An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of July 31, 2016
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining
Chichén Itzá Ruin, Yucatán, Mexico

HAMBURGER & BEER

In 2010 at this time and also at Hacienda Chichen, in the July 25th Newsletter, I wrote a piece entitled "The Robins Fall Silent." I told about a "shimmering musical ocean engulfing my hut-ship," and said that I felt like "an incidental little melody merely wandering through the monumental, effervescing rainbow of sound." The robins were Clay-colored Robins, which after six years more and more field guides are calling Clay-colored Thrushes. You can review our extensive page on the species at http://www.backyardnature.net/mexnat/turdgray.htm

This week, again, the robins/thrushes fell silent, exactly on schedule, and I'm already feeling nostalgic about it. They began singing in late February and since then have filled my days with continual, gorgeous, overpowering tonic accompaniment.

Though I've experienced this for several seasons, it took until this summer for me to notice that each bird in this symphony has its own melody, which it sings throughout the season, and which drastically can differ from the calls of other Clay-coloreds.

Especially I got to know the bird who spent his season beside the hut. At least a thousand times a day he'd articulate a phrase that in intonation and cadence seemed to say to me, "We're here for a hamburger and beer." Sometimes it'd just be "We're here..." and he'd leave it hanging. Then, "We're here for a... We're here for a cheeseburger, We're here for a cheeseburger and beer," and the "beer" always was spoken with a wavering inflection that to my ears sounded profoundly sincere, almost comical for its heartfelt desire for a beer.

The Clay-colored Thrush whose main base was the big Piich tree just below the hut expressed something utterly different, maybe "Bubbly dubbly, watcha do, watcha do, WHIP ding," quickly repeated, over and over, never changing. He reminded me of a mechanical mouse frenetically and continually running in perfect circles, expending enormous energy but always going nowhere, and I was so glad he wasn't next to the hut because he exhausted me just hearing him.

Another thrush near the reception building said, "Chuck, whaddaya-do, old boy," sometimes varying the pitch, and sometimes changing to "Chuck, whaddaya-gonna-do, old boy?" Other birds simply uttered a few half-hearted notes irregularly during the day, and others did in-between things. I have told you about the single Beethoven Bird who sometimes came through, whose complex and varying songs actually seemed to express something important with its extemporaneous innovations.

So, when they were all singing, the rainbow of sound always was beautiful and made you feel good just to hear it. But, when you focused on individual birds, identities emerged, it was hard to not develop opinions about the excellence of each performance and to indulge in stereotypes about each bird. You could be annoyed with certain calls as often as you were thrilled by others. But, mostly, you just found yourself immersed in a lot of pleasant but mediocre calling.

Here Nature seems to be offering several insights. For example, it's reminding us that other animals beside ourselves can have distinct personalities, and when I remember Beethoven bird I'm pretty sure they also can have feelings and be inspired, and inspiring.

Another insight brings into focus the fact that things up close may seem mediocre, mass-produced and unimaginative but, at a little distance and with a receptive spirit, can reveal themselves as parts of a symphony of transcendent beauty.

And that reminds us that we thinking beings can flip our perspectives back and forth. Now we focus on the cup on the table, now we reflect on the wondrously complex networks of mutually dependent parts that had to cooperate to get that cup onto that table.

And that thought further reminds us that, as the Universe seems to be evolving toward ever higher levels of diversity and integration, so an individual human's mentality begins with the baby mind focusing singularly on what's immediately at hand, but that personality can mature into an old person thinking the kinds of multidimensional, Universe-wide, empathetic thoughts we're thinking right now, and finding the experience agreeable.

The mental buzz of an old fellow beside his hut experiencing these thoughts and feelings... is it akin to -- or maybe the same thing -- as the state the Universe evolves toward?

It's all a blossoming, the Clay-colored Thrushes seem to sing, saying "Here we are, right now, right here, WHIP ding, part of that blossoming, wow! wow!".