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Hawthorn Hill

April 10, 2014

Giving aid to Cornell at my window

For quite a few years now I have participated in Cornell’s Project Feeder Watch. 

Data pours in from around the country on average every five days. The aim is to report the highest number of any species at a feeder at any one time. Our feeders dangle from a thin wire two feet from our dining room window, giving us a good close look at all our avian visitors. This is the sort of science project I can participate in because all I have to do is sit quietly and watch birds for several hours a week, jot down a few numbers now and then, and from time to time report the data to people who aggregate and analyze the data that streams in from around the country. I have never been a numbers person. It used to bother me. It does not anymore, expect for the all too frequent occasions when my checkbook does not balance. Not being much of a stickler for too much precision in the conduct of my daily life, if I come close to what the bank lists as my balance I’ll simply assume their figure is correct and make the necessary adjustments in my own rather unkempt ledger. The scientific method requires, as it should, an attention to detail that my DNA seems to have shorn somewhat along the evolutionary line. Some of us do the hard work of science and others of us contribute to the general welfare in other ways. Division of labor is an essential part of the fabric of any self-sustaining culture. I suspect that my love of ambiguity, especially with respect to language, is not shared by the most fervently scientific mind. Those phenomena that fascinate me the most defy the most scrupulous scientific scrutiny because their essential natures are unfathomable. For instance, I can watch chickadees endlessly for hours and years, be fascinated by them, as I am, and still never ever come close to knowing what it is to BE a chickadee. To me that is the most glorious of necessary mysteries.

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Hawthorn Hill
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