My friend, Cathy Borden, died this morning. She was a teacher, writer, wife, mother, sister, friend, gardener and lover of nature. She enjoyed watching birds and her favorites were black-capped chickadees and American goldfinches. Cathy gave me my first birding field guide 35 years ago — and though I’ve purchased other books and apps, that fourth edition of Roger Tory Peterson’s “A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies” is the one I carry on hikes, trips and weekends at the cabin. It’s worn, wrinkled from hiking in the rain, and out of date. In large part, it’s the memories of good times and the inscription written by Cathy on the front page that make it special:
“Beth — Here’s hoping you and I have many happy hours together with our books. I’ll pass on the wish that was given to me: ‘May you live long enough to identify every bird in this book!’ — Cathy Borden, October 14, 1980”
Cathy didn’t live long enough to identify every bird in Peterson’s field guide, and it really wasn’t about the number of birds we identified anyway. It was the time spent together walking, listening, thinking, discussing and laughing that mattered. It was taking in the beauty of nature: the golden light of summer mornings in the marsh while warblers sang in willow thickets; autumn leaves burning with the sun’s fire and the silvery seeds of asters, goldenrod, sunflowers and milkweed; bundling up for winter walks in the fields and woods, where we’d flush ruffed grouse and laugh at being startled; and discovering spring’s first wildflowers and bird nests.
Over the years, career changes, raising families, caring for aging parents and other responsibilities became the focus — particularly for me. I regret not making nearly enough time for nature walks, discussions over tea, or long phone calls with Cathy.
Cathy loved this simple nature blog. She was a big supporter from the beginning and often chided me because she wanted me to write more frequently. During this past year, I blogged for Cathy, as one small way to bring her joy while she fought metastatic peritoneal cancer. So it seems fitting to dedicate my blog to Cathy in gratitude for so many things—support and friendship beginning when I was a first-year science teacher; giving laughter that lightened times of tough challenge; sharing the beauty of nature through walks in every season; and the gift of holding her with one of her sons this morning. No doubt Cathy’s exploring the celestial fields and woods, and working on her new bird list right now.
Dedicated to Cathy Borden, October 11, 1951 – January 27, 2016, who loved chickadees, goldfinches, lilacs, lilies of the valley, bumblebees and the sound of crickets chirping in the night.