For the Birds

Blue jay, by Lucie G

Every morning, my porch is a flurry of wings and tails. Birds and squirrels and it’s a mad dash to the peanuts and the bird bath, especially the latter now that the temperatures are warming up and the water is no longer iced over. This morning, there has been an especially vocal blue jay, a bird I haven’t seen in months and months, ever since my neighbor (the Blue Jay Whisperer) moved. But here’s one now and he’s singing his little heart out.

At least until the crows show up. He goes quiet then, and the crow song dominates. Another crow arrives. A hearty crow conversation is had at loud levels.

“You didn’t tell me Jay would be here…”

“I didn’t kn–”

“At least we’re not wearing the same thing.”

The blue jay watches from a high branch, pondering, but he doesn’t leave. He sits the crows out and when they’ve taken their peanuts and gone, he sings again, then swoops down for a peanut of his own.

One of my favorite writing books is Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott. It’s a book I come back to, especially when my creativity ebbs. It’s a way of refilling the well, of taking stock of what I do well, and applying that to the page. What did this blue jay teach me about writing this morning?

1. We aren’t all crows. Crows are big and loud and they pretty much go where they want to. The blue jay is smaller, but brighter. The crows are glossy, but the blue jay looks like he’s been painted with some care, whereas the crows were simply dipped. Both birds are pretty in their own way–different, distinct.

2. Your time will come. The blue jay comes in to grab his peanut but then bam, the crows return, startling him back up into the branches. He sits, watching and waiting, and when they go, it’s his turn again, to swoop down and be noticed.

3. You can get feedback from unexpected sources. The blue jay and the squirrels seem to have an accord. The jay perches on the fence with them sometimes and they watch each other as they take peanuts. The squirrels chitter. The blue jay sings. They seem to listen to each other, even though at first glance they have nothing at all in common but for their love of peanuts. Maybe that’s enough.

4. Write, even if you don’t think anyone is reading you. I can’t see the blue jay now, but every so often, I hear him. Even unseen, his song is heard and appreciated, probably by more than just me. And there he goes again. Singing. Singing.

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