Learning of Woodcocks

Last night, as Elihu and I lay side by side in bed, lights off and awaiting sleep, he said to me “You know why I’m so glad to have you as my mom?”, to which I said nothing, letting a moment pass. “Because every day with you I learn something new”. And shortly thereafter, we were both asleep.

Tonite I’ve just drawn a bath, while he’s gone outside to watch the birds’ final visits to the feeder in the dimming light, a light which finally allows him to watch them without his usual dark red sunglasses, eyes wide open. He called to me, saying he heard a Woodcock in the neighboring field. “Please, Mommy, we have to go see him!” he begged. A bath will always be there. This was an opportunity. We grabbed our flashlights and headed out.

In the distance, the black silhouette of the hills stood out against the last light of day. The sun had been down for a while, yet there was still just enough light to see by. A buzzing sound, more like a lone cricket than a bird, sounded from the middle of the field. It was a short, raspy, buzzing sound that reminded me of a bug lamp zapping out a mosquito. It was intermittent, but his location was unmoving. After several failed attempts to locate the bird we hit upon a good tactic. I would scan the field with my light, eventually seeing the bird’s eyes reflecting back, two shiny retinal mirrors. Surprisingly the bird stood still as we carefully approached. I would get the bird in my spot of light and Elihu, lamp strapped to his forehead, would begin his approach. We made three good tries, the third time, although I was still a good hundred feet away, I was able to see the bird’s form. Elihu crept closer still, and finally, only feet away, he witnessed the bird fly up and away, my spot following the bird in the air as best I could. Impressive. A bird I might well go my whole life through without ever seeing (hell, without Elihu’s knowledge of his call I’d never even know I shared my world with such a creature) had just shifted something inside of me. I could just make out his strangely long bill in the light. His shape was so different, so unlike all the easily-spotted birds that we’ve almost come to take for granted. It was a grand moment. Elihu was elated. He cheered and laughed. We both agreed it was a perfect end to our impromptu mission and we began to walk back to the field’s edge, back to our cozy little house behind the tree-lined stone wall.

“I saw exactly what he looked like and now I can draw him” Elihu said as we neared the house. Clearly, the bath would have to wait a moment longer. Drawing, bath and call to Daddy follow. I am so tired now, I cannot keep my eyes open long enough to read to him from the Burgess Bird Book for Children. Instead, I lay on my side, facing him. His eyes cannot close. He stares at the ceiling. I know he is reliving the moment over and over. I can share it with him no more, and fall asleep.

Today, we’ve both learned something new. Thank you, my dearest Elihu. I’m so glad to have you as my son.

2 thoughts on “Learning of Woodcocks

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