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For the Birds

It's a phrase I remember hearing in my youth quite often. Usually, projected by my parents when they were disgusted with something that didn't work properly or when time was wasted. "We've been sitting here half the morning waiting on your friend to come...this is for the birds!" I looked up the origin of this phrase and found it first occurring during World War II. A phrase that described birds eating seeds from animal poop. Kind of gross and in human terms, useless. Although, if you were a hungry and cold bird, I think food is survival. Maybe staring out the window for an hour watching birds flock around a bird feeder is "for the birds" in the eyes of some. But, as I watched all the different species of birds from my window this morning, sipping on a hot cup of tea in my warm house, it made me feel great to know that the seed I put out was giving them some warmth on this cold, February morning.

On many days, I may awaken early. Beating the sun and that warm glow we see and associate with a calm day ahead. It is pitch dark on many of my mornings. But, I always have company. Usually, even an hour before sunrise I can hear my faithful friend, the Carolina wren singing happily. Steam comes out of her beak as she cheeps away, celebrating another day of being alive. My mundane worries about life seem shallow when I think of this small bird singing joyously on a sub-freezing morning. Like someone singing a Christmas carol with tears flowing from their eyes because of a sad memory, the wren gives no opportunity to show what pain may lie beneath that beautiful song.

On hot summer afternoons, I love hearing the soft, gentle, and very restful sound of the mourning dove. The tone is such that it brings peace to my mind. And on a hot day, if you can find a shade tree and a gentle breeze, the call of the mourning dove finishes the scene. Many believe that the dove's appearance to someone in mourning is often viewed as a visitation from the deceased loved one. Whatever the case, they are one of the most gentle of all birds in my eyes and ears.

There are other times when I hear a familiar cry from a bird and it makes me think of the past. Sometimes, I even feel lonely. Like when a lone Canada goose is flying low at sunset and calling out to others in search of a safe place to land for the night. I remember hearing that sound many times as a child in Wisconsin as dusk approached. Today, that lonely call makes me think of my youth and how I wish I could find it as the days of my life become shorter and shorter.

When I go camping in the summer, it is the Eastern whip-poor-will that puts me to bed. Usually, I camp on high ground in a field or pasture and the whip-poor-will cries from deep within neighboring woods. The woods are dark during the day and at night the call of the whip-poor-will adds another sense of depth to the fortress within the walls of the trees.

So, this morning I feel sincere happiness in watching the many birds enjoy the seed I put out for them last night. I know they are probably chilled this morning and the seed they eat will stoke their metabolism and warm their delicate, feather-covered bodies. I hope they will remember this thoughtful gesture and return during the warm months when food is plentiful, to bring me hope and peace as I listen to their calls.


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