Like everyone else, I’ve always believed that all species are connected by the food chain of life. When a pelican gobbles a fish, a cat keeps a barn free of mice, or a lizard snags a beetle with his long sticky tongue, it’s clear that there is a system in place, with an order, and a reason for all who exist.
But a recent incident with a couple of feathered friends reminded me that critters can contribute a great deal more to the world around them than just providing sacrificial meals for wandering predators.
They can inspire.
It happened during a week that seemed like a non stop Monday. Phones rang off the hook, clients were exceptionally difficult, my boss was grumpier than I’d ever seen him, and every task was more tedious than the last.
To make matters worse, my teenaged daughter Julie and I quarreled before I left for work. She was going through another phase; one that morphed a sweet kid into a stubborn, mouthy, know-it-all who was an expert at pushing my buttons. The last thing I said before stomping out the door was that I hoped I’d live long enough to witness the day when she’d open her ears and start listening to her mother.
Of course that made her really mad.
She wasn’t alone.
Not a good way to start the morning, especially when coupled with the bad days that had preceded it. There was nothing that I hated more than being on the outs with my child.
By mid afternoon, the week’s frustration caught up to me and I was in the throes of a full fledged pity party; tears pouring down both cheeks.
The unexpected racket caused my heart to jump into my throat.
Peering around the corner, I discovered a plump gray and white baby mockingbird trying to bust through the glass door leading into the outer lobby.
He tapped on the glass with his beak, preened a bit, and gazed at his reflection, mesmerized by what he saw.
However his mama, perched on a nearby limb, was frantic to get him back to the tree.
“Screech, screech, SCREECH!” she shrieked again and again, at decibel levels typically found at rock concerts.
I don’t claim to speak bird, but it didn’t take a rocket scientist to get the message.
And like a lot of kids (including my own), her baby peeped back at his mother in a tone that could only be construe d as sassing, then took another run for the door.
Disoriented, feathers fluffed, he looked as though he’d gone a few rounds with Mohammed Ali, as mama continued to freak out at the top of her lungs.
Yet in spite of her protests, the determined baby had no intention of abandoning ship.
In fact he went for broke; double or nothing.
It was hard not to be impressed by his tenacity, although it was mixed with a generous dash of stupid.
When he finally got it through his hard little head that the big bad door wasn’t going to move for him no matter how many times he clobbered it, the crumpled baby bird swayed back and forth like a Saturday night drunk, careened sideways, and toppled into a hibiscus bush.
Like any good mom, panic stricken Mrs. Mockingbird swept in to save the day, nursing her wounded child as well as informing him (and everyone else within a two block radius) that he was an idiot.
I laughed until my sides ached.
Julie would probably say that Mama Bird sounded a lot like me. She’d be right about that, although who could blame us for sounding as we do? Clearly both our kids were going through phases that would try the patience of Job.
Maybe birds and people aren’t as different as I once thought.
Stubborn offspring, worried mommies, feathers, hair, beaks, mouths; we’re all the same. It was a truth that comforted me.
With a heart filled with smiles, I prepared to go home; ready to patch things up with my own little bird.