Friday, April 18, 2014

The parents we try to be

Last year I began to notice for the first time that we had birds living in our yard, and not just any birds, the same birds who continued to come back every spring. The first one I noticed was a starling, all black with a small yellow beak about the size of my hands with fingers intertwined. She used a hole in our neighbors brick wall to build her nest. Every time our car pulled into the driveway her babies chirped with fervor, and she watched us warily before making the mad dash back to her nest. Still, I like to think the more she saw us the less daunted she was by us. We got to witness the delicacies she carried in her mouth to feed her babies, and then the day she kicked them out of the nest and forced them to fly. I think I saw her again today building her nest in the same place.

This last week I've also seen two blue jays rebuilding their nest in the tree at the back corner of our yard. They are also visitors from last year. Often they would perch on the tree just a few feet outside my bedroom window. One of my favorite things to do, is bask in the sunlight that hits my bed in the afternoon while reading a book. I count it a good luck charm if I am able to have sunlight and see the blue jays at the same time.

We also have a new family of Quail this year with four babies. I have to be up early in the morning, no later than sunrise to see them; sometimes marching in a row through the back lawn, or other times scavenging for breakfast in our lawn. I love how they always stay together like a family should.

I would not classify myself as a bird watcher. I've never gone out of my way to see birds. I maybe considered how bird watching could be interesting a decade ago when I read Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams, but quickly forgot the idea. Last year when I was in Oregon visiting my Aunt I found my favorite place was reading a book on her pergola. But instead of reading, I would find myself watching yellow finches who came to rest on her marigolds, and black birds with red striped tails who fed out of an antique bird bath. From her kitchen, doing dishes, hummingbirds would come right up to the window to sip out of the feeder. I could stand so still in front of the sink, with nothing else on my mind, but intent on watching their tiny wings blur next to their fat green bodies.

Our neighbor who will have passed away a year ago next Saturday built bird feeders. He told me he needed a hobby when he retired and he liked wood working, so he decided to build bird feeders. His carport is lined with at least 20 feeders which he regularly filled. Inside his kitchen he also kept a collection displayed on top of his kitchen cabinets. I used to come over to borrow the coupon section of his newspaper, and he would tell me stories of when he did munitions in the Korean War. He always had a kind word for my kids as well. This time last year he boiled two eggs, one for each of them to take home and paint for Easter. I couldn't believe he had taken time to boil eggs with us in mind. It was such a small thing, but it said so much about how he cared.

Dons house has become a hollow shell, gutted for renovations, just as his bird houses in the carport are also empty. I am missing him, but I'm glad our bird friends are back rebuilding their homes.  I'm hoping they will continue to come back each year, or that their children will come back to take over the nests and raise the next generation of chicks. Mike and I are not much different from the birds when it comes to homes since we are raising our kids in the same house his parents raised him in. We are not very different from the birds at all, protecting our kids, feeding them, building our home one twig at a time, frantically flapping our wings to stay afloat, trying to suck the most out of each moment, and forcing our children out the door when it's time to fly. I've been saving milk cartons the last couple of weeks so the kids can make bird feeders for our spring dwellers. I hope they know they are welcome to stay and remind me of the home we build and the parents we try to be.

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