The Best Part of Waking Up

Posted on May 11, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

…is not having to actually get up.

Post No. 1 in a series of articles I callTales from my darkest ‘ell

I called it ‘ell.  It was not particularly descriptive of my work environment, but, the private joke kinda’ lightened my mood.  I’ve worked the night shift in a number of different capacities and locations over the past couple decades, and yes, doing unnatural things before daylight (such as being awake and up before sunrise) sets up a tiring tedium.  After a while, you start looking for ways to stay alert and interested in the moment.

Actually, the workplace really was ell — that was the shape of the building.  Outside, a concrete apron and a roof overhang of 8 feet formed the inside of the ell, bordering the main parking lot on two sides.  A picnic table, nestled in the 90 degree corner, constituted the break area.  It was here, often alone, that I got a glimpse of the night world outside normal human sleep time.

The small collection of white dots at the edge of the apron was indicative of an often used roosting spot above.  Yet, all I could see above it was a small electric junction box with a 4″ long conduit protruding from it; since it was flush against the wall, it could not be a roost.  I started to routinely check the area for any birds, finally noting a single little sparrow flitting around under the awning near sunset.

On a midnight break, I finally had my answer to the poop-a-dot question.  Directly above the drop zone, in the angle formed by the little junction box and along the groove formed by the round conduit extension and the wall, the little sparrow had wedged itself for an undisturbed night’s sleep.

In all the months I worked there, I never saw the sparrow tuck itself in for the night.  It always waited until I was not watching before it would trundle off to its little hidey.  Even without that self-awareness mirror, it is evident the bird was acutely aware of itself and that it needed to be careful to protect itself.

Just before sunrise, the air above and around my little bit of ell would come alive with various birds, including hordes of sparrows, chattering and flitting.  All these guys must have read the little adage about the early bird and the worm.  Much to my delight, I learned that humans are not the only recalcitrant risers before sunrise.

Between the break table and the wall at the inside of the ell, there was a space of about 3 feet.  I was sitting on that end, facing outward into the parking lot.  I noticed a small object coming right toward me on a steadily descending glide path.  Any second now, I expected the sparrow to hit the brakes after seeing me and redirect its path elsewhere.  It did not, continuing to a smooth landing on the sidewalk between the table and wall.  Then — not giving me the least bit of consideration — fast walked to the inside angle of the ell.  Once there, facing the wall, it tucked its head under a wing and settled in, oblivious to my perilous proximity.  Apparently, morning came a lot sooner for this tiny creature than it had been prepared for.

My third ell-ish encounter was similar to that, without the smooth landing.  I was standing at the edge of the concrete apron, sort of hanging 10, awaiting the dawn.  Again, there is the approaching silhouette of an early riser, but, it leveled out at about 30 inches above the pavement and slowly glided past me well within arm’s reach.  My first thought was, “this little guy is going to make a quick stop just before the wall and snatch a bug off the brick,” a trick I had seen grackles do.  But, no air brakes were deployed.  The little critter went head first into the wall, and dropped in a heap onto the sidewalk.

This was not the first time I had seen birds crash like that, but, usually, it happens against glass barriers.  It is frequently a fatal error.  But, this little fella got to its feet in a few seconds, shook its head a few times, and started walking back toward the edge of the apron.  Obviously dazed, it struck a pose that mimicked mine, toes teasing the edge of the curb, and facing the parking lot.  About the only difference between us were our head heights (5.5 feet vs. 2.5 inches) above sea level, and the fact that I had not just bashed my head into that brick wall.  I was hanging 10, it was hanging 6.  Sans the brick wall, I knew this little guy would never be caught dead standing a mere 18 inches from me.  So, I started talking to it, like we were long-time buds just shootin’ the early morning breeze.  I could tell it heard my droning voice since it kept looking toward me.  I don’t think we got more than a minute of quality time together, ’cause it finally figured out this was not Kansas anymore, and took off like demons were after it.  I had to wait for the bell at shift’s end before I could flee my demons.

Enthusiasts of the whole “natural order” hypothesis proclaim that Nature — indeed, all of Existence — is a precision machine that moves its various components in a grand procession of order across the Cosmos.  I think I speak for a large number of smaller components in this “precision machine” when I say, “It just ain’t so!” 

That NOCTURNAL > DIURNAL transition switch has a definite herky-jerky characteristic to it, and needs a little work.  Until it is ironed out, we unfortunate and disenfranchised membership of “the perfect order” will continue to rely on the snooze-button, un-cut coffee (more than 4 cups a day) and banging of heads against walls just to get clear of sunrise.

 

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