Hope

Ella two years ago at the Lake Apopka North Shore Wildlife Drive. She’s a serious birder.

There is a birding bond between my granddaughter, Ella, and me that helps us keep in touch even though we are now long distance. Ella will turn 13 next month, and ever since she was a toddler she has been fascinated by birds. At an early age she could identify all the backyard birds that visited our feeder. None of this red bird or blue bird stuff for her. She wanted to know their proper breed names.

We have taken her and her older sister, Mia, birding a couple of times. Ella loves it. She is an excellent spotter as well, picking out birds hiding in bushes and trees far better than I.

I’m never surprised when she or her mom, my daughter Dena, sends me a picture to try to identify a newbie. I was surprised to get this picture.

This poor little guy flew into their sliding glass door. Ella was crushed and quickly scooped it up and laid it in their vacant bird-cage. Since her mom wasn’t home, Ella texted this picture to her. Dena sent it to me as she was not in a position to help. Ella and I began to facetime each other. She was convinced that the cardinal was still alive, so I had her wrap it in a cloth to keep it warm in case it was in shock. Ella held it and tried to will it to live. She named it Hope.

While facetiming I also was interacting with the rest of the kids. For hygiene’s sake, I asked did anyone else touch the bird. Mia, who was holding the cat way too close for comfort to our little patient, scrunched up her face like I had suggested the unthinkable and said, “No!”

Layna, who is six, showed her concern by reiterating that the cardinal is the state bird of North Carolina. I’d say what a poor little thing it was, and she would say, “I know and it’s our state bird.” Such concern over the potential loss of so proud a symbol of their state mixed with pride over knowing this important fact was impressive.

But Jett’s mind presented the most interesting prospect and potential problem with helping this beautiful, red cardinal. “What if it explodes?” he asked. I think he’s played one too many games of Angry Birds.

Meanwhile, I told Dena that she could give it a couple of drops of whisky from an eye dropper when she got home. If there was any life left in it, that might help. Unfortunately, they only had Vodka. I’m not sure that made a difference.

Finally, it was decided that Ella should put Hope in an open shoe box and tuck it under some bushes to see if it would revive. Alas, Hope died.

If love alone could have brought Hope back, he would have flown away to live on. He left behind a sad Ella, but I believe he taught her a few things, too. This was not the first bird that she has rescued, but it was the first one that didn’t make it. Life is full of learning from things like this. On the other hand, at least it didn’t blow up. I don’t think she could have handled that.

 

Birds of a Feather Flock Together for Lunch

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

Carolina Wren hiding in bushes

One of the things that I miss from my old house is my backyard birds.  I had a feeding station set up just off my porch.  Watching the birds was one of my joys.  I guess you could say I’m a birder, but not one of those go-out-in-the-great-beyond birders who knows where and when different species migrate to add them to my life list.  I wait for them to come to me.  They are my perfect little pets.  (They never mess up my house.)

As the crow flies, I don’t live far from my old home.  It was suggested to me that I leave a trail of breadcrumbs so my feathered friends could find me.  If that would have worked, I probably would have done it; but I figured it was time for me to make some new feathered friends and let the new owners of my old house enjoy the regular visitors there. I guess you could say I’m branching out to a new birding environment.

So we set up the feeding station in our new backyard and waited.  I could hear the birds in the trees which surround my yard – hear them but not see them.  Days passed and I wondered what was preventing them.  I know there are hawks around.  Perhaps these birds weren’t willing to risk going out in the open.  At long last, the blue jays came.  I appreciated their loud cackle alerting me to their visit.  Eventually a titmouse popped in and soon returned with his whole family.

I was a happy girl…for a while.  Here’s an analogy that might help you understand my temporary happiness.  It is the reason why I shouldn’t open a large bag of M&Ms.  I can start out with a few and be content, but soon I want more.  I don’t have to see them.  I can hear them calling me from the pantry – just like the birds in the trees.

The sound of cardinals in the trees really bothered me.  What was it going to take to lure them in?  Sometimes I would see one on my fence, but he never stopped at the feeder. I also heard a sweet little bird called a Phoebe, whose call sounds like his name. I would hear him every day but never lay eyes on him.  Until today.  Phoebe stopped by.  He doesn’t spend much time at the feeder but he loves to perch on top of it and fly from perch to perch around the yard.  While I was looking at him, the cardinals stopped in.  (They usually travel in pairs.)  I caught a glimpse of the female leaving as the brilliant male made a pit stop.  This is happiness for me.  Watching the birds relaxes me and is one of the things God uses to still my anxious heart.

He uses my friends that way, too.  Today I had lunch with two such friends.  I’ll call them Phoebe and Cardinal.  I often hear how they’re doing on Facebook or receive a phone call or text, but I really need to see them.  Visit a feeder with them.  Spend time with them.  One of the things that I’m adjusting to is my access to my friends.  They are not as readily available, but I’m only 15 minutes away from that old neighborhood.  That is practically nothing.

Patience was what it took to see birds at my feeder.  Intentionality is what it takes to keep friendships near and dear.  Even if those friends are only fifteen minutes away.

Isn't he beautiful?

Isn’t he beautiful?

Bird Watching in the Sixties

“Mom, why is there a statue of a naked lady in our backyard?”

This is a question that I thankfully never had to answer, but my poor mother did – just this morning.

My mother has influenced my life in countless ways.  Her love of birds has been passed down to each of her children. While I was growing up, there was always a feeder in our backyard, and we learned to identify the local birds at a young age.  We also had a bird bath featured prominently off our back porch.  When I was nine I took this picture of my parents, grandparents, and my little sister.  The statue in the bird bath is featured in the foreground.  I can picture my mom, so wanting to encourage me in my new hobby, and so wanting to pose for the picture anywhere else.  (Hey, how about we stand in front of those garbage cans?  The light is great there!)

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad's recollection of the bird bath statue.

The picture is blurry, just like Mom and Dad’s recollection of the bird bath statue.

I have several scenarios in my head as to why there was a nude woman in the middle of our bird bath.  I debated whether or not to ask my parents about it.  (I didn’t want to bring up any old arguments.)  Finally I couldn’t stand all the questions circling in my mind so I made the call.

I didn’t want to put them on the spot, but inquiring minds want to know.  First I asked Mom.  She had no recollection of it, but got a good laugh out of the question.  Dad also denied any memory of it.  Hum, how could these people, who remember so many details from their 67 years of marriage, have blocked this shocking display from their minds!  (And, why can’t I forget it?)

I picture my dad going to buy it and installing it in the backyard without Mom’s input.  He has always been like that.  He’d see something that he thought would work and act on it.  I’m sure he was happy to bless my mom.  I’m also pretty sure Mom would have been happier with a garden gnome.

Things were a lot different in the 1960s.  (They say if you remember the sixties, you weren’t there.)  Perhaps my parents were classier than I give them credit.  Maybe there was an artsy side of them that I did not appreciate at the tender age of nine.  After all, I always liked the velvet painting of a matador that Dad brought home from Mexico.  Yes, that’s the story and I’m sticking with it.

The Cardinals

I’ve been watching them for weeks, so it probably won’t shock you to find out that on this rainy day I have been keeping up with the cardinals.  I have always been fascinated by them and love their red caps and capes.  There are four in particular that have caught my attention.  I’ve watched them parade around, eat and drink, and even visit my bird bath.  I think they’re a family – mom, dad and twin boys.

On a side note, I hear they are gathering in Rome to select a new pope today.

Gathering the Cardinals

Gathering the Cardinals

Some are on the fence

Some are on the fence

Chatting over Lunch

Chatting over Lunch

I hope you enjoy these pictures from my backyard as we await the selection of a new pope.