Monthly Archives: October 2016

Mug Chasing

In addition to chasing birds, I’m always out looking for the perfect cup of coffee. I seem to have found a favorite at Birds and Beans café, and that’s the Nicaraguan Wood Thrush coffee blend. Armed with the coffee, I started chasing the perfect mug.

Earlier this summer, I had tea at my good friend Kerry Clare’s house and had the good fortune to drink out of a mug made by Diane Sullivan and decided right then and there that any morning coffee experience would be incomplete without a Diane Sullivan mug of my own. The stars finally aligned one weekend in September (which also happened to coincide with my birthday month—surprise!) when Sullivan exhibited her work at the Cabbagetown Craft show. So off I went in search of the mug I had held at Kerry’s house, and found a different but equally formidable mug of my own. The shape is perfect, the stencil reminds me of William Morris designs, and the size suits my daily dose of coffee consumption. My Nicaraguan Woodthrush morning coffee has found the ideal home.

My new mug by Diane Sullivan. It's empty because I drank my coffee too quickly. Wouldn't you if you were drinking out of this beauty?

My new mug by Diane Sullivan. It’s empty because I drank my coffee too quickly. Wouldn’t you if you were drinking out of this beauty?

I used to think that a mug was a mug was a mug – kind of how I had once erroneously assumed that all ducks were identical-looking creatures. How impoverished that former life of mine now seems! There is nothing wrong with buying mugs from Target, but I now think there’s something deeply amiss with the person who not only has generic made-in-China mugs but also walks by a congregation of ducks without giving them a second’s thought and operates under the assumption that they’re just ducks.

It’s hard for me to imagine my life when I hadn’t paused to consider the difference between a Bufflehead and a Mallard, or a Harlequin (Histrionicus histrionicus!) and a Wood duck! I suppose that’s what life is all about, really: the pleasure of learning to see the detail of things. And it’s a good reminder to me not to judge other hobbies or interests that I find dumbfounding: even powerlifting competitions have their share of fascinating moments, stylistic quirks, technical variations. And I say this having just sat through a 7-hour powerlifting competition in Oakville, where Mr. Birds and Words won a silver medal and lifted insane weights. His 255 deadlift would have seemed massive to me even if it had been in pounds, but the fact that the weight was in kilograms made it all the more superhuman. I’ll admit that the day might have been a colossal disaster and might have caused a rift in our marriage had I not been in the presence of the perfect latte (purchased at Kerr Street Café) and Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth (purchased in the amazing Archetype Books), whose meticulous prose not only saved me from stultifying boredom, but also reminded me to pay attention to every single detail.

Thank you Diane Sullivan for elevating my morning coffee experience to new heights, and thanks to Kerry Clare for setting the ideal-mug-chase in motion in the first place.

Now if only I could find an American Woodcock…

American woodcock. My chase continues.

American woodcock. My chase for the ideal bird continues.


Beloved birders!

Sometimes the stars misalign and one can’t go birding with one’s group because of work commitments and so one is thrust out into the wild alone, and sometimes that isn’t entirely a bad thing.

I ventured out to my local park in the warmish drizzle and realized that birding in the rain isn’t so bad after all. The trick is to have a good hat and waterproof shoes. For those of you restless to know all about my wardrobe, I chose to don my Project Puffin baseball cap (which I technically bought for my husband, but it was one of those gifts where I knew full well he would never wear it — so why not just be honest and say I bought it for me, but it was also one of those situations where I desperately wanted to get him a gift but all I could see where things for me!). So there I was, birding in the rain, lamenting the quiet in the park, convinced that all the birds had either flown away or decided to take shelter somewhere far from my line of vision.

And then I heard a White-throated sparrow! Oh yes, I recognized the song, “oh Sam peabody” or “my sweet Canada, Canada” depending on your national affiliation — and knew immediately what it was! I saw a golden-crowned kinglet, a few mystery warblers, and dozen blue jays, and then silence. For about 45 minutes. I did a circle around the park, wondered where about the ubiquitous northern flickers, and decided to go home. At that precise moment, that moment of giving up, deciding that birding in the rain was probably a dumb idea after all, I looked up at a dead tree and saw three flickers there, waiting for me! I followed the flickers into a shrubby area and suddenly the birds appeared to greet me! Nashville warblers, magnolia warblers, Blue-eyed vireos, Philadelphia vireos (I THINK! I HOPE!), black-throated blue warblers, a Wilson’s warbler and chickadees galore!

There were many other birds out there, but by this point I had run out of time. A surprisingly great day, all thanks to three flickers.