This time last year I was moving into a new home. After unpacking boxes, setting up furniture, and tackling hundreds of other random items on my to-do list by February I was ready to turn my attention to the outdoor area. Part of me was still clinging to past arrangements and decor attached to past places and times. But when I was finally able to see this space with objective eyes, it opened up a whole new world for me in so many ways.
The former owner of the home I purchased appeared to love the outdoors and he converted his backyard in suburban Palm Bay into a Disney World for birds and squirrels. There were pedestals, a stone birdbath, and a handmade birdhouse now worn by weather and time and clinging precariously to a large oak tree. I began to shift my focus from outdoor furniture placement to purchasing and installing bird feeders and squirrel vittles. You know that old saying, “build it and they will come”. Well, it’s true.
By last spring, as we were entering the beginning of the great pandemic of 2020, at least a half dozen different species of birds were stopping by on a daily basis to eat and bathe. By April, I was officially telecommuting and I rearranged my office in the backroom to enjoy my new hobby, bird watching. After hours hunkered at my desk, entering data and doing tele-sessions with clients, I loved the refreshing distraction of watching bluejays and squirrels vie for peanuts, woodpeckers performing expert air-raids to land on the bird feeder and mythical cardinals “appearing” majestically to feed or bathe, with their plain-plumed mates always nearby.
Summertime saw a whole new crop of winged visitors with new sets of feeding patterns. Mourning doves foraged the ground for seeds and sweetly fed side by side with skitzy squirrels. Then the majestic Eurasian ringed doves began to glide in, looking like living Christmas tree decorations with their large grayish-white bodies and dark double bands encircling their necks. The squirrels began to display their aerial acrobatics by scaling down the wire that connects the feeder to the tree branch. They then bent backwards and ate the birdseed while upside down! Though it was endlessly annoying to watch the most limber of the squirrel pack knock seeds to the ground while being cheered on by their less agile brethren, I must admit it was an amusing sight.
As summer gave way to fall, life outside my backyard escape continued to be unstable and unpredictable. Even leaving home was a tricky endeavor between Covid chaos and political pandemonium. I continued to find pleasure and solace in my backyard bird sanctuary. I enjoyed the dozen or so species of birds that came to enjoy the fruits of my labor but I missed the tiniest of birds that briefly made an appearance when we first installed the feeder but then disappeared. Remembering the mantra “if you build it, they will come”, my neighbor gave me a plant staff and I purchased a new cedar feeder just for baby birds such as chickadees, finches, and titmice. I then bought seeds just for tiny bird beaks. And sure enough, after a week or so, one morning after an especially stressful set of emails, I looked up and there were two tiny birds that almost didn’t look real! So tiny and covered with striking indigo blue feathers on their heads, reddish-orange breasts, and yellowish-green wings. Absolutely mesmerizing! I watched as one ate from the feeder while the other perched atop the staff. After much research, I learned this magical backyard treasure appears to be a painted bunting. They enjoy sharing this new feeding spot with finches and tiny brown wrens.
One year ago, I wasn’t much interested in winged creatures and I certainly didn’t see myself as a birdwatcher. Yet some of the most enjoyable and soothing times of 2020 for me occurred by watching the simple dance of nature in my own backyard. I’m sure we all learned many new lessons last year and for me, one of the most important was the cliche but true statement “there is no place like home”.
Certified Substance abuse counselor in Florida and NC. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org