A little background on birds and me: Grew up in a very southwest Ann Arbor, Michigan, rural house surrounded by very old apple trees. The open fields and woodlands nearby were parts and parcels of old farms, one of which was platted as "Keck's Corners", bordering the east and west sides of Wagner road. Still dirt covered when I started my wandering days as a curious young boy of 5 years old, itching to get close to every wild bird around my house. There were plenty of birds to choose from too. These encounters of joy with birds helped me escape the harsher disciplines exacted on my skin by a harsh father, who was a very stern exacter of things to be done exactly his way or else there would be stares and quick punishment. There would be a whole lot of shaking me up. All a bit much for a sensitive young lad.
If there was one strong physical presence around my boyhood home that I looked up to, it was a giant monarch apple tree direct in front of our front porch. This unmovable botanical wonder became my most desirable place of refuge spring, summer, and fall. In winter I viewed the tree's hulking frame primarily from our large living room picture window where wild bird activities were abundant and worth watching. A front row seat to view the bird behavior of everything from hawks to hummingbirds. On one remarkable winter day after a severe winter storm I was able to be eye-to-eye with a Sharp-shinned hawk when it flew remarkably swift on top of the snow-covered border shrub directly below my face-to-the-glass view. I will never forget that fierce and untamed stare in those bright red eyes. We were only a few inches apart.
That rare encounter would mark similar longings for more in the years to come.