War in Paradise
No one is settled – yet. There is great commotion and fighting in my back yard on this warm spring morning. Everyone is quarreling, chirping, hooting and arguing over who gets to move into the brand-new bird house in the shade and who eats at the feeders first. The dilapidated wooden box, which is nailed to the fence post, is also high on the wanted list. Everyone clamors for a spot out of the cat’s reach.
How ironic that looking for peace and safety causes such a ruckus.
I sit on the deck stairs and watch the chaos. I find it only slightly amusing.
The wrens dive-bomb the greedy chipmunk. It’s tucking a few more sunflower seed in its already full cheeks, before running off – probably to cram his loot into my down spout. I will know tomorrow, after the predicted thunderstorm. The wren’s beautiful chirping has turned into a nervous battle song, making the sparrows take cover.
Five hungry, travel-weary Baltimore Orioles are gorging on the grape jelly. Their bright orange feathers remind me of a sunrise. A shy purple finch joins them. He is a low threat and tolerated. Atop another birdhouse along the fence, a male Eastern Bluebird has assumed his post. Like a police officer in a shiny blue uniform, he guards the traffic, willing to charge offenders of the backyard order at any moment. He looks like he is in an extremely bad mood this morning.
I pour fresh water in birdbaths and fill the jelly plate one more time, try hard to create a bird haven. A female Hummingbird comes close and scans my face with radar like precision. Her low buzzing and zigzag moves around my head make me feel interrogated. After her curiosity is satisfied, she disappears into the blue spruces, becoming invisible.
Mrs. Robin finds her bath water in the shallow bowl. Mr. Cardinal is watching her like David from the rooftop.
A couple of faithful chickadees are patrolling as well. In contrast to the Bluebirds, they move around, hop from deck to fence and back to the feeders. Like undercover agents, they quickly clean up the peanuts I left for the bigger birds. I chuckle. They pick up one nut at a time and drop the heavy load in the tall grass. They know the danger of displaying Blue-Jay-lures in full view. I can almost sense their annoyance with my birding ignorance.
My husband joins me. We sit back down and watch the commotion for a while. He interrupts my thoughts.
“There is always something.”
“Yep,” I say, almost under my breath.
I think of our teenager-filled house, of the worries that come with parenting six kids, my friend’s cancer, and another friend’s challenge with aging parents. I think of the war on the other side of the world, a world which has become as small as my backyard. My heart is heavy as I struggle for answers, for ways to bring some kind of resolve. I deeply want to create peace and lessen the burdens. My attempts seem to be for the birds.
In a few weeks things will look differently, when everyone has settled, the place will be quieter. There will still be a few squabbles but nothing like this. When the yard is in full bloom, when the Tiger Lilies stretch skyward and the Purple Phlox attracts butterflies and bees, when the young birds left the nest and flap to find their own food, then there will be peace.
Then, a while later, when the maple starts turning from a lush green to a lighter shade and eventually to a deep orange, the yard will grow even more quiet. I will wake up one morning and will find snow on the deck stairs. There might just be a lonely crow calling in the distance. Maybe I will hear an occasional dee-dee-dee from the nearby pines, reminding me to fill the feeder by the window for those who stayed behind. And most likely, while I sit inside and watch the chickadee, I will be looking forward to spring.
A Time for Everything
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (ESV)
Pictures and Essay – Heidi Viars, 2022