From The Quail Diaries

31 12 2010

An airplane is a terrible thing./It has a terrible height

My recent trip to California is over but here is a photo of the landing.  We descended into the tail -end of the storm and the clouds had cracked open into the sun like the vision of heaven in cheesy Christian literature.  Except the colors were different.

gods do not favor/the way birds move/over the flight of dolphins

I was breathless from the reduced airflow inside the airplane. And I felt as though gravity had reduced her hold as a result of the turbulence.

It is a terrible thing for you

At a risk of sounding silly I’ll just say that I felt untethered, I felt the light rushing in.  And then I felt as though I was going to vomit.

to think so

This last bit, was expected.  Since an unfortunate landing in Pittsburgh, PA during the time I was pushing to finish my Ph.D., every time I am in a landing plane I feel pretty damn ill. I’ve been told that it is related to aging. And my answer to that is:  fabulous.


I did not see quail in California.  I was not there very long but still I was disappointed.

Could I be the light in a bird’s veins

I saw the Cooper’s hawk, however.  Sitting on a branch and all was quiet.

the vain eye in its throat

I can blame the Cooper’s.  I’ve mentioned before the effect they have on the quail–a Cooper’s perched nearby renders the quail utterly silent and invisible. Indeed, quite often the Cooper’s prowling a particular space means the quail move their daily foraging elsewhere.

I am not, I have /not, these qualities

I didn’t see any quail tracks, either; nor did I hear distant calls on the 3 times I wandered around looking and listening for them.  So it is possible they were already foraging in a different area.  My last visit was more than a year ago.

please don’t ask me why

please do not

And everything has changed.  Everything is different now.

And yet–I’m getting closer to finding a way to making the quail central to my active vocation.

All reasoning from known premises leads to one conclusion regarding the utility of birds

And too, while much has changed on the site–most of the area cut and burned in 2008 has regrown–there are still areas that seem not to have changed in two years.  It might be the soil, the intensity of burning, the lack a seed bank–but these places are still moon like and ash covered.

The ubiquity of poison oak has also not changed.  Here is a picture of a baby plant that I just missed brushing against.

This, then, is the chief mission of the birds in organic nature

Luckily, I avoided this plant, though I must have hit poison oak elsewhere because now I have a tiny spot, on the inside of my right elbow, where there are a cluster of tiny poison oak lesions.

Yet, here there is

Though I washed with Tecnu® after my bushwacking through the fire zone,

a spot

I apparently missed that small spot because I woke up in the middle of the night in my bed in Seattle scratching at a small bump that, once I was conscious, was of a shape size and texture that I knew very very well.   I have Tecnu® here too and, so far, the rash has not spread.

Out, damned spot!  Out, I say!

Yet who would have thought


What may be wondered at is why I bother with this at all.  I can only say it is a compulsion, a heartbreaking curiosity, a desire to jump over the cliff into things.  In that break of light through the clouds there was a bit of this.  I do not mind the itch so much as I know I gained it in a space that felt, in the moment, pure.

Taken all in all, the relations of birds to the natural world are beneficent.

crisis empties our will of power

man, the animal, is a mere integral part of nature

We respond with the great benefit of having suffered confusion, of having lost definition, of finding life and death imploded into a single confusing star.


quotes are by Kirsten Kaschock, Edward H. Forbush, William Shakespeare, Dan Beachy-Quick


Why Birds Quail; Why Kickstarter Now?

10 12 2010


Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow

Why birds, why quail and why this push, using Kickstarter, to gather enough cash for a short, rough bit of field time with one particular quail?  As for the latter, it is because they have inherent value and are inherently mysterious.  Each little elegant quail, each individual–take yourself to this space–each individual being as an elegant quail has his or her own name for herself.  I wish that one–because there must be one, at this moment, eating that seed–I wish that one would whisper.

We want to see what in the world they might become.

We want no longer to give them names.  We want them to give us their names.  This is something that makes us more whole, more completed–makes you as well, you human being that has not until this moment thought about the name of one particular female quail.She had how many babies this year?  How many were taken–how many survived?  She is gorgeous although what I see in my mind’s eye is only a desperate ghostly shadow.

A coin buys us into the market

A coin buys us a space where we might actually hear some of these individual quail whisper their sweet names.  And sometimes these names on earth only a short while and some maybe even longer.

I dreaded that first Robin, so

And these names are not textual or verbal, they are more of a dimensional a being in many dimensions–

having lost definition

forces us to see in paradox

Paradoxically, we as scientists, in our objective-constrained place of narration and computation are given gifts of this sort of name from the creatures we watch. Though we have to reach far into their lives sometimes to get these gifts, though in some senses we are burglars, still they give these gives with strange generosity.  In receiving the gifts we find we are still human,

Ahab’s tear [is] the unwilled self-recognition that he is not inhuman ,that his eye is still a human eye

but also, maybe, a little bit more.

That is the bird and the quail–and a bit of the why.  But why Kickstarter–why money this way?  Here is my very own starry eyed idealism.   I believe that the constraints of science, the reviews, academic and grant panels, etc, are in place for what are often valuable reasons.  However, I think these constraints sometimes deaden the ways that science can operate.  And, I am in a peculiar position myself, midway between many things.  If I don’t try to find other ways to create the sort of place to practice my vocation now, I never will.NSF certainly won’t fund this vocation–nor will Fish and Game–it is too Natural History, it is to literary, it draws you in too much.  It may even be to risky.

human kind
Cannot bear very much reality.

I believe deeply that the human world benefits from the connection to the inhuman/ahuman/nonhuman/other animal/organismal world.  I believe deeply that a rigorous, respectful approach to this other world is necessary.  I believe that money into this pursuit is far more valuable than money put into 95% of the commodities out there.  I believe there are other people who want connection to these other animals these other places.  I believe that in offering this work of science, natural history, literature, photography, etc to you, you will see how it might feed aspects of the human that need to be fed–and that we may be able to make this work happen  because of your help.

[For More Information, Go To Kickstarter]


quotes are from Dan Beachy-Quick, Emily Dickinson, T. S. Eliot

Help fund innovative science and literature!

6 12 2010

Please consider supporting the next installment of

The Quail Diaries

In Search of The Elegant Quail

Find the project at the Kickstarter link below:

Kickstarter:  Elegant Quail Pledge

You have until December 24, 2010 to pledge!