Sitting outside with dinner around twilight, I watched a sparrow-woman bring twigs to her nest hidden in the eaves of my neighbour's house. I wasn't giving her much thought, except that she looked cute with such a load in her beak as she hopped along the gutter ...
Suddenly, she stopped. A blackbird sat on the ridgepole above her nest!
For a very long time she stood there, holding on to her twigs, waiting and clearly wondering what to do. If the blackbird minded her, I do not know. I could tell a story of him, in his black coat and cold, smiling silence - but that would be slander. He did not move, and did not move, and the sparrow-woman waited with a growing sense of tension.
At last, her partner arrived. He flew tentatively at the blackbird, which did not stir even one feather. Calling then to his wife, he drew her away to a nearby aerial. They consulted together anxiously for a while. At least, he did all the talking, for her beak remained laden with nesting materials.
Hearing bird song in the garden is quite different from witnessing one bird talking directly, with obvious meaning, to another. I have always loved sparrows and wondered about their lives, but to see this drama unfolding was a reminder of how real they are - more than just flickers of song and feather in the background of my own life.
Would the blackbird discover their nest? Would he harm whatever eggs might be in there? Would the sparrow-man abandon his partner? Would she tire and lose her hard-gathered load? I felt their tension weigh upon my own heart.
Finally, the blackbird flew away. The sparrow-woman, guarded by her partner, flew at once into her secret nest. And I could breathe again.
In our house, we seldom go out without returning home laden with flower petals, shells, leaves. I use them to soften my place. The call these days for everything to be either beautiful or useful is lost on me. I want warmth, comfort; I want to gather the sheddings of nature and bring them in. They remind me that I am sister to the sparrow - small, wild-hearted, and loving home, in this bountiful and fearful world.