Sunday, June 16 2024 - 12:47 PM
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What the Birds Teach

I pulled my eyes away from the computer screen and looked out the window at the birds and squirrels. They were at it again. Two frisky squirrels sat atop the old picnic table, snatching at the food I’d put out for the birds that morning. Over at the hanging bird feeder, a chickadee delicately poked at the seeds sitting in the tray at the base. And on the ground were my little ground feeders—sparrows, gray doves, and the occasional cardinal.

Suddenly a flock of blue jays, about five, descend onto the table. They know the drill, having seen me earlier laying out the bounty. The squirrels look up. One leaps down and the other arches one eyebrow. He has no trouble making a false dive for the jays who, with a squawk, fly back up. But they’ll keep a sharp eye on the furball with a question mark for a tail, waiting to claim a tasty sunflower seed or two.

Invariably I begin to draw comparisons. The little birds dart and scoot, like toddlers grabbing at Cheerios. They pay no heed to what goes on at the picnic table. Doves are quiet, and like my retired neighbors, only want to have a bite to eat and then fly off home to the news on TV. The cardinals know they’re stunning and don’t make much of a fuss, like the older women at church who are sure of their beliefs. The blue jays are noisy teenagers, and the squirrels, those characters—perhaps they’re like politicians, always looking to cause trouble.

Day of Horror

Generally, peace reigns in the yard, but there is the occasional day of horror. Two years ago, we had a pair of Cooper’s hawks nest in one of our big maples. What a racket they made, especially the two nestlings. I did some research and learned that hawks eat small mammals and birds. I swallowed hard. Now what? Should I stop feeding my sweet birdies and hope they escape the snatching claws and tearing beaks of the hawks? Life is full of sticky situations, and it’s often mirrored in the natural world. My brow furrowed.

I bought more birdseed. My feathered charges were counting on me, after all. I’d come to the conclusion that by ceasing to be a food source for them, I would upset the whole ecology of the yard and be deprived of their delightful antics. That’s what I told myself anyway. The young hawks were taught by their parents to hunt and one fateful day a dove lost its life. Hard to watch, but the thought sinks home that this is what life is—living and giving freely and keeping the faith regardless of circumstances, good or bad. Probably my birds and squirrels agree.

If you liked this, you might also like A Lesson From the Birds 

Susan Sundwall writes from New York.

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About Susan Sundwall

Susan Sundwall

writes from New York.

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