Titles by Kij Johnson are available for purchase online


I do most of my prepping for the week on Sundays. It’s a good time to be in my office on campus, as no one else is around. There’s always a lot of get done: stories to be read and reread and critiqued, critical works and exemplars to be scraped through for discussion points, exercises and weekly reader responses, class plans, departmental tasks. Some Sundays are harder than others, and yesterday was one of the hardest, as the weather has alternated between drab and awful, and yesterday was bright, clear, and sunny. Still: mandatory. 

I got onto campus through that glorious early-spring air, started working. After finishing most of what had to get done for the graduate seminar, I decided to walk over and get an iced tea at MacLain’s, a coffeehouse that is just barely not on campus. I grabbed something schooly to read and started hiking over there. Poor me, working through an afternoon like that. 

Only, it was so beautiful. The trees are still bare, some with their very earliest buds, and the day was so bright that everything overhead was clear, including all the nests. In the summer they are all hidden, and in the winter, it’s generally not pleasant enough to amble slowly along the sidewalks, staring up. The squirrel nests are the easy, obvious ones, those huge artificial clumps of dead leaves jammed into the crooks of high branches. The other nests, the bird nests, are subtler, and some almost impossible to see, even when you are looking for them, even on a day like yesterday. I took this picture on the walk back to my office, but it is only a substitution for the picture I wished I had taken on the way out: a perfect little cup of a twig nest alone on a thin branch just overhead, smaller than a credit card. Even carefully as I looked on the way back, even knowing exactly what I was looking for, I could not find it. 

This normally would take a couple of minutes each way. Walking slowly with my face pointed up, it took perhaps five. All the way there, I kept thinking about how lovely it all was, and what a pity it was to be trapped inside for such a beautiful day. Maybe I should take the afternoon off, work late into the night. Maybe I should drive up to the levee and wander there, face turned up to look for the birds migrating north. Sure I’d be tired for Monday, my busiest day, but wouldn’t it be worth it? 

Certainly it would have been. But I wasn’t trapped. If you can have a day of magic, that’s great. But beauty is scalable, and ten minutes is so much better than zero minutes.