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The Year Of The Birds (for the birds)

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

I finished listening to Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. It took several months because it was over 32 hours long, and I am not in the habit of listening to books. Or more like I do not listen to books very well, I'm a much better traditional reader. It was lovely-well worth the slowness of listening. The raven is a prominent symbol in this alternative British history. I'd like to see if the BBC show adaptation is any good. I am hopeful. BBC's Good Omens was a fun adaption of Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman's collaboration.



JS&MN led me to Clarke's most recently published book, Piranesi. Publications like The Guardian are calling it "an elegant study in solitude." So far, we find the title character has occupied a labyrinth for many years. He narrates how he shifted describing the year in his journaling from a number to a meaning. For example, it's not 2011 anymore but the Year of the Weeping and Wailing. I love that.


2018 was my Year of the Fox and the first year of my life that deserves different documentation. I saw fox so many times I lost count. I felt like it had to be a sign of something after my seventh sighting. Karl Fast and Stephen Anderson argue we humans are primed to make connections where there may not be. I still took guilty pleasure in web searching "meanings of foxes."


2019 was the Year of the Home. I moved south and started a new chapter on a new block, with new neighbors in a new house. My house is homey and happy and cozy. My neighbors are incredible. My neighborhood is a blessing for my children and me. I couldn't be luckier in this regard. I tell my friends I am the queen of my castle.


I'm not a particularly keen observer of my surrounding flora and fauna, but I have noticed many birds this year. The "dawn chorus" seemed extra this spring and summer. Crows, ravens*, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, robins, magpies, camp robbers, a thrush flew upstairs in the boys' room, a "charm" or "trembling" of yellow finches along the Arkansas River, Pinyon Jays (a more rare bird sighting) while camping in the Utah Desert. Now I see Steller Jay's in "bands, scolds, casts, and parties" on my daily walks up the trails from my home.


I like the meaning behind the saying "for the birds." Apparently, it is an American saying for "worthless, not to be taken seriously, no good," as the seeds are in horse droppings that only the birds will go after. I wouldn't go so far as to say this entire year has been no good, but I think I speak for many when I say I am ready for the new year and its name.


Is 2020 the Year of the (and for the) Birds?


*You can identify a crow from a raven by their wing feathers, which are called pinions. Crows have 4, and ravens have 5. So you could say the difference between a crow and a raven is a matter of a pinion.

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