Chickadee Mysteries

The garden is lush with the vigorous growth of late spring. Hawthorn is budding, amidst leaves that reveal (to me!) faces, the Green Man in miniature throughout the tree. In the hedge, tiny Chickadee perches on a blackberry vine, pecking at the underside of a leaf, zipping to another part of the shrub, and busying itself with the underside of another leaf.

I assume that the Chickadee is nibbling something, but what? Questions sift through me–what does a chickadee eat? Where does a chickadee nest? What do the nests look like, what are they made of? I imagine that if I passed good time out here by the Hawthorn, and watched my friend Chickadee, and attempt to follow him with my eyes, with my feet, I would in time learn his secrets. Or some of them.

I realize that I have learned many secrets regarding chickens from hours of watching and appreciating, and just getting to know the practical individuals that are chickens. Surely I could put in the same kind of curiosity, time, loving sense and learn about the chickadees.

Maybe you would like to do this too.

Watch Robin or Crow, Jay or Song Sparrow? Where may a little or large bird in your backyard lead you?


Chickadee - art by Jane Valencia (c) 2001
Chickadee – art by Jane Valencia (c) 2001


Ginger’s Rescue

Jane, here. Alas, the next chapter of Because Of The Red Fox is still in the workshop! I hope to have it posted by the latter half of next week, if not sooner. In the meantime ….

Once again, characters from Because Of The Red Fox speak …

Annie: Annie, here. You wouldn’t believe what’s been happening at our house these days. Well, actually, it’s our friend Djuna’s house. But where she lives reminds me so much of our home and the land around it, and the Hundred Acre Wood Farm Community — like it’s the inspiration or something — but it’s different too and has its own life and destiny and everything —

Santa: Annie, stop talking in circles! You’re not making any sense!

Shell: What Annie means is, is that at Homestead School and home, which is on an island that is very much like Yonder Island, and at a place on the island that is remarkably similar to the Hundred Acre Wood Farm Community, but different too, we’ve had a most amazing encounter.

Annie: See, some folks at Homestead School — which is this really magical, fun, and wise school in the woods —

Santa: — “wise”? You make it sound like it’s alive!

Annie: Everything is alive, Santa. Everything’s got a personality — you ought to know that by now!

Santa: Just because —

Annie (smugly): – all our experiences support that very basic truth!

Shell: The teapots do talk, and dolls do have parties when we aren’t looking.  And sometimes even when we are. Anyway, Annie. You were saying —

Annie (hopping up and down): Right! So, one wet and windy day a Homestead student’s mom found a baby robin just lying on the ground–really, looking half- or mostly dead — its head flopped back in the mud–

Santa: Yeah, and she scooped up the baby robin, and Djuna’s mom Dana, I think, held it against her skin for a really long time — an hour, maybe, to warm it —

Shell: The baby bird must have tried to fly, and had flopped instead, or maybe it had fallen out its nest, or —

Annie: Dana brought the bird back to life — warmed it up, and she and Djuna gathered earthworms, and they’ve been feeding it every half hour — earthworms, earthworms, yum!

Santa: You mean, yuck! Unless you’re a bird!

Annie: Anyway, our friend Djuna has been doing quite a lot of the care for the baby. The baby robin is named Ginger, and she’s soooo — (Annie gives a rapturous sigh)

Shell: Well, it’s pretty magical. Completely different from our experience with chickens who can almost talk. I mean, we’re talking about a wild bird here, truly wild —

Ginger And Djuna

Santa: –only, now it has bonded with humans. when we visited, Ginger was hanging out on a garden plot while her humans working away there. Then Djuna got Ginger to perch on a tree twig —

Annie: We’re all wondering what will happen when Ginger learns to fly — she did fly just a tiny bit while we were there.

Shell: We heard about someone in the neighborhood who has helped wild birds come back to health. One was a raven, who eventually flew off, but comes back to this person from time to time.

Santa: Ravens are super-intelligent, though. Would Ginger come back? Will she learn how to hunt on her own? Will she survive?

Shell: Well, those are the big questions, right. Remember, how that wild duckling just literally ran into the lap of Jane’s family? They raised that little duck, and the duckling followed them around and everything, but eventually Quackstar (that’s the duck’s name) got more and more wild, and one day he began flapping his wings —

Annie: Yeah, yeah — his wings just sped him around the yard, and then out of the yard —

Santa: — and he never came back. Jane and her family hope that he made it to a neighborhood pond or park and found himself a wife, but who knows what really happened.

Annie: Well, we just can’t know, can we. But wild animals have been coming into people’s lives for just forever. And I think something really magical happens when they do.

Santa: Ah. I knew we’d get here.

Shell: What do you mean?

Santa: Annie’s point of — (Santa makes a flappy, swoony gesture with hands and body) — you know, the moment when Annie gets all … misty-swirly or something.

Shell: What’s wrong with that?

Santa: Well, it’s not really practical, is it?

Shell: Isn’t it?

Annie (ignoring them): When the wild and humans meet in these sweet, just — deliciously ordinary ways, I mean, when they start caring for each other — I think something wakes up in the universe like a jewel or a brand new star! Certainly here on earth we remember again how each living thing has its own special life. And we get the gift of being part of it! That has to send some shiny Instant Message to the planet — to just everything!

Santa: Wow, Annie. Uhhhh —

Shell: What kind of message, Annie?

Annie: Oh, you know, like a Valentine — not the sappy romantic kind — just the delightfully hand-decorated “Love, love, love” kind.

Santa chokes.

Shell (puzzled, amused, touched): Wow, profound, Annie.

Annie: Anyway, Djuna’s mom Dana who is a teacher at the Homestead School said she’s going to have the kids do their Sit Spots with Ginger —

Shell: A Sit Spot is where you have your own secret or private place in a bit of nature, and you just hang out there — the kids at the school have Sit Spot times.

Annie: You and the Sit Spot place and the plants and bugs and whatever is there get to be really good friends. When I’m at my Sit Spot I feel like I’m a pot of Peace Tea, well-infused.

Santa: I get super-fab ideas at my Sit Spot.

Shell: I guess I … find out more about my magic in mine. It kind of talks to me, not in words, though —

Santa (with a bemused, mystified expression): Well, I felt super-still and quiet when Ginger perched on my finger. I didn’t want to go anywhere else or do anything else, just gaze at Ginger.

Annie smiles smugly.

Santa (shoots an outraged glance): That doesn’t mean I support your la-la language, Annie! My response was very practical! I–(splutter)

Shell: Anyway, to Ginger’s good health! Thank you, Djuna, for introducing her to us, and sharing the story!

Ginger Perches


Annie:  What do you mean, ‘Patience’, Shell?  What does Patience have to do with the latest Leaf?  Here’s a cute photo of him, by the way.

Young Patience - photo by Annie

Shell: But, Annie, that’s a pretty old photo of Patience! He’s a handsome full-grown rooster now–except that of course he’s very small, being a bantam.

Annie: I lost my camera for a few months.  This pic is from November, I think.  Anyway, I thought you were calling for him.

Shell: No, Annie.  I was just letting our readers know to, um, have patience.  Jane’s still revising the new Leaf.  But she hopes to have it posted early next week.

Santa (sagely):  Writer’s block.

Shell: Well, not really.  She’s already written the Leaf.  So it can’t be writer’s block.

Santa: Phobia of revision?

Shell: But she’s revising it–she’s not afraid of the Leaf, at least I don’t think so.  Though … in a way … the Leaf is kind of scary.

Santa: No, it isn’t.

Shell: Yes, it is.

Santa: No, it–

Shell (interrupting): Anyway, check back on Leap Day!  Yeah, for sure it will be posted by then!

Annie: Why?

Shell:  Because — Leap Day!  Get it, get it?  Leaf Day!

Santa: No, Shell.  I really don’t.