Friday, March 18, 2011

Ancestry—avian, and otherwise

I was outside earlier today, enjoying the late morning sunshine and comfortable temperatures. I took some paperwork onto the patio, to try to lighten the load of record-keeping by surrounding myself with nature.

It worked. The load was quite manageable and even rather pleasant. Of course, I was not as productive as I likely would have been in the darkness of the dining room. I became rather distracted by the many birds who flew in and out of my midst to dine at the feeders I'd filled yesterday.

The chickadees are definitely the most bold. They swoop in without apology, lighting nearby and chirping insistently. A titmouse showed up, more timid, and didn't stay long. A few sparrows stopped by, some munching right there, others taking a seed in their beak and fluttering back to some safer locale. Lately, we've even been graced by a big, pileated woodpecker. Nuthatches visit the suet feeder, and the funny mourning doves with bobbing heads trip around beneath the feeders, feasting on what would have been wasted.

I clearly recall my youthful days at home, when my mom would address the birds. "Hello, Birds," she'd say. Sometimes she spoke to the sky on a particularly beautiful day, or her many flowers, and I think I may have heard her recognize the big maples in the backyard. I can't tell you how many times I giggled at her when she did this, gently poking fun at her fascination with nature and all its winged beauties. I was oh-so-worldly, you see, and much too cool to participate in such silliness. I would never speak to birds and plants.

And now, sitting out back of my own home, some 30-plus years later, I see how you always come back to your heritage. You can deny it, you can run from it, you can try to train it right out of yourself, but it's there. It's in you. Maybe it's in your face, when you look into the mirror and one of your parents stares back at you, or an aunt or uncle. You might hear it in your voice, when you pronounce a certain word, or speak a turn of phrase you swore you'd never repeat, such as, "I'll give you something to cry about." (That was my uncle's phrase. It still makes me chuckle.) Perhaps you'll recognize the way your thighs look in jeans, or the bump on your foot just under the big toe (that's from my grandma, Ma-Ma).

All those people who made you, are in you. They shaped you, and eventually, they will emerge from you in all sorts of ways.

It'll happen. It's happening to me. Now, I speak to the birds. The wonderful thing, though, is that now I understand the other side of the quotient: my mother was only holding up her end of the conversation.

Thanks, Mom.


chris h. said...

This made me smile, Mel. Just lovely. (I'm sure I don't talk enough to the birds!)

Also -- a real Woody Woodpecker! I had a pileated at my house years ago and always wanted to see another.

Mel said...

Thanks, Chris. And yes, we were so excited to see Woody out there munching!!! So cool.