Tales From a Screened-in Porch (and Deck)

Remember last time we met here and I shared that I had a wren’s nest on the screened-in porch? The little ones had just hatched and every time I stepped out on the porch, I’d hear all kinds of peeping.

But after a few weeks or so, the peeping stopped. Not to put too fine a point on it, but I thought that was it. Those birds were expired. Kicked the bucket. Shuffled off the mortal coil. They were, in short, ex-birds.

Anyway, then I shone my light into the nest, and those birds looked at me with…well, I’m going to say a touch of malice. Like if I didn’t get that light out of their eyes, they’d peck my eyes out. Once they could, you know, actually leave the nest.

IMG_20200503_115110487Despite their bad bird attitude and utter silence, I continued to watch over them, and in due time, I walked out on the porch and heard peeping. Again. But it wasn’t from the nest. It came from under the woodpile! The fledglings were spreading their wings! Two, in fact, had already taken off. But these last two were not inclined to leave the safety of the screened-in porch. So I kept Libs the Tiny Terror at bay and patiently waited for them to gather their courage.

And just when I thought they were never going to leave, I heard a flutter behind me. One had flown away whilst the other continued to peep pitifully. I imagined he (or she) was crying, “Don’t leave me! I’m coming!” and then swoosh! I watched her (or him) take off and make it all the way to the branch of a limb. Where I’m pretty sure much hoopla and celebrating commenced.

Unfortunately, I can’t report such a happy ending for my bird feeder. A few days later, I heard a commotion on the deck and glanced up just in time to catch a rogue squirrel holding on for dear life as the top of the feeder separated from the rest of the feeder and squirrel and feeder plummeted twenty feet to the ground.

I expected to find an ex-squirrel under the feeder when I rushed down the stairs. But nope, birdseed, nuts, and plastic bits lay scattered across the grass; there wasn’t a single sign of that rascally vermin.

In Before the Pandemic World, I would’ve gone straight away to the store and purchased another bird feeder. And I did try to order a bird feeder but apparently, feeding birds has become a pandemic pastime so there were none to be found.

So I went back outside to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air from the lounge chair on my deck. When suddenly, there was this plip of a feeling. On my arm. And I looked down to find what I can only describe as bird poop.

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I told you those wrens had it out for me.

(And before you ask, “What does ANY of this have to do with writing?”, let me direct you to my latest post at The Muffin, Ennui: Not So Boring After All.)

A Birds and Boy Story

For the last six months or so, since Youngest Junior Hall’s been around, first one up has to let out Libs, the Tiny Terror, and run out and get the paper. This morning, it was pouring buckets.

Usually, this is a waiting game between the two of us but not today. Youngest Junior Hall bounded down the stairs.

Youngest Junior Hall has been in quite the jolly mood because after nearly a dozen years of being away at school and working and living on his own and then coming back here for what was just going to be a few months and getting stuck in a pandemic–whew!–he’s leaving.

He’s leaving tomorrow, in fact, and so he’s been eating even more than usual, like he’s a camel or something, storing up food and water. He’s spent the week, packing up his stuff from every room in the house, except perhaps and ironically, not the dining room.

Anyway, we’re both pretty darn excited about tomorrow’s exodus. And then along came the wren.

IMG_20200421_112853290I have a wren’s nest on the screened-in porch and just yesterday, the eggs hatched. Around lunchtime, whilst preparing to fix the feast, I heard this racket out on the screened-in-porch. A bird was loudly singing, screeching, really, and then bang! The bird flew into the screen. And I suddenly thought about Momma Wren!

See, when it’s raining, we take Libs out through the basement so Precious won’t get terribly wet. So the screened-in porch door was still locked! I dashed out and opened the door so Momma Wren could get lunch for her babies–and then I had this moment, remembering another wren from a story at least ten years ago.

I haven’t thought of that story since…well, usually once I get a book with a story in it and promote it, I’m moving on to the next story. But maybe the Good Lord–for a variety of reasons–thought I needed to read that story again.

2918595AI wrote about a time when Sally the Crazy Dog was still around and another Momma Wren was nesting on my screened-in porch. I was talking to my mother, one of those long late afternoon conversations when I would walk and talk from one end of my deck to the other, when suddenly my dog–my bird dog–raced out to the porch.

I nearly broke my neck, getting to the nest to make sure the little fledglings weren’t hopping around anywhere. I knew from experience that Sally would do what comes naturally if she got there first! Fortunately, the birds were fine.

My mom thought I was crazy, worrying about those birds. “With all you’ve got going on, I can’t believe you’re worried about birds,” she said. And it was true, there was a lot going on with all those Junior Halls then.

And there’s a lot going on today. But things worked out okay all those years past, and things will work out okay someday soon, too. Meanwhile, I won’t have to cook up enough to feed a small army every day. But I’ll probably fix some lemon poppy seed muffins and a batch of brownies–from a box, y’all. The pandemic hasn’t turned me into a star baker–for Youngest Junior Hall to take with him.

I’d already set the mixes on the counter long before I read my wren story. But the last couple of lines from my story ensured that I wouldn’t forget to pack plenty of baked goods and plenty of prayers, for the journey tomorrow:

I guess it’s just a mothering thing. Birds or kids, I do what I can, when it comes to young ones leaving the nest.

~From “Leaving the Nest” by Cathy C. Hall (The Ultimate Bird Lover)

 

This Old World Keeps Spinning

Remember when April 15th meant tax filing day? And every year, the local news would have a reporter standing outside the post office for all those Filers-Come-Lately, invariably asking them why they waited till the last minute. (And they invariably responded with boring, predictable reasons–time got away from me, always file on the last day, etc. etc. etc. A real news story would have been someone saying something like, “Well, sir, first I had to rob the bank and then I had to launder the money and then I had to fill out all these dad-blamed forms.”)

Anyway, I watched the news last night and nary a word was said about filing a tax return. I think the world has sort of forgotten about filing in the midst of a pandemic, as you do, I suppose. I’ve forgotten all kinds of things…

Isn’t it funny how quickly we adjust to a new routine? It seems like I’ve always sanitized my house before going to bed: wipe the counters and doorknobs, spray the TV remotes, let Libs the Tiny Terror out–

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A view from the door

But hold on, y’all! Last night, when I opened the kitchen door to let out Libs, I stepped outside to close the screen door to my deck and there she (or he) was again: the possum! She (or he) was a bit bigger but it was the same possum, boldly eyeballing me from the rail of the deck. I screamed–you would, too, with a possum just a few feet from you and nothing but air in between–and there was no fetching the phone to get a picture because the two of us were locked in a staring contest. Until I finally had the presence of mind to slam the screen door shut and the possum turned and waddled down the deck rail, presumably grabbing a hold of the post and making his (or her) way down to the ground and back to the woods.

And you would think that a dog who lives to terrorize every human being and/or dog who walks within 50 yards of my house would have barked to beat the band but no. There was nary a yip out of Libs, who was apparently more interested in doing her business than keeping me safe.

Which brings me to you. I sure hope you’re staying safe and keeping well! I pray every day for this pandemic world we’re living in now, whether it means we forget all about tax-filing day or that we continue to sanitize every inch of our home before bed. We’ll carry on.

But may you have a possum on your deck–real or metaphorically-speaking– to remind you that some things in this old world never change.

(Um. Totally forgot that I started this post to cleverly tie in my post over at the Muffin, “Plato Would Be Proud: Crafts and Games for Children’s Magazines.” Which has nothing to do with tax day, sanitizing, or possums. But there is a pandemic connection, so I think that counts.)