A Lesson in Life

Apologies for yesterday. That my first post in two weeks should be such a diatribe is rather unpleasant, but in truth I was vexed. Anyway, point made, lessons learned, move on.

I’ve been watching some rather interesting developments around the house of late, that are most definitely “for the birds”. I love this time of year – with the explosion of growth, the sudden, glorious outpouring of green and other vibrant, lively colours, the frantic energy in the fight for every wild creature’s survival.

I especially love to watch the birds in the back yard. I’m not a bird watcher, per se – I couldn’t begin to tell you what kinds of birds they are, but they are so interesting to watch! Some examples? Well, ok.

We’re decent hosts. Every year we put out a nice bath – most times before the last frost! We also have a little bird feeder which we try to keep full, and if a nest is built we do try to keep away from it, although that was more difficult this year as I’ll explain a little further on. No, if I do say so myself, we are considerate landlords who provide a rent-free space with free meals and a myriad of five-star spa facilities. The birds in our back yard have very little to be vexed about, and even less to fear.

It’s the Robins who nest wih us; they come back every year. They used to nest in the juniper trees in the front yard, but then a couple of years ago they switched to the back, preferring the world-domineering views afforded by the eaves on the garage. This year they chose to try to nest atop one of our yard lights – unfortunately the one adjacent to the man-door going into the garage – a very busy door.

At first the primary landlord was against this relocation and a disagreement ensued which saw the nest dismantled. An illegal suite, he called it. The secondary landlord – moi – argued, however, that they do actually have the right to live, and it really wasn’t kind to have undone all their hard work building a home. In response to this the primary reluctantly (or is “guiltily” a better word?) picked the still essentially intact nest out of the trash and reinstalled it on the yard light – all under the watchful and very confused eyes of the Robinses. It would have been humorous if I weren’t feeling so bad for them, but as soon as the primary left the area I watched a rapid, vigorous exchange between the parents-to-be and saw Mr Robin fly over to check the structural integrity of the residence. I could almost imagine the nature of the exchange:

“You see, honey?” Mr Robin may have said. “I put him in his place. See how he does what I tell him?”
“Well, perhaps if you hadn’t allowed I’m to destroy it in the first place!”
“Yes, but all’s well that ends well, right?”
“My mother told me there would be days like this with you.”
“But Honey!”

Or something along those lines.

The nest was apparently found to be satisfactory because after only a couple of hours of frantic, feverish work in the nursery, Mrs Robin settled her fat ass into place and Mr Robin started the process of stocking the larder. To me he looked tired – hen-pecked. We spent the next two days watching as the Robinses prepared for a delivery or five from the Stork, Mrs R constantly on the watch for predators.

Unfortunately the idyllic scene did not last long. A couple of days later I awoke to find a war going on between Mr and Mrs Robin and a black Alberta crow three times their size. She was screaming, he was squawking and shitting, and the crow was ignoring them both and digging his beak into a couple of small blue things on the cement far below. I opened the door and yelled at him, but the damage was already done, and within a few hours the Robinses were gone and haven’t been seen since. A tragic end, really. Our house was as blue as those eggs, or bluer, for several days after that.

To try to restore some of the avian pranks and japes and erase those terrible memories I moved the bird feeder into that area and filled it to the brim. A gaggle of little birds found it quite quickly and I must say, were on it like fat kids on a bowl of icing. It was very nice to see, but they made such a huge mess all over the cement – their wild capering truly brought new meaning to the term ‘wild birds’.

We are essentially neat and tidy landlords so this kind of mess could not be tolerated. Something would have to be done, but what? Punishment? No. Training? Impossible. Lectures? Futile! I mean, how to schedule such a thing?

I examined the feeder. They make them all narrow at the bottom, wih less than half an inch between the seed supply and thin air and the cement below. This was the problem. Perhaps, I thought, if I could be clever and creative, and continue to be extremely handsome I could come up with a solution.

So I took the feeder to my workshop, and there I puzzled. I puzzled and I vexed. I puzzled and I vexed and I ruminated. Finally, I found the solution in the form of an old plastic party platter. This I attached firmly to the bottom of the feeder. Simple! And effective. There was only one potential problem, and this is where he life lesson comes in.

To begin with, the birds would not use it. They were afraid of it. I assume this was because the tray was silver so when they flew up to the seed they saw their reflection and quickly flew away thinking it was an enemy. I also think the birds were reluctant to walk on the platter itself. Perhaps the four inches from the edge of the platter to the dispensers were just too much for them to handle.

Then yesterday I was standing in the kitchen window, studying it, trying to figure out how I could still have the platter secured, effective, but further away so it didn’t frighten the little dears. Perhaps some kind of tube was in order, I contemplated. As I stood there, I was also watching the five or six on the ground who were pecking away at the remnants of their frenzied chow-down from a few days earlier, when, suddenly one little grey thing flew up and landed on the edge of the tray. He steadied himself, analyzing. He saw the motherlode, inches away, I know he did. He calculated, figured, supposed, and then he went for it. He walked, at first tentatively but always firm of purpose, across the silver platter. I thought of Indiana Jones.

After a few quick strides he was there, picking alone from riches untold, flush with the exuberance of his victory.

And there was the life lesson, laid out for me to see.The lesson that there are prizes in life – pots of gold worth going for with no guarantee that the pursuit will be easy or even successful. But, and this is the rub – how can you get to those pots of gold if you don’t even try?

I looked the scene over for quite some time, thinking: in my life, do I want to be the one that shows courage and figures out a way, or do I want to keep picking at what was handed to me last week? Most people are content to survive on past lucky breaks rather than take new chances and thrive. I believe this is what separates the successes from the failures, and I can truthfully say that those hungry little birds have taught me something I knew before, but perhaps did not fully understand.

Where do you stand? Do you take chances, or just hand-outs?



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