Monday, July 01, 2013

Feed the Birds

My aunt and I were watching whatever cooking show happened to be on television at the time when my uncle called us to the door to see a blue-jay that had followed him under the carport and perched on his chair. By the time we made it over, the bird had jumped to a chair even closer to the door. I grabbed my phone and took a picture before it flew away. As it turns out, I did not need to rush. The bird is both a fan of cameras and people.

We all went outside and the bird kept coming back under the carport landing on the grill or hopping on the ground around us - eventually going up and pecking on my uncle’s shoe. My aunt handed me a piece of cookie to see it it would take it. Because the cat had come outside, the bird had flown up to the carport roof so I stepped near and held the cookie bit out and he immediately hopped to the edge nearest my fingers and tried to grab the cookie, but neither of us could reach far enough.

I stepped back, squatted down and he flew down beside me and immediately gently snatched the proffered cookie crumb. It would eat crumbs from my hand for a few minutes, then it would fly away and play in the sprinkler, catching a few bugs along the way, then it would return to eat some more cookie crumbs.  The pattern repeated itself for a couple hours. Finally, full of cookie and bugs it flew up into a tree to roost for the night as dusk settled.

While this was going on, the sounds of Julie Andrew’s perfect voice filled my head. “Feed the Birds” from Mary Poppins played on repeat through my mind as the bird came and went. The story of the old woman selling bags of crumbs for people to “feed the birds” is a lilting hymn from the Sherman brothers imploring people to care for the least of these - the old woman with her crumbs for sale and the birds.

I had always thought of the song as particularly sad every time I heard it over the years, but as I sat offering the bird crumb after crumb in the palm of my hand, joy, peace, and calm overtook me. Such unexpected interaction with a wild creature inspires the third of the essential prayers as described by Anne Lemott in her book, Help, Thanks, Wow: Wow! How do you not say, “Wow!” when a silver and blue wild bird chooses you as its afternoon companion.


I left my aunt and uncle’s house long before dawn the next day, so I do not know if the bird remained on the same perch where I last saw it the night before. My relatives were planning what food would be best to put out to keep the bird around, though, as my aunt lamented, blue jays drove away her beautiful cardinals. A connection had been made and that matters more than anything else.

My aunt will keep me posted from time to time about the status of the bird - if indeed it stays around their house. Regardless of the bird’s future with the family, I know I will be reminded of the experience whenever I hear Julie Andrews hawking “tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.”

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