Thursday, August 15, 2019

What Was And What Is

It is a strange thing transitioning from one birding experience to the other because each birding moment has a different feel. At home in Arizona, I often guide and spend much of my time with the birds, but when family is involved, it's a delicate balance between family time and the birds. For this trek home, it was more about spending time with the family. But I did sneak in some time each day to get some birding done.  In this next series of blog posts, you'll see how it all "fused" together.

American White Pelican
I missed home. And I wanted to be there to help out with my Mom and Dad.  Sometimes my mother says everything is fine when it's not.  I get it.  She doesn't want us to worry.  For the first time in my life, I was actually worried about my parents. No one wants to see their parents get older.  My mission was to break up the routine and give my Mom a break when I could.  

My hometown remains the same, but there's much more diversity now.  Each day I took some time to bird alone or with family. On those outings, I noticed a different community from the one I knew for decades. 

The wonderful birding hotspot that is the Manitowoc Impoundment
Like always, I pondered what it would be like to live in Two Rivers as an adult. There's a part of me that can see myself in a home on the lake surrounded by forest smoking a pipe researching birds in my study. The other part of me freaks out at that notion. I don't want to get comfortable and complacent. In Maine, I wasn't connected to any one place so I could just explore and have fun. But in Wisconsin, I remember what was and what is now.  At a very young age, I remember telling my friend that I would never live in our little town when I grew up. We aspired to build a plane and fly it to places unknown.  When our plane didn't fly, I was bummed out.  So instead we built tree houses in the surrounding woods. I had wanderlust at a very young age. 

Marsh Wren
I have been watching, for some time, the aging of the "factory generation" from my hometown. Most of the factories are gone now. The people who worked there were hard workers that followed a formula. It was a hard life. There were also a lot of others who owned a lot of the popular establishments around town that supported that factory population. Until the factories moved elsewhere. They are my parent's generation.  The ones who believe in a nice and tidy green lawn, a husband who should be served his food by his wife, and in general that there is an order to all things that should be followed.  But their memory is vanishing as many are aging and passing away.  These old ideas cannot sustain themselves for the next generations. These historical supper clubs and local stores have been shutting down now for several years as the people either die or are unable to keep them open. I see achievements left behind.  I remember the old arguments of the people who are no longer with us.  And the ones who still are. 

A dedication to the founding father of Woodland Dunes, Bernie Brouchard, 
Bernie has been gone now for a couple years, but Woodland Dunes is painting the barn where he did much of his bird banding over the years.  Some remember Bernie.  Most will never know who he was.  The same goes for Winnie.  There's a bench on the boardwalk with her name. Every time I pass that spot, I think, 
"Oh Winnie. What would you say about the world today?" I've worked with them both over the years and am glad they are remembered. I always wondered who would fill their shoes. I'm proud to say that there are many new faces who are educating the public about Woodland Dunes and Point Beach State Forest. 

Common Yellowthroat
For the first time in years, I see a cultural shift in my old community.  People from all backgrounds are moving into old homes that no longer have the strong family names that once lived in them. They will never know. Nor do they care. People from out-of-state have discovered the Lakeshore area and how beautiful the area is. This is exciting. So I see change happening and it gives me hope. I'm a whole mixed bag of emotions though. I hated the old generational attitudes towards "norms" like a woman being a servant to her husband. Or having to do something because that is what is "expected of you".  Or if you were different, you didn't belong.  And yet, I still miss some of those faces. 

As the factory generation fades into memory, a newer one is taking place.  I spoke with Doc Sontag this last time.  He is in his 80's and going strong.  Another friend met up with us, also in this 80's, at the Manitowoc Impoundment (which is a great place to bird!). There in our little bubble we pondered what will happen after their generation was gone.  And in fine Doc fashion, he looks over and points to me, "Chris and his generation are the next in line to take over for us old coots." Me?  No. I could never replace that man.  He is wise beyond years and full of experience. But he's right. We must carry the torch and teach the next generation.  There is a comfort knowing that Doc is out there every day counting birds in the same place. Who will take his place when he's gone?  

Double-crested Cormorant
During my stay, I did as much as I could.  I slept in. I tried to memorize everything the best I could.  I followed my parent's routine.  For the first time in my life, I worried about them both.  They always took care of me when I was a kid.  Now it's me and my siblings turn.  Often we take each other for granted until we realize that we shouldn't. I'm glad they caught my Dad's heart blockage before it was too late. That scare has changed "the tone" in our family.  

Common Grackle
I see my nephews and nieces.  Some are older and some are very young. I love them all for all their energy.  I think for a moment that we'd be great parents if we had kids. But I am also glad we didn't have kids. It was the best decision I've ever made. That doesn't mean I don't like kids.  I'm a teacher and I believe in our future generations. They make me laugh, but as I get older, I find my patience wearing thin:)  While I was home, I had fun taking the kids out.  There were times I wanted to pull the remaining hair out of my head, but by the end of the day, they went home to their parents:)

I love this little guy. We often spent time out in the field looking at birds. He shows a good interest in the birds. 
There was often so much "noise" happening around me with 20+ people in our family that I had to find a private place for quiet time. These were my birding times. I'd only get so many hours each day to explore and do my bird counts which was fine. I remember on my last day there that I skipped out on some of the family things and just enjoyed the silence.  It's sacred. People who are used to noise all the time often have a difficult time with it.  Not me.  It's a beautiful thing.  

Ring-billed Gull
My family all laughed at my idea of "helping".  For my siblings, their definition of "help" was taking my turn to cut the grass for our parents.  No my dear brothers, that was your deal. Plus it gave us some time to chat without the kids or spouses around. And where were my sisters in the cutting-of-the-grass deal?  I think it was rather sexist that they were left out:)  My "help" was trying to get my parents to understand that they are retired and that they must compromise to enjoy this last chapter of their lives while they still can.  They both have ideas and dreams about what they want to do.  I want them to live their fullest lives together. They owe each other everything.  It's ok for them to be selfish now.  They've done their work as parents and don't owe us anything. Arizona is the land of retirement and I tried to explain to them what retirement can look like if they so chose that life. And it's okay to say no.  We, the siblings, should not put any burdens on their lives now.  It's their time to fly. 

The fact of the matter is that it's all complicated.  Family is that way.  The most I could do is take away some of the stresses that my parents had every day by running errands, watching the niece and/or nephew, and allowing everyone to multi-task instead of being stuck in one place. My point here is that we all hopefully contribute to our families in different ways. 

Barn Swallow
We had a great time in Wisconsin and I am so thankful that I could spend time with everyone. 

American Goldfinch
Over the next several weeks, we'll explore the careful planning between family and Wisconsin birds on this blog.  

It was good to be back home. Until next time.....

1 comment:

Thanks for stopping by!