Beyond my grandma’s living room, I talked to the birds, often to birds unseen. Some calls were easier to imitate than others. The bobwhite sang back most consistently, once I finally managed a passable whistle and could parrot its low opening note that quickly slides upward. In hayfields and from meadowed hills, I called out—the low bob, the high white—and it called back.
Last summer, the book project I was in the midst of was mapped out on a drafting table in my writing space: sheets of paper with lists and quotes, photographs and maps, excerpts from 19th century books on gold mining.