Saturday, May 6, 2017

Signs of Spring

This little bird on my porch rail is on a mission.
May 6, 2017

Here in the White Mountains, the months of April and May can seem a little schizophrenic, and sometimes we wonder whether spring is really here, or if it was just a cruel joke and winter plans to hang around until June. All the signs are there: last month the area's fruit trees were blossoming like crazy, including my little apple tree; for the last few weeks, our neighborhood's paired geese have been flying around overhead every morning, honking with wild abandon; most days the high temperature is in the 70s or even the 80s; and all the formerly barren trees are now fluffy with new green leaves.

Then, just as you start to believe that winter is over, there will be several nights of below-freezing temperatures and you hope your apple blossoms haven't been compromised. More early-morning windshield scraping ensues, maybe even a little snow or hail, perhaps a rainstorm or two, and enough wind to rattle the roof. The best example was my daughter Sarah's high school graduation on the last Thursday of May 2008. After weeks of beautiful weather, we woke up to freezing temperatures and then it snowed all day, several inches, forcing us to move the graduation ceremony from the football field to the gym. The only time in my twenty-seven years at Blue Ridge High. So far.

The last few days have been quite warm, in the mid- to upper-80s, sunny and beautiful. But today we've had wild winds and even a brief rain shower. My heater kicked on a couple of times this morning. Like I said, a little bit schizophrenic.

A pile of dried mud on the front porch.

So yesterday I was able to leave work around 1:30, after enjoying a Teacher Appreciation Week luncheon and dance provided by student council. That meant I was able to pick up Mark as soon as he got off work, and thus we got home from work together, at the same time.

As we walked up onto the porch, I noticed a huge circular pile of dried mud that definitely wasn't there when I'd left for work that morning. Of course my first thought was to blame Mark. It had to be one of us, right? And I knew it wasn't me! But then I realized he'd started his workday an hour and a half before mine, so he wasn't here to make the mess. Maybe a dog from the neighborhood took a dip in the nearby pond then came to roll around on my porch? No, the gate had been closed when we drove up. Even if a dog could open the gate (like our Diego can), it certainly wouldn't close it again on its way out! Hmmm. We had ourselves a little mystery.

A couple of hours later, my friend Emily came by to drop off a doTerra (essential oils) prize I'd earned. After we'd visited for a while, I walked with her out onto the porch. I pointed out the mud pile and said I couldn't figure out where it came from. She looked around and then she looked up. Then she smiled and said, "Maybe that's what caused it."

A bird's nest under construction on my porch light.

Sure enough, there was a large pile of muddy debris being formed into a bird's nest, right on top of the porch light fixture. This is our twenty-fourth spring in this house, and that's a first! I don't know why I didn't think to just look up (I'm sure there's a message in there somewhere), but now the mystery is solved. In fact, once I realized what was going on, I also realized that explained why I'd been seeing a little bird actually flying inside the porch for the last few days. I thought it was odd--often they'll perch on nearby branches and even on the rail or wind chimes, but never actually in the people-inhabited area--yet I'd just shrugged it off.

Luckily, we don't use that lamp much. Jacob put Christmas lights around my porch almost four years ago, and I prefer that soft white light to the glare of a single bare bulb overhead. Gradually those Christmas lights have been burning out, but there are still enough lit to get us through one more summer. Otherwise, our little visitor might get electrocuted and her little eggs fried. We can't have that!

I don't know what kind of bird this is, but he or she is definitely preparing a nest.

I spent some time this morning watching this little soon-to-be-mommy (or daddy) hard at work. Every five or ten minutes she'd return with a mouthful of nasty-looking muddy-hairy-grassy goop and add it to the pile before sailing off again to find more. It will be interesting to watch the progress of this little project over time.

While trying to capture some pictures of the bird, I pulled a kitchen chair into the partially-open doorway and sat there quietly with my camera for maybe twenty minutes. As long as I kept my noise and movements minimal, she ignored me and worked on. While I enjoyed watching and filming her, I found myself getting antsy, thinking of all the things I needed to get done while I had the weekend to do them. It really detracted from the beauty of the moment.

That's when I realized how different life can be after retirement. When an opportunity like this comes along, I hope I'll be able to relax and give myself to the moment, knowing that those pressing matters can wait one more day. How I look forward to having more time to bask in the beauty around me!

I got this little video of the parent-to-be hard at work on the nest.

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