Winter Birds I - The Nuthatch

     Two little bodies stand motionless just on the edge of the back deck, where it steps down to the yard.   It's the edge of winter: cold, low grey skies, almost snow.  The bird feeder hanging from a tree is full, like a car gassed up for the trip ahead.  I watch.
     The two figures stand, hands outstretched, with more patience than I ever knew they had.   Anna is seven, Andrew is five.   In their hands is some of the same sunflower seed that is in the feeder.  Anna has already had some success in coaxing a bird to eat from her hand – it was a red-breasted nuthatch – and now Andrew wants to try too. 
     A nuthatch is a wild animal.   For that matter, so is a chickadee.   As familiar as these feeder birds are, they interact with us only by their own choosing.  Sunrise, sunset, the tilt of the earth, running sap, the hatch of insects, fruiting shrubs, rain, hollow trees, hawks: these are the syllables of earth's language that they understand.  To stand like a tree with seed in your palm is to somehow say “let me enter your world”, which is different than “you are a pretty picture in my world”.
     What happens when that little life alights in your palm for just an instant, the grip of its toes a surprise under the sleek brush of its feathers?  Are you changed?   One to one, one Anna to one nuthatch, no longer an idea or object, there is now a relationship.  You touched me; I fed you.  Did you feel my heartbeat?

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