I did the Christmas bird count yesterday. Oakland has the biggest bird count in the world, and it’s a lot of fun. (Really, go read that article. You’ll see a lot of what makes Golden Gate Audubon so special.) This was my third year, but the first time I made it to the compilation dinner, and I don’t think I’ll miss it again, if I can. You sit at a table with your teammates, and Bob and Dave first go over all the birds which have been seen ten years running. (The only bird from that list which was not seen this year was the Loggerhead Shrike, which means it may no longer exist in our area, which is sad.) Then the birds seen 9, 8 and 7 of the last ten years. Of those birds, a few gulls — Heermann’s and Bonaparte’s — were not seen this year, though they may have been seen by one of the boats. (We have boats!) Then each table reports anything it saw that was not previously mentioned. It’s very festive, and we eat Chinese food, which seems completely appropriate — you can imagine in the beginning, when there were 9 people doing this, they might have ordered Chinese food while they counted what they’d seen. Nowadays we get about 260 people.
No one from my team showed up for the dinner, but I found some people I know from the Master Birding class to sit with. I felt kind of sad that I had not been assigned to one of the crack teams, but I talked with the organizer afterwards, just to let him know that someone from my team was there (the leader had phoned in our results), and he asked if I was okay there, and said that they had assigned me to that team because they thought the leader might need help. And in fact, I was the leader of my little sub-team, which consisted of me, a ten year old bird-enthusiast, and his father. So — if that’s the case, I think I’m going to start birding in that area so I’ll know the whole place for next year, and I’ll try to lure some of my crack birding friends to come with me. Next year, I hope we’ll actually have a table.
Because I really did nothing but bird yesterday, I am playing hooky today to get the house in order for Christmas! and for Nora and Maddy! who are coming home for Christmas! Maddy with boyfriend Alex in tow! Nora’s coming in tonight, and I realized that all I really have to do is to get her bedroom in shape. Because it’s a big room, and because she doesn’t live here, it tends to fill up with detritus. My camping gear, for instance. I went backpacking in late August, I think, but it’s been an insanely busy year and it’s still sitting up there. Anyway, I have now made up her bed. I need to vacuum, and finish the ironing (which also happens there) and haul several boxes up to the attic (which is not easy), and then at least her room will be done.
Maddy comes on Wednesday, but I want to have the house clean enough that I don’t have to worry about it until after Christmas.
We have lived here 11 years now, I think — almost as long as we lived in our first house three towns north of here. We moved here when the youngest went to high school and the oldest was a junior. So that was 8 years with kids still in high school and college, though they’ve both been back for periods of about 6 months in the three years since we’ve had no kids really living here. Actually, if I think about it that way I understand why I feel that we’re only just now figuring out how to live in the house. It felt so big when we first moved in, but in truth it’s actually pretty small, and if you think about it as a small house it seems to make more sense. In any case, though, I think I’m fonder of it than I’ve ever been. Partly, I think I have reconciled myself to the fact that the few closets we have are very small, and the only way to deal with that is to have less stuff.
I think part of it is realizing that it is indeed great to have more space than things. So I’m working on that.
Anyway — off to deal with the camping gear.