It’s a chorus from nature. Birds of every type are calling out, planning liaisons, setting up housekeeping, locating food. Not all are welcome, as in the noisy messy grackles that have plagued our backyard haven these past several years. But after a long tiresome winter, one that found us covered with fresh snow for ten consecutive weeks, even the grackles can be forgiven.
I didn’t realize I had been missing the excitable blue jay until a few showed up last spring. Then it occurred to me they had been absent from the scene for some time. I am glad to see them now in all their striking squawking glory. They do remind me of my mother, however.
Ma didn’t like blue jays. They were too loud and bossy for her liking. She preferred the tiny wrens and sparrows, although personality-wise she had much more in common with the jays. She always liked the little guy, the underdogs of the world. Blue jays just didn’t fit that bill.
In his later years, and before the final curtains were drawn in on his collapsing mind, Dad would sit still for long periods simply watching the birds flutter about the feeders in my backyard. He had a couple of feeders outside his tiny kitchen also, positioned with precision where he could take in the action from his chair.
The spilled seeds in his yard hosted the mouse population that in turn hosted the feral cat population, ultimately bringing down the whole cycle of life when he started to befriend the felines. But these chapters have been told.
Until the grackle invasion, we kept a few bird feeders in the backyard. We’d observe the winged visitors from the secrecy of the kitchen window, hardly daring to breathe when some unexpected beauty would stop by for a visit. What refreshment for the soul, one needy and yearning and feeling less than spry.
When our granddaughters were tiny children, they all had turns helping Pepe fill the bird feeders. Later in the warming season, we’d set out the hummingbird feeders filled with sweet nectar and then retreat to the sunroom to await their aerial ballet.
It was nearly impossible to keep those small quivering children from scaring off the small quivering birds, but in that nanosecond before magnetic poles of energy repelled one another, the girls were filled with wonder as I watched it all play out.
The birds’ movements fascinate the dog, and he watches the sky scanning north to south across the cloudless rich blue backdrop. He and I have forgotten what a misery yesterday was with rain and snow, raw and cold. Today is a full-on gift of windless warmth and clarity. One of my long-held beliefs is that if we just hang on in rough times, the pendulum will swing the right way again. Trick is not to lose one’s grip.
For today, I’m enjoying the birds in the backyard, the sun, and the blue sky. A day like this makes one feel hopeful. I hope that soon I’ll be walking pain-free and with fluidity so as not to feel like old age is creeping up from the bottom of my feet and advancing towards my brain. I hope to hold onto this good feeling for a few days before it is replaced by who knows what. I’m reminding myself not to anticipate the future. Enjoy the now, lady. It is all you have.
I’ll spend a few more minutes remembering my parents, whose stamp on me is always and forever while I continue to balance all that was and all that was not.
I’ll think about the grandchildren and what may lay ahead for them while trusting that all their failures will be mitigated, counter-balanced by good decision making. We are wont to help them but know that the young will not be spared from anguish. They, too, must learn to take joy whenever possible for it is as fleeting as a bird.
Content now, I sit on the sidelines remembering and thinking as birdsong plays against the drumbeat of Sunday traffic outside my front door. Here in the backyard, there is harmony and understanding thanks to a chorus of birds.
By Marilou Newell