Feeding chickadees
(February 2020)


It’s not that far, really.
Just off my back deck and down the hill
Through what I still remember as pasture for our mare,
To the little wooden foot bridge o’er the stream.
No, it’s not that far in steps, though in full winter
When the snow is newly deep, the going is slow and makes you wish
You’d bothered with your snow shoes.

No, it’s not that far. Though
Far enough to make me leave myself behind.
Standing on the bridge and sheltered by the stream side growth
That’s of little use to me but serves as home and shelter
To those I’ve come to see, I stand and wait.
They always come. Most days it starts with one or two who
Are braver than the rest and come to say hello.

Some days, of course,
They come en masse, as if they’d waited just out of sight
For my arrival in their yard, bursting forth and cheeping their
Complaint at my delay, caring not for what might have held me back.
Their world is so distinct from mine
They cannot not feel nor understand the grief or stress
That makes me visit them.

They know me now, and
Dance in patterns of kaleidoscopic white and black and gray
Eager as I fill my palm with nuts, hand gloved or bare
Depending on how cold it is and what I dare.
I reach my outstretched arm toward them in welcome.
They come in steady stream, landing with an impact both distinct
And imperceptible.

They look me in the eye
And then attend to picking out the morsel that suits them best that day
And pick it up impossibly in their beak and fly away
To hold it with their claw and start to eat, or stow it in some
Crevice in the bark as insurance for another day, not unlike the
Way I buy an extra loaf of bread or frozen meal and store it
In the freezer for a day of need.

I love their sounds:
The varied songs I hear but do not understand,
The thrup of wings as flight paths barely miss my head.
I talk to them of things I hear inside my heart
And choose to think they hear my meaning
And value me, as I do them, as part of shared existence.
Though I know better.

I ask myself,
But know the answer without asking.
Who gains the most from our exchange? The feathered souls
Who I so like to feed?  Or me, whose spirit brightens from their songs,
And whose heavy load is lightened by each nut they carry off?
I hope they benefit from what I do, but this I know:
The joy is mine.


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