March 5, 2015

Resident Birds

Each year, when winter winds begin to blow, I like to feed the birds. I always intend to put out birdseed for wild birds every month of the year, but you know what they say about the road to Hell being paved with the best of intentions. However, when it's really cold out, I know that food is scarce and I try to keep my feeder filled.

It's a way I honor the memory of my great grandmother, who also enjoyed feeding birds off her back porch. Her name was Aline (pronounced al-een), but I called her 'Great.'

She was a short, stocky woman with spindly legs and she always wore those little housecoats that zipped up the front, knee-highs that drooped around her ankles, and vinyl house shoes that were meant to look like leather. A native Texan, she was dealt a tough hand in life, but always persevered. Early on, she worked as a cook on the railroad before moving her family to Oak Ridge, Tennessee where my great-grandpa could find work. At that time, Oak Ridge had really just been established and for folks like my great grandparents (both sets on my dad's side), it was the land of Milk and Honey.

As long as I knew my Great, she scrimped and pinched pennies to make ends meet. She was a coupon clipper and a fan of cheap foods like Vienna (Vy-eenie) Sausages. But she always put aside a little extra money to buy me bubble bath from the Avon lady and she always made sure to have money set aside for birdseed. I think of her every time I see a Chickadee because those were her favorites, even though she said they sassed her when she talked to them.

My beau and I enjoy watching our birds gather around our patio to chow down on the food we provide all through the winter. I'm definitely no ornithologist, but I can identify most basic birds (which seems to impress him). We talk about the different species and what they are doing, imagining where they might live and who their bird families are.

A few weeks ago, he asked me about why some birds stick around during the winter while others migrate to warmer climates. I had never really thought about it before, but a few days later, I ran across a magazine article that explained this phenomenon.

Again, I'm no scientist, but I managed to glean this...Some birds are migratory and move to a different location during months of the year when the weather turns cold and food is scarce. Other birds are called resident birds and stick around the same area all year long.

It got me to thinking about how different challenges we face cause us to react. Sometimes things happen that cause circumstances where we just need to walk away for a moment. You've probably experienced that. I certainly have. With wedding planning in high gear, plus life's daily stresses, my beau and I have had to take a couple of time-outs lately to cool down and work out some issues. Eventually, we come back together and talk it out...trying to see where the other is coming from and ultimately remaining committed to one another and the life we are trying to create.

And sometimes, there are challenges in life that cause us to pick up and move. Just like my Great did all those years ago when she wanted a better life for her family. I don't know what their lives might have been like had they stayed in Texas, but I know her son (my grandpa) had a most wonderful experience as a kid and then teenager growing up in Oak Ridge. He was a star football player, had the opportunity to go to college on a scholarship and most importantly of all, it's where he met the love of his life, my grandma.

But what about those times when we need to stay and stick it out. This winter, as I watch those resident birds gather around the feeder on my porch hoping to get a little bit of food, I think about how they are determined to make it another day.

I read where the Cornell Lab of Ornithology has been tracking changes in bird migration behaviors and that more and more birds are opting not to migrate at all. Experts aren't sure if this is because of climate issues or the increase of folks who supply birdseed in feeders. I like to think that the birds are getting tougher.

Seasons come and go, we are faced with difficult situations at every turn. Friends and loved ones get sick and pass away, jobs are won and lost, it's so easy to lose sight of our purpose. It's not a matter of if hard times are going to come, but when. And they will. But I want to be one of those resident birds who stick it out through thick and thin. That's the kind of friend I want to be, the kind of wife, the kind of sister and daughter...I don't want to be someone who flies the coop when the going gets tough.

I come from people who faced adversity and lived to tell the tales. My people didn't pack it up and pack it in unless it was really necessary, and then they made the best of all things. If it means doing the hard stuff day after day, hoping for something better, so be it. Eventually the reward will come. When the days are long and the weather warms, all those resident birds will sing a triumphant song...we made it! Another winter and we lived to tell of it. And we'll be there too. Singing along.