“There‘s a puffin in the back garden!” I announced to my housemates, my Pocket Guide to British Birds held triumphantly aloft. The puffin turned out to be a blue tit, but before my feint was uncovered, I felt the book had bestowed me with an unmistakeable air of avian authority. I first purchased a copy to contribute to Oh Comely‘s staff Secret Santa, getting my own after realising it was actually rather lovely—accessible, informative, and with simple-yet-beautiful illustrations. My hand was forced after reading Jonathan Franzen‘s memoir The Discomfort Zone, which contained a moving chapter on what birdwatching had brought to his life. Surely, I reasoned, the only thing keeping me from writing The Corrections was the ability to tell the difference between a willow warbler and a chiffchaff. Almost inevitably, the guide then sat unread on my shame shelf for most of the year until an especially crisp morning inspired me to take it out into the garden. I‘m hoping that a daily skim will help me imbibe some of its information, much in the same way that I hope a fondness for pain au chocolat will one day make me fluent in French.
Published in Oh Comely Issue Twenty-Four.