in that turbulent sea
Girls are cruelest to themselves
turbulent sea of multiplicity
1836 Alta California declared itself a free state
I sought redención in the traps and the hills and the brush–the sage species Artemisia californica and Salvia mellifera leaving their scent on my clothes, the lemonade berry bush Rhus integrifolia with its berries coated sour but soothing. Redemption in the Western fence lizards, Sceloporus occidentalis
and the Western scrub jays Aphelocoma californica.
I sought it even in the Cooper’s hawks Accipiter cooperii and poison oak bushes Toxicodendron diversilobum
you will be found wanting
But of course the quail, Callipepla californica to be precise, were to ultimately redeem me.
Coyote was sleeping so soundly that a covey of quails came along
But, ultimately, I did not find redemption.
and cut pieces of his flesh without arousing him
Rather, I found a sort of eviscerating clarity. This clarity came to me in bursts while I sat waiting for the birds and ants (likely Linepithema humile) crawled over me, periodically biting.
To be a whacher is not a choice.
When I wrote brief notes for this entry, I was still in California–I’m in Seattle now. As I wrote, I was, in fact, being bitten by those ants I mention above. I will have more to say specifically about the field–more Redención entries before I close this chapter of the diaries.
When I took the notes in the field, most of which I am discarding they being rather irritable, I was taking stock of the fact that I’d been struggling with the trapping and observations. I’d only trapped and banded 14 birds (some several times) and could not get a good enough handle on where they were foraging to get a substantial number of observations. While the quail were more of a struggle to trap than usual, I was eminently successful at capturing jays, California towhees (Melozone crissalis), mourning doves (Zenaida macroura), ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi) and even desert cottontails (Sylvilagus audubonii). Whether or not these critters were interfering with the quail’s entry into the traps (they often blocked the traps with their butts) it was annoying to be successful at trapping nearly everything except what I wanted.
While one issue was the multitude of baby squirrels, rabbits, doves, the other issue was that the quail were not predictably going to the sites of the traps. I know this from observations but also because I trapped one of the quail in two locations -Middle, as I call it, and Poison Oak Gulch (POG) 1 km to the North–at the same time in the morning, 6:30 am–on two different mornings. This means that this bird, and likely the birds she associated with, were taking very different paths each day.
This is possibly a seasonal thing–when I worked on them, the incubating birds and the young families seemed less predictable than the older family groups and the coveys. But, of course, it also means that my ability to get a handle on what was going on with the birds, without radio transmitters and within three weeks of field-work total, was limited.
There is nowhere to get away from it
I am constrained in what I can do. The readers who know me personally know that I am in a particular situation currently that requires me to be in Seattle most of the time, despite the fact that I am employed, in winter and spring, at The Evergreen State College in Olympia.
So, what I wondered, while those ants bit me, is what exactly I could do if I was only able to conduct limited field work on that site—limited being a handful of 1.5 to 2 week trips a year.
I’m still not sure, although I’m less despondent than I was when there were no quail but plenty of ants.
Someone has stopped showing how alone he is in the dark
Perhaps it is because I am in a different space. Perhaps I’m just worn out from navigating. I can take tiny baby steps in the dark but barely see my way. When I think about what I have to offer that is valuable, I become weighed down in practicalities. In trying to wash away that with which I am connected.
Meaning, the quail, my writing, art….these words feel ashy on the page…how can I communicate to you without receiving the butt end of your condescension?
You want to be the fire part of fire
they do not burn
What is productive, what is important, what is self-indulgent, what has value and what is valueless. If what I value in myself can not be commodified—cannot be turned into something that is valued enough to support my family and I—is it time to give up and shut that part of me down?
Well there are many ways of being held prisoner.
Quotes are from Katherine Berry Judson, Richard Foreman, Anne Carson, Inger Christiansen, Bill Callahan