Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Lone Rose

(Originally on 9 October, 2012.)

Autumn has reached Kabul. Nights are getting cold and deciduous trees are turning yellow and brown. The massive passage of Lesser Whitethroats seems to have come to the end as October began. Among them there passed also individual clear-sounded Phylloscopus warblers, presumably mainly Hume's Leaf-warblers. What remains now are probably the typical Kabul winter birds: Tree Sparrows, Palm Doves, Common Magpies, and - amazingly enough - parakeets.

While the morning sun is increasingly chilly, it feels somewhat unreal to hear Rose-ringed Parakeets scream in the crowns of robinia trees, where they gradually lose their camouflage, as the trees turn yellow but the parakeets shine emerald green. I've always known that the Rose-ringed Parakeet is a tough creature that endures coldness. After all, it inhabits the Himalayas up to significant altitudes, and it survives winters in Brussels, London, Innsbruck and Wiesbaden. It's no coincidence that it is exactly this species of parrot that has made several European cities its home once it went feral in them. Another parrot that endures winter is the originally South American Monk Parakeet, which is nowadays common at least in Chicago and Madrid. The Monk Parakeet, however, survives by gathering in large covered colonial nests, which they warm up with their crowds. Rose-ringed Parakeet, on the other hand, nests in tree holes in pairs.

In Afghanistan, Rose-ringed Parakeet is probably native, not feral. After all, the species is common all over India and Pakistan, and therefore Afghanistan constitutes the edge of its natural range. It will be interesting to observe whether they really stay here for all the winter, or if, at the advent of freezing temperatures and snow, they move somewhere south, like the Brahminy Starlings did as early as at the end of August. I've been told they had -20 Celsius here last winter, and the water pipes got frozen. Kabul is enough high on an upland plateau that winters here are the real thing. In Bamiyan, they already got snow in the mountains.

In spite of the colder evenings I saw again my tiny house gecko running about my kitchen on Sunday. I expect it to remove for hibernation at some point, because in winter the house needs to be warmed up by using stoves and fireplace. Houses here are not very well-built or in good shape. The bathroom has an open ventilation hole to the yard, so showers will be interesting when the temperature decreases below zero. Last week I prepared for the fall by purchasing blankets and hoarding high-energy and preservable grocery in the cupboards.

Yesterday I also procured equipment outside of the city, and I saw a large flock of Black Kites and Long-legged Buzzards at a site that probably contained a garbage dump or a carcass. Strangely enough there seem to be no ravens or crows in Kabul area, although in Bamiyan they were ubiquitous. In Kabul one sees mainly magpies, and even they aren't very common. My guess is the big and visible bird have been shot and eaten during the war years. The two kinds of hawks I mentioned are migratory so they have got back from more distant areas. Also trees were cut down during the war years for firewood, and now they've planted everywhere the fast-growing American invasive species, robinia. In many areas of the world it has become a pest like the eucalyptus. In Europe, robinia threatens to push the oak out.

The chawkidars of my house are overly watering the small garden there is - so much that it often resembles a swamp rather than a lawn. The constant waste of water for the washing of cars, concrete and street pavement (to bind dust) bothers me in a country suffering of chronic shortage of water. The favourite activity of the chawkidars has one benefit, though: the miniature gulistan, rose garden, of my home yard is still flourishing. Meanwhile, the lone rose growing at the yard of the office outside my window bars seems to languish.

It has become my goal to spur up my Persian studies by regularly writing a poem in Persian for that lonely rose that I watch through the bars every day. I've started from extreme simplicity and I hope by the passing of months and years, thought and expression grow in intensity.

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