About one every other month or so it seems that one of my friends organises a “folk jam”. Some of us bring instruments, all of us bring our voices, and many of us bring a copy of Rise Up Singing, one of the ultimate collections of folk songs. Oh yes, there's also a goodly amount of food and drink.

A couple of days before this session I was waiting in the blowing snow for the Campus Connector, playing my pennywhistle, as always. One girl at the stop was really enjoying listening, so we struck up a brief conversation on the bus. I asked her name as she got off, and she told me her first.

As it turns out, the spelling was unusual, but I eventually found her email—you really can find anything on the internet&mdahs;and invited her to join us… and she did. Life is random like that. Sometimes you meet people, sometimes they invite you to things, and sometimes you say yes. And then you're at a folk jam. We had several other adventures together before life spun us apart again.

In 02007, I got was accepted to a job doing bird-banding in Denali National Park. Every morning I was to climb a cliff behind my shelter and band whatever birds had ended up in the mist nets. Unfortunately, the project ran out of funding, leaving me in the lurch. Thankfully, this happened before I left Minnesota. Ever since, I've wanted to try my hand at banding.

And so it was that my good friend Nifi picked me up at 6AM one morning and we drove North from the cities to one of the regional parks which float like protozoa in the amoebic pseudopods of the encroaching suburbs.

We showed up and found only a couple of other people there, looking out through panoramic windows at numerous cages with one-way entryways and bird seed. The morning began on an exciting, if anti-climatic note. A red-tail hawk was hovering above the bird feeders, repelling all the little birds we were interested in. We all went out side and jumped and shouted, but the hawk just sat there impassively. A quarter of an hour later it glided down on a squirrel, flew to a more distant tree, and began methodically dissecting its breakfast.

Then, for the next two hours, we'd sip hot cocoa and wait inside until a goodly number of the cages had birds in them and then troop outside to try to get the birds out of the cages.

And this is not easy. You are afraid of damaging the bird by grabbing it too hard. Meanwhile, the bird, in the cage, is feeling like taking risks because there is a giant hand groping around after it. And, even though the cages are about the size of a square foot, the birds are extremely agile and frequently dodge ones hand, slip past one's wrist, and fly past one's face making angry noises.

Grab! Shoom! Grab! Shooom! Shoooom! Grab! Shoom! Grab! Whoosh!

“Buggers.”

Once you catch the birds they seem pretty chill about it. And just kind of blink at you. Except for the cardinal, which made angry noises the whole time, and the woodpecker, which did its best to make holes in the bander's fingers.




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