The birds and I find plenty.

A titmouse was clinging to the topmost branch of the juniper bush out front, when I came out the front door to take a walk. I don’t think I’ve ever seen one here before. I told him that I had some nice food that he would like in the back garden, and he should go try it out. He did fly off in that direction… Of course, this is not his picture at right.

I’ve been worrying about the crows that only this year have touched down on my property and pecked around a bit on the patio. Will they frighten off the songbirds? Will they start poking and plowing in my flowerpots the way they did on Joy’s deck in Monterey? They were one topic I discussed with the nice man at the Wild Birds Unlimited store I visited yesterday.

As we talked he pointed to the crows and doves and woodpeckers feeding outside the picture window at the front of the shop, and said that in his experience a few crows do not discourage smaller birds. He said that crows eat anything, so there was nothing I could leave out of my feeders that might be specially attracting them. I looked over the list of which seeds and nuts the various birds like, and brought home a slight variation on what I’d been buying elsewhere.

This afternoon I put a few peanuts with the sunflower seeds in the tray feeder, and it wasn’t long before a chickadee flew down and immediately flew off with one in his beak. Though lately I haven’t seen large flocks of finches and juncos swooping through the garden the way they did in early spring, a goldfinch did eat sunflower “chips” from my chapel feeder today, and at the same moment a few feet away the hooded oriole drank from the hummingbird feeder.

I haven’t tried in the last year or so to do much bird photography, but I found these pictures I did get when my new landscaping was still only sleeping and creeping. The background is much changed, but the birds look similar; probably at least the orioles are the same pair that have “come back every year from Costa Rica or wherever they overwinter,” as the man at the store led me to believe.

The chickadee only let me get close enough for a picture because — what I didn’t know at the time — he was concerned at my own threatening proximity to the birdhouse where chickadee eggs were incubating that year. No one seems to be nesting in that house so far this spring, though we saw bluebirds checking it out many weeks ago.

The garden is wet. We’ve had drenching rain day and night, with more to come. It’s strange to have this much rain in May; normally we’re getting the last of our garden planting done. There was supposed to be a break of an hour or two, which was my chance to get out on the paths. I was glad to be wearing my raincoat because plenty of little showers came down after all before I reached home again.

I have still been drinking in the roses wherever I find them. If they are within reach I will bend over and find out whether their olfactory gifts are rich enough to keep me standing there inhaling and blocking the sidewalk. This white one just down the block is quite plain in the color department, but it always makes me stop a long time to receive its “hello” with  my nose.

I walked into moist currents of other delicious smells this afternoon, and once looked up wondering what it was. I saw this honeysuckle — not what I was smelling — and though it seemed to have had a bit of its scent temporarily washed away, its posture was impeccable.

The sweetness I got from it this time was all in my memory, how when my granddaughter Annie was being pushed out of the womb, and I was taking care of her brothers, we came with trowels and a bucket to dig cuttings from this very patch to plant in my previous garden. That was seventeen years ago this month, and I’ll be attending her graduation from high school in a couple of weeks 🙂

The birds seem to like feeding in the rain. The male goldfinch sat on top of the penstemon for a few minutes as it blew in the wind, while rain poured down. Eventually he came up to the feeder for his seeds. Even now when it’s almost too dark, I can see the doves and house finches flying in for one more bedtime snack.

Soggy or not, whether full or empty of birds, my garden is my heart’s nourishment. I have missed the garden lately because of two aspects of my remodeling project. First, it takes time at this point to peruse options for flooring, paint, and bath fixtures. But the second distraction is greater: it’s my own attitude about these tasks. I don’t feel adequate to them, I don’t like making these decisions alone, etc. etc. I have worked myself into a tizzy more than once, and have lain awake with my mind aswirl, murmuring about these “problems.”

With the help of two priests, the prayer of the Optina Elders, and quite a bit of listening to the Psalter over the last few days, I have calmed myself and am trying to remember that God is with me at the paint store and helping me make decisions, just as He was with me in my waiting for the architect during Lent. All will be well. This is the Prayer of the Optina Elders:

O Lord, grant unto me that with Thy peace
I may greet all that this day is to bring.
Grant unto me grace to surrender myself completely to Thy holy will.
In every hour of this day instruct and guide me in all things.
Whatever tidings I may receive during this day,
do Thou teach me to accept tranquilly
in the firm belief that Thy holy will governs all.
Govern Thou my thoughts and feelings in all I do and say.
When unforeseen things occur, let me not forget that all is sent by Thee.
Teach me to behave sincerely and reasonably toward everyone,
that I may bring confusion and sorrow to no one.
Bestow on me, O Lord, strength to endure the fatigue of the day
and to bear my part in its events.
Guide Thou my will and teach me to pray, to believe,
to hope, to suffer, to forgive, and to love.

This afternoon my neighbor Kim was going to come down to look at carpet samples on site, which my dear daughters can’t do. Kim couldn’t come today, so instead I took a walk, and watched birds, and I even did some more plant identification from a picture that Soldier sent me from Colorado, of what I think are bluebells.

Months ago I had started reading a book that Pearl gave me, Life in the Garden by Penelope Lively. Today I was so relaxed and focused that I had the good sense to know that it was okay, even good, for me to sit and read it, and I am loving it. I don’t know if it or the titmouse was the icing on the cake of this peaceful and satisfying day, but the book is more sanitary, so let’s go with that. A splendid cake, tasty icing, fattening only to the soul.

17 thoughts on “The birds and I find plenty.

  1. I really enjoyed reading this prayer – it is worth knowing by heart. Your garden provides your with tranquility – natural things are more likely to do so than paint and carpets and other building things, yet you will feel good about them once the work is done.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a delightful post about critters that visit your lovely garden and the glorious blooms you see in your neighborhood. Thanks for sharing.

    Thank you also for the Prayer of the Optina Elders. Oh so good.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think I’d be in a tizzy, too, if I were doing as much consulting as you are re: paint, carpet, etc. (I love the word ‘tizzy’!) Just choose what you like, what you respond to, what makes you happy, and all will be well!

    One reason your finches and such may not be appearing in large flocks is that many birds that migrate together set up housekeeping separately. Once they’ve arrived, they tend to spread out, seeking their own territory. We see that with several birds: ospreys, for example, and coots. Other birds, like the white pelicans, arrives in great waves, but pretty much stick together in communal groups. It’s interesting to see the difference.

    I had to smile at your Japanese honeysuckle. Here, it’s considered one of the worst invasives, and getting rid of the stuff is high on many people’s to-do lists. You might enjoy reading a bit about it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what we have here. When I grew it in the back yard on a fence it really needed pruning twice a year. I think in California it doesn’t become much of a problem because of that long summer drought we usually have, sometimes up to six months long. In the garden where it can easily find water, it’s challenging for sure!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I think that’s probably right. It’s always interesting to see what’s invasive, and where. We worry about plants coming here from elsewhere, but when I talk to friends in New Zealand or Australia, they’re fussing about our native plants that have found a home there!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I was out walking yesterday and noticed a scarlet tanager up in the trees. Growing up as a city kid, it seemed like the birds around were either pigeons, robins, or the gulls around large parking lots. I’m still not terribly aware of the birds around, but I’m trying to notice these things a little more. 🙂

    We got some flowers last Saturday; this week has really been the first with nice weather, so not only is there the task of putting the flowers out, there’s the issue of trying to dig out and weed garden spaces that were fairly neglected the last couple of years (last year in particular). I don’t consider myself a big garden person, but there’s something really nice about looking out the kitchen window to see something nice, or driving up to the house and being greeted by the pretty colors!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This is a beautiful reflection, Gretchen, sincere and warm (in contrast with the cool rain I’m imagining— is it cool?). The white rose is stunning, as is the prayer!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. What an abundance of birds, and beauty, surrounds your home. It is strange that you’re getting more rain than normal. No doubt the plants will do even better than usual.

    We have far fewer birds this year and I can’t help wondering is all the noise of construction has kept them away. The house going up is only 8′ away from our row of Honeysuckle/Clematis that usually harbours many little birds. I have not seen a single finch at the thistle feeder so far. I keep hoping.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love that prayer, though I know it in a somewhat different translation. We’ve had some rain too but nothing that could be labeled as “soaking” or even “heavy.” It’s nice nonetheless. So rare for the middle of May!

    Liked by 1 person

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