Learning To Fly

a young chipping sparrow fresh from the nest

The weather is so beautiful today, it puts me in mind of another spring day years ago . .

The sun dappled leaves of the Elm tree-shaded our patio swing as I swayed, happily immersed in the Sunday paper. My faithful hound Toby snored at my feet, and a warm breeze carried the scent of summer blossoms. It was a tranquil scene – until I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned just in time to see a scruffy-looking object plummet from the sky and land with a plop on the dog’s nose.

Too startled to move at first, we both just stared. It was a baby bird. As it hopped from its unfortunate landing pad, Toby came to her senses and did what any self-respecting dog would do – she lunged. So did I, and grabbed her collar just in the nick of time. Toby’s teeth snapped shut on empty air and I began dragging her towards the house. Claws raking furrows in the lawn, she struggled to get at the bird all the while yelping like a strangled hyena.

My husband stuck his head out the door. “What’s going on?” he said.
At that point the noise level in our backyard was roughly equivalent to a rock concert. In addition to the howling dog, we had acquired an entire flock of hysterical bird relatives chirping and shrieking and swooping through the air. All the while the young bird, apparently unconcerned by the uproar it had caused, sat calmly in the grass, bright eyes blinking in the sun.

After depositing our crazed pet in the house, my husband and I sat down to watch the drama unfold. Two of the birds, presumably Mom and Dad, landed near the baby and chirped with shrill disapproval.

We wondered what had happened. Was this a flying lesson gone awry? Had the youngster simply gotten tired of testing its new wings and checked out? The odds of it dropping from the sky and landing on the nose of a dog must have been astronomical, but as I’ve learned over the years, it’s best to expect the unexpected when dealing with children. The adult birds were clearly appalled by their offspring’s close call, and I could imagine the dialogue that must have been taking place.

Mother bird: “What were you thinking!”
Baby: “Nobody told me not to land on a dog’s nose.”
Father bird: “Why would we tell you that? Everyone knows better than that!”

Like any child caught in an embarrassing situation, this one appeared to ignore its elders. It fluffed its feathers with great dignity and at one point actually turned its back on the others. It made a couple of half-hearted attempts to fly, but though seemingly uninjured, just didn’t seem that interested.

Suspecting that our presence was adding stress to the situation, my husband and I retired to the house. I kept an eye on the scene lest a cat should appear, but it was clear that the bird family could easily take down a dinosaur if necessary. Before long the baby seemed to reconsider the merits of our lawn, and without fanfare, lifted itself into the sky, entourage in tow, and flew away. Quiet reigned in our yard once more.

I could relate to that bird family. I knew exactly how they felt. Eventually we all have to push our children out of the nest, yet in spite of our best efforts they often manage to get themselves into awe-inspiring trouble. In the end we simply have to shake our heads and accept the fact that we can’t protect them from everything. Sometimes all we can do is pray – namely that they’ll exercise caution with their new wings and ultimately,  find a safe place to land.

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This Age is Best

mother and baby

 I think the best part of any human culture is the love of a parent for a child.

“This age is best.”

I was chatting with a young mother who was clearly infatuated with her beautiful newborn.

“All she does is eat and sleep,” she continued, planting a kiss on the infants nose, “and she’s so cuddly, I can barely bring myself to put her down.  I wish she’d stay just like this.

I smiled to myself, remembering similar thoughts as a new mother.  I didn’t tell her  she would feel this way no matter what age the child was.  I decided to let her discover that for herself. Continue reading

Nocturnal Ramblings


It was 4:00 in the morning when my eyes flew open and a disturbing thought occurred. Had I turned off the iron before going to bed?  I lay there trying to convince myself to forget it and go back to sleep, but visions of smoke and catastrophe filled my mind, and I grudgingly crawled from my bed.  As I trudged down the hall my dog appeared and anxiously signaled to be let out. I sighed and realized that once again I’d neglected her bedtime potty break.

Not only that, but despite my extreme efforts to be quiet, a sleepy child’s radar had registered the presence of the Mother ship, and was now requesting a drink.  The iron, of course, was nowhere to be seen.  Not only had I turned it off, but in a surprising burst of efficiency, had even put it away.

As I opened the door to let the dog out, my foggy brain grasped the fact that the back gate was beginning to crash in the wind. There were two problems here; number one – our backyard bunny would escape, and two, the noise of the gate would keep me awake all night.

Reluctantly I set off across the moonlit yard feeling like a horror-movie actress who foolishly wanders through a dark house to close the banging shutter.  I had one advantage over the doomed one though, since by now my faithful hound had joined me.

After closing the gate, and nervously glancing over my shoulder, I raced for the house.  Had the trees always seemed this menacing? I was almost home free when a frenzied fur ball, otherwise known as the neighbors psychotic cat, exploded from the hibiscus bush, hissing and spitting in defense of my imagined attack. My canine protector flew into action, tripping me and racing off in hot pursuit, while I, clutching my heart in fear, managed to regain my footing and stagger into the house.

Sinking back into my heavenly warm bed, I glanced at the clock and was shocked to discover there were only two hours until I had to get up again.  I commanded myself to go to sleep, and amazingly enough,  drifted away.

I dreamed I was on a coon hunt. Jed Clampett and I raced after a tiny furry creature while the hounds bayed with excitement . . . what?  My eyes blinked open – coon hunt? I sighed. I could still hear the hounds, but the sound wasn’t coming from the hills of the Texas tea.  It was my own mutt, howling in lonesome misery on the back porch.

My husband, roused to groggy semi-consciousness, said “Why is the dog outside?”

“It’s a long story,” I said, as I pulled on my robe, “I blame it on the iron.”