Category Archives: Birding

Memories of the western tanager

Saturday, May 10, 2014

When I turned 20 years old in late October of 1967, I was living in Imperial Beach, California and beginning my first faltering attempts at writing poetry in classes taught by Glover Davis at San Diego State. I caught a ride to school from a young woman named Cindi, who was engaged to a forest ranger. On weekends, there was little to do in Imperial Beach but read poetry and plays. One afternoon in the winter months of 1968, I rode a bicycle along some dirt roads that took me into the fields past the Edgars’ cow farm. I looked over at a field one point and stopped pedaling. Several dozen birds that I was later to identify as western tanagers were on the ground in the field. I had never seen such a beautiful bird, and never again saw them until a few years ago I stopped at a rest stop halfway down to San Diego. This time there were fewer than twenty of them, but I’m quite certain that the birds I saw were western tanagers. Sometimes a vision return to confirm that it was not merely yearning unfulfilled.

I was reading the interview with Jim Krusoe in “RipRap” magazine yesterday. He said he believed that writers are divided into questioner and answerers. I suppose I am a questioner who has learned that God will not listen to any of my questions until I mistakenly believe with all my heart that I have found the answer to more than one of them. The irony, of course, will be that — by sheer, predestined chance — part of my answer will be correct; the problem is that there’s no way I can ever knew which part that is.