Monday, February 26, 2007

Bird-watching Instead of Pol-watching

A break from the larger world and lesson in income segregation

I have an admission to make--I've only glanced at a newspaper or newscast for over a week (maybe more). Before the election, I scoured several newspapers and websites everyday. My keenest interest was in poverty issues and curbing King George. Recently I decided to take a break from the wider world. I just grew tired of fretting about things I could not control.

I have found one small way to deal with poverty in the microcosm. Our church is sponsoring a homeless family of six as they move toward independent living. Currently, they are in transitional housing and must be out by Friday. For three days, John and I have been escorting the parents all over Raleigh in search of housing.

It has been tough finding a place big enough to house two adults and their four boys, age 8 to 18. They lost their car with all their belongings in a flood so they also have to be near a bus route (much harder to accomplish in Raleigh than in Seattle). Finally, the landlords must be willing to accept payment for part of the rent through CASA (a subsidy program).

That is the biggest problem. We go to realtors and they send us to the rattiest apartments they manage--or to places in the middle of gang-banging and drug dealing. Their boys are not into drugs, and they hope to keep it that way. It really burns my buns to see first-hand poor people being pushed into income ghettos. How can they get out? How can we continue to blame them for their plight.

What has calmed my nerves is my new major past time--birdwatching. I invested in a really upscale bird-feeder that offers a seed buffet with three separate compartments for every discerning palate. Now my front courtyard looks like a scene from Hitchcock's "The Birds," and my kitchen table like a bird-watching station.

So far I have identified 17 different species of birds. I have had as many as four birds on the feeder at once with three or four on the ground beneath it. A pair of juncos, named Judy and Jerome, seem to have almost moved in there. In addition some birds on the 'wait-list,' hang out on the fence or wall.

Watching them is the closest thing to scuba diving I can do now. My prime reason for diving was to ogle fish. Now I just sit at my kitchen table to look at birds. One advantage is that I am getting to know the regulars, while watching the birds interact with one another. You can't stay in the water long enough to name fish.

Life today takes us too far from nature; a bird-feeder brings it a little closer.


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