A Songbird App & Notes While Largely Sheltering

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Further notes while largely sheltering in place:

  • I ventured out of town last week to interview someone for an upcoming magazine article. Except for a brief visit to my brother-in-law’s yard outside Gilmer, it was the first time I have left the city limits since March 8. That’s when I made a quick trip to Austin just as things were starting to feel a bit shaky. This time I headed to San Augustine, about 90 miles away. The subject of my interview graciously agreed to host me in her beautiful backyard, at a safe distance. I showed up and went straight to the backyard — laptop, recorder and mask at the ready.

I felt perfectly safe but had one worry. What if I needed to use the restroom on this trip? The notion of going into a convenience store to use the facilities does not appeal to me. I wasn’t exactly crazy about doing so before the pandemic, but now? Nope. So I kept my coffee and La Croix consumption to a minimum and prayed for the best. Being a guy, I wasn’t terribly concerned. All I needed was a country road and some trees to shield me if the need arose. As it turned out, the call to nature came just outside San Augustine. After the interview, I visited briefly, again at a safe distance, with some dear friends in the otherwise empty courthouse. (It was lunch hour.) I managed to make it home without another pit stop.

As things open up, much more quickly for some folks than it will by choice for my Beautiful Mystery Companion and me, figuring out the restroom conundrum will be a major consideration before we hit the road.

  • It took a while to get used to wearing a mask with hearing aids. These high-tech devices consist of a small plastic piece wedged behind my ear, and a thin filament attached to the tiny cone that goes inside the ear canal. I kept snagging the aid on the mask’s elastic and ripping it out of my ear when I took it off once back inside my vehicle. Once, the hearing aid fell between the seat and the console. It took about 5 minutes and a steady round of under-my-breath curses to extract it. Since each hearing aid costs more than two thousand bucks, I’m a bit paranoid about losing one and having to go through the rigamarole of filing an insurance claim. I’m getting the hang of taking the mask off, but it took a while.
  • Occasionally, I physically go to work at the LeTourneau library, which is still closed, to empty the book drop or look something up for a patron in the archives. It’s an eerie feeling being on a largely empty campus, inside the darkened library. Not scary, just different. I imagine a library version of Night at the Museum. The books start whispering to me; those on the “just arrived” kiosks open their covers and start flipping pages.
  • Back at home, the dogs when not sleeping watch our every move. Sam and Rosie come running every time they hear the ice maker in the refrigerator rumbling, as either I or my BMC refill our tumblers with water or iced tea. They love to chomp on an ice cube, and sit expectantly our feet, awaiting one. I call them Pavlov’s dogs.
  • I downloaded a new app the other day that allows me to identify bird songs while sitting outside. There are several, but I am using Song Sleuth. You record the call by holding down the phone button. Song Sleuth, to which I have already provided my location and time of year, gives the top three possible choices, along with a screen shot of a painting of the birds by renowned bird illustrator David Sibley. I recorded a bird trilling late one afternoon while sitting in the gazebo. Song Sleuth identified it as most likely a Northern Cardinal. This is a pretty slick app, well worth $9.99 when one spends a lot more time on the deck reading. And yes, it was the male cardinal who has taken up residence in our backyard with his partner.
  • I was talking to a longtime friend on the phone recently. He’s been retired about a dozen years. He said he told one of his sons, “Well, I walk every morning. Other than that, I just stay home and read.” His son replied, “Dad, that’s what you were doing before the pandemic.”

Stay safe, my friends.

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