Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The call of the wild (in the middle of work)

Not an oriole.
I get a little irritated when non-academics enviously ask about my summer 'vacation,' as if I plan to lounge in a hammock for three months instead of working diligently on important projects, but I have to admit that summer work is different from academic-year work in one significant way: if I'm in my living room writing an article or planning a syllabus or whatever and I hear an oriole calling, I put down my books, close up my computer, grab the camera, and go outside.

This ability to walk away from my work at will is a terrific luxury, perhaps the best part of the summer. I know that interrupting my train of thought might mean I'll have to work harder or longer later to pull it back together, but on the other hand, how often do I get invited to follow the calls of orioles?

I may not even get a glimpse of them, and if I do, I rarely get a decent photo: they perch at the tops of the highest trees, often hidden amongst the leaves, and then if the sun is at the wrong angle, I'll get nothing more than a black silhouette. But their calls are so clear and musical, their colors so vibrant that I'm willing to follow whenever they call. And if I don't see an oriole, maybe I'll see something else--a bluebird or tanager or indigo bunting, or some green growing thing that soothes my tired eyes.

The work will always be there when I go back inside, but the orioles are here for only a short time. I hope the one I've been stalking today finds a mate and stays a while, if only to give me more good reasons to step outside and answer the call of the wild.

Also not an oriole.

Not even close.

a female scarlet tanager, I think


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