Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wherever I Lay My Hat

I took advantage of the nice weather yesterday (a really nice day, not just a day without torrential rains which is what I've taken to considering 'nice days' in recent weeks) to walk a few blocks to attend a meeting rather than carpool. I know the folks in the van appreciated the respite.

I wandered over (now that my knees don't hurt all the time, I'm a walkin' fool; I'd been at least part of that for years previously) and as I walked I noticed those little brown birds, maybe sparrows (I'm not an ornithologist and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night), who have built their nests in most, though not all, the street lamps that line a pedestrian area that cuts through the district and breaks up the traffic (and feels a little like an oasis).

These are tall street poles, at least twenty feet high. You'd need a cherry picker (bucket truck is the preferred name, I think, these days. We can't make it better so we make it different and call it even) to replace the bulbs when they burn out, which they don't do very often so it works out well for everyone except if you're in the bucket truck rental business (and you can be forgiven for always having a slingshot, I suppose). For the birds, who don't seem to be much bigger than a balled fist, it's a good deal and for me, a bit of a lesson.

The nests are high enough that, aside from another bird, or Superman, no predator can threaten their home. It's not the most convenient location, but they can make it work and, obviously enough, they do. They've lived in the vicinity of humans for countless centuries and have learned to make allowances for us (probably not Icarus-suspect he wasn't a biped with whom they did a lot of shoe-shopping, or in his case, sandal-shopping). I wonder what they used to crap on before we invented cars. I'm visualizing Ben Hur with bird poop, nope, not happening ......

Their nests are barely visible within the gratings of the lamps at the top of the poles from the ground, but even from the ground, you can tell that they're made from whatever they can find when they're out scavenging for stuff. In a sense, whatever they bring, they sing. You can see how some nests have more twigs than string or ribbon or discarded paper.

I don't imagine they sit in them as evening falls and look at one another's nests and conspire darkly or gossip viciously. We might take a page from them on that. They all have just enough for themselves to get by, without the luxury of too much so that they would be tempted to get greedy or envious. I suspect none of the nests look a whole lot better from above than they do from below, so there's never any concern that the Good Nestkeeping Magazine folks will waste a day in a center spread photo shoot for next month's issue (just as well, since the sparrows have no pockets to put change in for the vending boxes) or to provoke any further jealousy among the sparrows.

You should watch how they hop and bop along the sidewalk (if I could fly, I would NEVER walk anywhere, ever), picking up bits of whatever they can to eat or use as building materials (sometimes both, I bet). Their motto, if they have one, might be 'Peeping not Reaping.' There was a crumb from a doughnut that was large enough for a small party among a group of them (they kin do it, I suppose) and they grabbed a piece from a Styrofoam cup that will be around for hundreds of years (Yay, science!) for the equivalent of home improvement.

They do not miss what they do not have. Or at least it seems so. They've learned to adapt, if not to overcome, then to survive. I kept my eye peeled for lilies of the field, but sometimes the lesson ends a little early.
-bill kenny

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