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Birchbark Blog

Spring Migration

Louise Erdrich - Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Dear Book Lovers,

Every spring they appear. Birds we don't normally see for the rest of the year touch down and startle us. Right now orioles are passing through the city. Some will stay and build their tunnel-like nests in the highest branches, their songs like glass bells. I'm reading A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds by Scott Weidensaul.

Only recently have scientists been able to trace bird migration more accurately, and the results of their studies are astounding: Chimney Swifts can live and sleep aloft for 10 months at a time, only landing to nest and raise their young. Birds are able to put half their brains to sleep while flying, while the other half calculates the route. The science of how birds follow maps has to do with magnetism, starlight, and apparently defies quantum physics. I have to read that part over again.

Other terrific reading: We Had A Little Real Estate Problem by Kliph Nesteroff, a history of Native American Comedy. The Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, edited by John Freeman, includes two of my all time favorite stories, The Great Silence by Ted Chiang, and The Midnight Zone by Lauren Groff.

I read The Midnight Zone past midnight on a very still dark night and the last two paragraphs scared me to pieces. I'd read this story in daylight and not been so deeply affected. But I recommend reading The Midnight Zone alone at night. Being that scared by a piece of writing is strangely uplifting.

Yours truly!

Louise


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