We all know that three-year olds ask "WHY?" roughly as often as two-year olds say "NO!" My problem is that I never got over the Why's. And many of my "why's"are about as weighty as the three-year olds'.
For example, this week I 've been wondering why, in our vintage years, so many of us become enchanted with birds.
Take JD (retired Texas cowboy, age eighty-something). He shouldn't even be maneuvering without his walker, but last year he came perilously close to breaking his saddle-bones because he insisted on toting a 50-pound bag of birdseed out to the back yard over icy ground. The Bird Man of Ageless Acres, that's JD.
Nobody in my family ever tossed a crumb to birds, or knew a sparrow from a seagull. But now, as I thrash my way deeper and deeper through the tall grass of cronedom, I find myself spending long minutes staring out the kitchen window watching the birds at our feeder while my oat bran withers in the milk. I still can't tell a grackle from a cowbird (though I'm a whiz at spotting the cardinal couple). So my question is Why?
What's so fascinating about the birds?
I don't know. But last Tuesday, as I watched, four or five sparrows flittered down to peck at scattered sunflower seeds in the patio. It was the flittering that got to me. The way they drifted down from nearby trees, or from the rooftops where they hang out. Now, a variety of things sift down from the skies, at various times--the leaves of the great cottonwood that presides over the yard, each leaf on its own flight path, unhurried, floating. And snowflakes, of course, magical and forgiving, turning unsightly into spectacular in about twenty minutes. Sunlight sifts through the branches of the massive tree.
But the birds are best of all. Especially when they drift down, flittering. Sometimes, yes, they zoom in, hungry and intent. Or they dart, shooting down as though aimed.
But when they flitter, two, three, four at a time, gently, trustingly, as though they know they are welcome and wanted, and each so very alive, self-contained, they seem like a gift from the skies, separate small messages orbiting our anchored, earth-bound lives.