Bird Feeder Wisdom

If you’re looking for a how-to on “bird feeder best practices,” this isn’t it. That said, the “management” of these vessels of sustenance can teach one a lot. In my case, anyway.

Back in the chilly northwestern Connecticut town that was home for 13 years, the bird feeder was a big deal. I mean, a really big deal. During the long spell of winter, I trudged down the ice-encrusted back stairs and across the many inches of ice-covered snow to make it to the feeder while still upright. Morning after morning, I took my chances slip-sliding, sometimes falling, but eventually arriving at my destination – pail still in hand. Victory!

When winter finally segued to spring, the trek was merely muddy and by comparison, effortless. As innkeepers, spring, and subsequently summer, meant far more daily chores and responsibilities. In spite of my best intentions, the birdfeeder wasn’t always filled in the morning or taken in before finally lying down to catch some shuteye. A good start to the morning was a bird feeder on the pole, still intact. However, there was many a morning when that vessel of nurture had simply vanished. Gone. Far greater than my distress was that of the birds who flailed about, looking for the seed they had counted on- trusted- would be there. Heart-heavy, I would set out in search of that feeder. Across the courtyard, over the promontory and toward the field I would go. If found, it was devoid of seed and bore the distinct markings of claws.  But just as often, it had vanished, as if into thin air.

I felt negligent. I understood the many reasons – valid human reasons – why I had not done my part to ensure the safety and well-being of the feeder, but the feeling that I had let down my feathered friends who braved every moment of nature’s wrath made my heart sink.

It’s been five years now and things have changed, as in: I am here, not there. But a small part of me is always there, in a place that tested my mettle, my resilience, and my faith.  A place, too, that offered an abundance of nature as compensation for human troubles. To think of that ineffable balance of experience still puts me in a state of wonder. I wonder, too, if the new owner kept the feeder or simply snatched it away to spite those ever-present springtime bears, hungry after their long Van Winkle nap. I wonder if she puts scraps out on the old stone wall for the resident crow family, knowing that these crows don’t necessarily prefer meat to carbs. No bears here, but, mother nature be damned, I still think wistfully about that satisfying ritual of filling the birdfeeder – an imperfect, humble act of love and commitment.

Friendship, I find, is a lot like this- an imperfect, humble act of love and commitment. I sometimes miss the meaning, the feeling; the important date, the moment, or the milestone. I don’t always come through as I said I would and as I intended. But sometimes, and this is the point – because of my loyal, yet imperfect diligence, I am forgiven because these friends know where my heart is. And because they do, they return – just like my feathered friends. Blessed, you might say.


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