Short pieces capture a Chicago-area bird watcher’s thoughts as he looks for glimpses of life on the wing.
The one-page reflections here first appeared in the online magazine Two-Fisted Birdwatcher in its “Daily Sightings” category. The magazine was founded by Lubow (Paper and Ink: Stories, 2015), a former creative director at one advertising agency and founder of another. He’s not an ornithologist, however—he’s a “regular guy” jotting down his sightings as he looks at birds or takes short wilderness walks. He’s knowledgeable about birds’ names, habits, colors, and so on, but wears it lightly, saying, for example, of the many varieties of warbler, “screw their picky little names.” Many pieces speak of Lubow’s longing for the wilderness that underlies his big-city life. He grabs moments on weekends, while on his way from a presentation, or while driving home from work. Yet, he says, “When you leave the woods, all settled and free of words, what craziness makes you go to the keyboard and type these?” Many readers will find the tension of this contradiction to be relatable. Lubow’s advertising background gives him a good instinct for pared-down prose and punchy lines that approach the directness of poetry, as in “Place names”: “I’m not in the business of naming things. Still, that doesn’t stop me from remembering them. And, in a way, that’s the same thing.” That said, the pieces’ stripped-down style (and especially their endings) sometimes feel forced, rushed, or oversimplified. Wondering why bee populations are down and cormorants are plentiful, Lubow just shrugs: “What’s going on? That’s up to science to figure out, if it can,” concluding that “change happens—get used to it.” Another essay observes a drastic decline in eastern meadowlarks, ending with the question, “was that meadowlark the last one you’re going to see around here?” That would be a shame, and much more than a personal one, but it’s something that Lubow doesn’t really confront. Nevertheless, he succeeds in conveying his love for avians and the excitement of spotting them in the wild.
Fast-flying, if sometimes-simplistic, pieces that celebrate patient observation and the beauty of birds.