03.30.24 [on the J train]

there's an oak leaf pressed in this notebook from the owl funeral i attended last month—along with the zoo photo safari i'd taken just over a week earlier, one of the stranger trips i'd taken for an article, though there's a strong likelihood i'd have gone to the funeral anyway. i've now been writing and/or fretting over my latest Earnest Science Feature for nearly three months, though it feels more like thirty. i haven't begged joe to read any of this one except for the first version of the opening scene (one of my favorite will mcphail panels is the one where a woman asks a spider she's trapped under a glass to read something she's written), but given how much i've bitched and tossed around in bed about it, i'm sure he'll be as glad to see it out of our lives as he was, say, when i finished my orwell essay for the new york times. out, it will soon be out! until i get a big old tattoo of its subject in may, that is. (owl, not orwell.)

a man on this train is snoring the sort of snore that seems like it'd rouse the snorer, or jolt him a few inches in the air, at least, but he snores on, and i wish him well; it would be nice to be flat for a few more hours. i'm trying to get a few more bleary mornings volunteering in queens out of the way early this spring, as i'm going to mexico on assignment(!!) in a few weeks and joe and i are then meeting my folks in copenhagen, where i have decided i don't care if it's touristy to truck out to elsinore kronborg castle. we have planned little else beyond a few meals and a night at the opera and, oh, a shared airbnb i picked for when we migrate to stockholm. will my stepfather, aghast at the way i live when i'm not at a high-end hotel, decide he doesn't love me anymore? will joe out-snore this guy on the train, who sounds with every breath more and more like he's awake and trying to fool schoolchildren? will i join the danish swans and leave my terrestrial life behind once and for all? hard to say. i ended up not interviewing a colleague out in prospect park for the swan essay i sent off to the printer this week, as the thing was short enough that bringing in another voice was going to be kind of weird and she was being flaky enough about meeting that i didn't have the energy to keep chasing. i did send a draft of the piece to my friend R at the bird hospital—not because i needed to check facts, exactly, but because anyone who knew what i was talking about would know where i was talking about, and i wanted her blessing.

she called me from her long-overdue vacation and gave it, and told me Secret Owl Things about my other feature, and let me know, when i finally screwed up the courage to ask, that bird ben, the northern cardinal i've loved for a a decade, died last summer. i don't know how to write about that, and imagine i won't for a long time; knowing ben changed me in a way i might not understand until i'm very old, if i get to be very old. i do know that R's three-part benediction—you've done right by swans, i trust you enough to tell you confidential things about the owl, we can remember ben together—felt a bit like permission to take full height in this version of myself. i wonder sometimes if she knows how badly i wanted her to see this identity all those years i cleaned cages and wrestled geese, and i know that one of her great gifts is to speak to the people we want to be on our best days. i don't mean that i'm a few inches in the air like the snorer uptrain (who's still at it!), but i have had occasion to say yes, yes, that is what i meant.

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