinal is as pretty as a tanager or an indigo bunting, but we see them all the time, so we’re not as grateful to see them. But maybe we should be. Every starling or pigeon or crow, all of the baby house sparrows using our yard as a playpen, they’re all remarkable creatures: each a perfect combination of feathers, soft warm perfectly-weighted body, and their very own song. They’re all from a bright perplexing world of their own, a world they see from above, a world where they can fly.
Here’s Patti Smith’s dreamy, otherworldly, strange and beautiful Birdland
Do you ever order takeout food, and then the condiments sit in your fridge in their tiny containers? Do you ever think, if there was just some way I could use up that condiment and get it out of my fridge, because I hate throwing away food? Well, here you go! This first installment is for the two condiments you get from an Indian restaurant in America. One is a cilantro-mint sauce, the other is a sweet tangy tamarind sauce. No real recipes here, just suggestions. And these are just to get you thinking about other ways you can use these condiments. Stay tuned for other takeouts, other condiments.
Sort of Guacamole. For the mint & coriander sauce, Smush up a ripe avocado and tip the whole container of sauce in. Mash up. You can add a squeeze of lime, a shake of chili powder, or whatever else you like, but it will be very flavorful as is!
Sort of Raita. Mix plain yogurt and grated cucumber, and tip in the coriander mint sauce. You can add a squeeze of lemon or lime and a dollop of tahini.
Sort of Humus. Blend chickpeas with the tamarind sauce, plus a little olive oil and a smushed clove of garlic. (This actually works for the mint sauce as well.) You can use any beans in your cupboard rather than chickpeas.
The tamarind sauce is delicious mixed in with any kind of vegetarian chili, it gives it a mysterious kick.
Tamarind sauce is good mixed with diced juicy tomatoes, parsley and/or basil, and lots of fresh pepper. Minced garlic, too, if you’re in the mood.