One morning preoccupation here is bird watching. With spring nudging forward and winter grasping at its last days, Herb filled the bird feeder and cleaned the wren houses. Birds sweep across our yard from tree to shrub and fight for position on the feeder. Grackles bully robins; robins bully sparrows; sparrows bully wrens. Our year-long, non-migrating Cardinals, snug in the Arborvitae and Cedars, cope by ignoring most all the migrating birds, with the exception of the finches.
At this time of year, grackles predominate, although if we sit still, we might spy a towhee or a woodpecker. Even though marble-sized hail pelted the ground this afternoon and weather stations forecast snow for tomorrow, the grackles are gathering and squabbling over sticks, strips of vines, and dried grass stems.
This morning a grackle shot across the deck with a long stream of ornamental grass in its beak. On this enterprising bird’s tail were two other grackles in a high speed chase of aerial tag. Presumably, now that the first bird had discovered the twenty-four inch stem of grass and lifted it skyward where it trailed gracefully behind the speeding bird, the other birds sought to gain an advantage.
Was I watching a game of tag, of good-natured theft? Or outright bird bullying, as in, may the spoils go to the victor?
Yesterday morning, my neighbor created a mini-scavenger hunt for my two grand-children. She hid a box of Girl-Scout cookies in the hollow of a tree on her property then called to tell me to tell them to look for a surprise at the base of a large tree. Off they went, running and shouting. “Wait for me!” and “Me first!”
Soon they returned. “Which tree?”
“A big one!” I said.
“But all the trees are big!”
“Really?! I guess you’ll have to look under all of them.”
Later they came limping in the back door, she in tears, and he, the big brother, lecturing her about consequences. They had found the box of cookies. One box of cookies requires cooperation when two children are involved. Apparently, she had asked to carry the cookies and said she would give them right back, then didn’t. He decided to take them back, but she resisted. Down she went onto the driveway! And now she was in tears, and he was defending his position.
I took possession of the cookies, squelched the argument, and sent them outside to play. Their lingering aggression played out in a game of tag. They chased each other unmercifully until they were laughing. When they came inside, they wrote a thank you note to the neighbor, walked the note to the base of the tree, and called her to tell her to look for a surprise in a big tree. I confess I played a mediator’s role, but they were agreeable clients, once eating the cookies depended upon a workable peace treaty.
As an elder adult, I’d like to believe I’m above seeking advantage and playing theft or harassment games. But….I could identify with the birds and the children.
When Herb heads upstairs to the office to our shared computer, I feel an urge to race ahead and beat him to the chair. I’m not sure we could peacefully share one vehicle. He’d be hanging around in Lowe’s when I wanted to go to Talbot’s. We shared one TV for a year until I gave up and bought another one so I could escape marathon football and basketball broadcasts.
Would I be the bird with the stem of grass racing ahead of her trackers? I’d sure try. I’d want to be the one to discover that graceful material and fly it to a fork in a shrub. I’ve given up grabbing things away from others, but haven’t weaned myself from plotting an advantage. Nor have I reached the “letting go” stage that I required of my grand-children. After all, I did purchase a second TV when I couldn’t quite let go of my TV desires. Giving the new TV to Herb for Christmas didn’t exactly absolve me.
I’m still wondering which bird won the race. As to the remaining cookies, the children’s mother thought it best to leave them with us. She didn’t want to referee cookie wars. As to spring or winter, winter wins this week. The daffodils droop under wet snow, and the birds have disappeared into the hemlocks and cedars. We can hear them, but we can’t see them.