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Fledging from Old Patterns
A week ago, I was in Eastern Oklahoma, helping my mom out for a few days. Suffice it to say, it is not my favorite part of the world. Needing a little break from the family dynamic, I took myself out for lunch in search of a restaurant that had something not fried and resembling a vegetable. I wound up at Captain Jacks on the shore of Lake Eufaula. The place had a wonderful shaded deck that sat right out over the edge of the lake. Not surprisingly, there weren’t any vegetarian options so I asked if the crawfish etouffee had vegetables in it. The young waitress said questioningly, “I think it has, like maybe, celery….” She gave me a mildly concerned look and asked, “Would you like me to see if they can make it without any vegetables?” I swear I’m not making this up. I said, “Uh, wrong direction. Some veggies would be great.”
Fortunately, the deck was more pleasant than the menu, with a solid breeze stirring the hot air and turtles and catfish ruffling the water surface below. As I was sipping a beer, settling in, a little flash darted past and landed up on a two-by-four rafter connecting the deck roof to the main building. Two good-sized starling nestlings popped out of an impossibly small crack in the joint between the rafter and the wall and gobbled down the offered meal. When mom took off for more, the little ones squeezed back into the wall.
A few more feedings took place and then one of the nestlings fluttered off the rafter, down onto the deck floor and floundered around, trying, but unable, to fly back up to the nest. Several of the diners stopped eating to see what was happening and a couple of the waitresses started moving in trying to catch the little bird. I jumped and said, “Wait, wait. It’s doing exactly what it is supposed to be doing.” One of them said, “Are you a bird expert?” I said, “I’m an environmentalist!” I explained that the baby had just fledged and that most likely its mamma would be back to care for it.
Everybody settled down and soon the little bird hopped closer to the edge of the deck. Mom came back with a meal. The next time she returned the two of them flew off over the lake, around the edge of building as a few of us humans cheered.
Afterward it struck me as funny -- it was the first time I’ve ever jumped up and basically said, “Don’t move! I’m an environmentalist! I’ve got this!” With where things are headed on our planet this may be important practice for what’s to come.
A couple days later, while walking out of the Portland Oregon airport toward the ground transportation area, I noticed a little flutter in the crosswalk. It was a too-young-to-be-fledged sparrow. People and cars were whizzing past; there was no way its parents were going to be able to retrieve it. I reached down and scooped it up. One taxi ride back to my car and then a 3 ½ hour drive home and I got the little guy settled in as best I could. I called him Albert due to his long, bushy Einsteinish eyebrow feathers. Though he was bright and energetic, I couldn’t get him to eat. The wildlife rehab center wouldn’t take him because house sparrows aren’t native to Central Oregon. I understand the policy, but it was still hard to see him get weak and pass despite my efforts to get drops of liquified feed into him.
A few days later, while working in my front yard, a tiny nuthatch parent swooped up to the little bird house atop my tall fence. I was delighted when a babe poked out. I’d never seen a nuthatch nestling. I ducked in the house, got my camera, and sat down on the ground to see if I could snap a pic of the feeding. I waited, and waited – the adults did not return. Just as I was about to give up and get back to yard work, the baby poked out of the house and glided to the crabapple tree, where it was immediately joined by the adult. First flight of a new nuthatch! I suspect the adults had been in the tree, coaxing the little one to make the leap, even though I’d been unaware of what was taking place.
A day later, I walked out onto my back deck to find the two sparrow nestlings clinging to the ledge on the box they’d hatched in. They scrambled back in when they saw me. However, moments later, one popped back out, fluttered to the ground, then made a lilting first flight to the safety of a big rosebush. Soon it was fluttering, and begging from the adults, along with a whole raucous flock of other fledglings. I once heard that birds migrate to get away from their children.
What a treat to be there at just the right time to experience these miracles of flight, and parenting, and the cycle of life.
My spirituality is flavored by a heavy helping of paganism and ecocentricity and I often consider the metaphysical message that may be coming through Nature. I noticed that the time spent, and memories stirred, helping out my mom, had clarified some aspects of my past. This time, I had much less charge on old baggage and a solid base of love combined with boundaries.
Brave, tiny birds leave safe, cozy nooks and push out into the wide-open world. I wonder if they’re surprised when their wings just unfurl and start carrying them?
I too am fledging, fluttering away from old, familiar confines of thinking, and being, flying beyond generational patterns of negativity and limitation. The little winged ones are learning how to survive as sparrow, starling, nuthatch. I am learning how to thrive as human.
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