You saw it coming. It is no longer possible to resist the siren call of the drunken wood-nymphs on the bunkhouse stoop. Actually, they’re not so much calling as banging on the door and hollering. “Hey, get your ass out here and check out this awesome fungus! Bring beer!” is pretty much the refrain.
“Can’t it wait,” I ask, “until I’ve finished writing another essay on the perniciosity of the sexbot continuum?”
“Do not toy with us. This fungus isn’t going to appreciate itself!” is the answer. “And what the hell is a sexbot continuum? And where the hell is our beer?”
So, until spring subsides, I’ll be out traipsing over hill and dale, shoving the odd rock into my pocket, picking minuscule pink flowers, listening to cricket frogs, dodging nettles, lingering on riverbanks, looking at shit through binoculars, waiting for the Eastern phoebe eggs to hatch, and more or less reveling ceaselessly in the divers attractions on offer by the non-human world.
Even if all this happy-go-lucky traipsing did not disincline the spinster aunt toward the unpleasant business of patriarchy blaming, it would leave little time for it. I’ll still be posting, but I’m afraid it will be mostly heart-warming nature crap for a while. Today, for example, I’ll be shoveling a rank vulture corpse into a feed bag and dumping it somewhere where my golden retriever Bert can’t get at it. Then I’m going to watch it decompose.
I am aware that decomposing vultures offer little in the way of feminist ideology, and may not meet the blamer’s daily requirements. It can’t be helped. Undoubtedly there is a way to blame the patriarchy for a dead vulture, but frankly, I don’t much feel like it.
I will say this, however. The compulsion to fart around in the country looking at bugs and flowers, and lapse into a dreamy poetical stupor, and, you know, connect with nature and shit, is pretty strong, but that’s only half of my problem. I am also compelled to identify, to catalog and collect and compile and quantify and qualify. So I’m stuck with these damned field guides.
I’ve curled the Twisty lip at field guides before; their purported scientific objectivity masks a deeply ingrained systemic misogyny. Take the patriarchal notion of the male as the default, no matter what the species. Especially when it comes to birds, the females of which are always described in terms of the males. Check out the shamelessly biased language in this description of the summer tanager in Birds of North America Online:
“Some females sing, but song is poor rendition of male song: slurred subfigures, brief (if any) pause between subfigures, and short overall duration.”
There are two sound clips of male summer tanager on the website, but the drab old female is so untalented and derivative that nobody has bothered to record her. She should just shut up and sit on the eggs, already.
This sex bias does nothing but ensmallen the ornithological horizon. Was that yellowish bird I heard this morning a summer tanager? I’ll never know, because birdly schmucks seem to think it’s a great idea to ignore and even disparage half the constituents of the species.