recently, during the pandemic, begun closely
noting the behavior of the birds, now that they are more plentiful
where I live. They live full lives, as I've noticed, and have a world
all to themselves.
have a friend who insists that birds converse with him. When he
talks, he says, “The bird was telling me to stop,” or “It
asked me to…” or “We agreed…” as if
this little creature were another person, a human, capable of full
conversation. But perhaps the truth is something slightly different -
that his ears and body are attuned to the language of birds.
humans speak in full sentences. We can convey things in speech,
writing, in text, sometimes with no need for a body at all. But in
person we do more - our body speaks silently. I can warn my children
with a look, exchange understanding with a friend with a smile,
express anger by doing (seemingly) nothing. We talk in our eyes, our
gestures, our posture, our cheeks, our hands, even our feet. We
excrete pheromones which may tell more about us than we realize.
it was that day when I walked along a well-trodden path near my home.
It’s a little dirt walkway with a fence on either side. One
side has strawberry trees and grape vines and small entrances with
gates. The other hosts ancient eucalyptus trees and creeping vines,
as well as patches of bushy grass that often holds dew and sparkles.
recognized a black-eyed junco that dropped to a clear area on the
ground between two trees. It was pecking at the ground. Soon another,
duller gray bird joined it - the female. The conversation between
them was sparse, but sounded much like my own with my husband when we
are working on a task together.
I stepped a little closer, they gave each other a warning chirp, and
flitted away. When I relaxed, they seemed to relax. As I tensed, they
moved away. Was there something in my emotional state they could
continued to eat, occasionally sending chirps my way. I tried to
understand, but couldn’t. Eventually, I left, warned off. After
all, I was intruding on their meal.
seen many juncos since. Some warn other birds away, and fight over
the bird feeder. Others are protective of their family members.
There’s always a sound to accompany each action, a language by
which they communicate. Just like us, these feathered friends have
full lives with clear communication. Perhaps, also, they can teach us
the value of brevity.
of the message
won't know where to send it.)
story list and biography
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