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By Andy B. Hook

United States

My tastes are changing with age.

I sit quietly, drinking coffee, and watch the weather. I do not have a hangover this morning as I fill the bird-feeder and wait. Two birds arrive shortly after I pour the seeds into the tray. The promptness of their arrival surprises me.

The birds are small and yellow. One is slightly bigger and brighter than its companion with a red spot on its head. The smaller bird has more gray on its wings than the larger bird. I decide that the larger, more colorful bird, is a male, and the smaller bird is female based on my extremely limited knowledge of birds. Like ducks, I assume.

I could very easily learn what type of birds these are, but I don’t. I may be old enough to spend the mornings of my vacation watching birds, but I’m not old enough to learn their names. Ageing is a strange process. The aches and pains do not surprise me: I earned those. Nor does the fascination with bowel movements shock me. What seems odd to me is the way that my tastes age. I find myself watching more documentaries. Not because I feel that I should expand my understanding, but because they genuinely seem more interesting than that show people keep talking about. I read Hemmingway. I listen to Led Zeppelin. I eat brussels sprouts.

I watch birds.

The birds take a bite. They look around, nervously. They eat some more. They look around. A larger, red bird, lands on the feeder. The yellow birds drive it away. Then they eat. Then they look around.

The last time I visited the Hawaiian Islands I stayed in a big house with a load of friends. We ate, drank, and inhaled substances while rejoicing in our youth and friendship. They have children now and live-in various suburbs. Last month I too moved to the suburbs.

Perhaps if I had children, I would be at a resort right now, working on my swing while the kids played in water and “the wife” got day-drunk on colorful drinks with umbrellas. I don’t have kids, and never will, so I drink coffee on a quiet patio in a remote part of an island. And I watch birds.

On the second morning the same yellow birds return to enjoy the seeds. I assume they are the same birds, but if they were two different bids of the same species, I would not know the difference. This time a local cat notices the birds and takes an interest. The cat walks low to the ground, moving slowly. He hides beneath my chair. I know that the cat is a male, because I have confidence in my knowledge of mammalian anatomy.

The birds eat. They look around.

They fly away.

The cat walks casually out from beneath me, and looks at the feeder, disappointed but intrigued. I scratch his back for a few moments before he wanders off. I reflect on this cat-and-bird drama that revolved around this little wooden box, that is shaped roughly like a human house, for some odd reason. I pretend that I just enjoyed a view of unbiased nature as I stared at a nine-inch cube of fashioned wood suspended from an awning.

I look down at the rolling hills, blanketed in flora, descending toward the ocean. I cannot count the number of birds that I can hear. Birds fly from tree to tree, eating berries and seeds that I cannot name out of trees and shrubs I rarely even notice. Life is defined by what it does. Life engages in chemical reactions. I still haven’t had a movement today. Life has complexity.

Life develops and evolves.

Life reproduces.

So, what am I?

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