I like to think of myself as a spontaneous person. I really like to think that, but it’s not true. I’m a planner.
However, on Sunday I surprised even myself, and it was all because of a bird.
A little over a month ago, a robin tried to build a nest on a narrow brick ledge above my sister’s front door. The nest fell before it was completed, so of course Elaine built an extension of Styrofoam and duct tape and put the nest back up. The robin returned, finished the structure, and then started sitting.
Inside the house, Elaine set up a ladder in the entry so she could check the nest through the transom window above the door. She took pictures of the four blue eggs when Berti (yes, we named her) left the nest and sent them in a group text to my brother Mike and Vicki in Kentucky and me. We didn’t have a webcam, but Elaine and Merle up and down the ladder came close over the next few weeks. (If you don’t know, Merle is my double-brother-in-law since Elaine and I married brothers.)
We saw the eggs crack and the new baby birds emerge. (Alpha, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta) We saw Berti bring food to their open mouths, and we watched them grow. Then exactly two weeks after they were born, one brave little bird (must have been Bravo) left the nest.
To keep neighborhood cats away while the birds learned to fly, Elaine unfolded her lawn chair in the yard and sat with a book and glass of tea. She texted when the second bird flew. Merle relieved her on guard duty when she needed to go in the house. Vic texted that she wished she were there to take her turn.
That’s when I thought, Vic’s in Kentucky, but I’m only an hour away. I left my lunch dishes in the sink (so unlike me) and jumped in the car. I was fearful I would miss the last two birds since they would certainly mimic their daring siblings.
When I arrived, the third bird had flown the coop, and the last one, Charlie, was out of the nest and on the ledge, walking back and forth like a scared kid on a high diving board.
I took my place in a lawn chair with a good view of the action. From a nearby tree, Berti called encouragement to the little guy. (I don’t speak Robinese, but I could make out the intent.)
A few minutes later, Charlie fluttered those new wings, but flittered straight down, landing on the porch. For the next few minutes, he flew a couple feet at a time, to the bench, to a low windowsill, back to the bench. All the while, Berti, who had already shepherded her other babes to the backyard and the safety of bushes, whistled instructions.
Finally, the exasperated mother, a worm dangling from her beak, flew down to the windowsill. She hovered and then reversed direction, tantalizing Charlie with that worm. That did it. The hungry little flier soared off after her.
The moral to my story isn’t really the way to a bird’s courage is through his stomach.
If I had unloaded clean hot dishes from the dishwasher and neatly placed my dirty dish and fork inside, I would have missed that bird’s moment of triumph. I would have missed making that tiny connection to the natural world around me.
The obvious moral is don’t do the dishes.