Friday, September 13, 2013

from your hands


It was just past breakfast, though the time on the clock suggested it should have been just past lunch, and we were finishing up a board game.  And we were all still in our pajamas.

This was one of our visits with my parents at their camp.  The camp, a cabin on the side of a lake in the western mountains of Maine, was originally built by my grandpa, my mother's father.  The camp sits along a sandy beach in a small cove, protected from the rest of the lake by a line of large boulders between the cove and the open lake.  

My grandfather's property, now my parents' property, is very small.  Postage stamp sized with boundary lines that run diagonally away from the shoreline.  The strange parrallelogram makes for some very interesting land use issues and locations for driveways, outbuildings, boat houses, and septic systems.  

But despite its size, my father has maximized the lot, creating a habitat for the woodland creatures there, carefully pruning and caring for the trees that were there when we first started coming here and nurturing new ones that grew during our time here.  The result is a small grove of trees just off to the side, between the cabin and the lake.  There are several large and looming white pines, trees that still scare me when they sway in the intense wind that comes along with the storms here. 


This small grove, with wild blueberry plants flourishing in the acidic soil produced by the fallen pine needles, large pines a curious mix with smaller birches, has become my father's haven for small song birds.  


He has a number of feeders placed within it, and hummingbirds come sip amongst the woodpeckers, nuthatches, chickadees, and sparrows.  It is a shady and safe place for these birds, with the more show stopping, attention seeking birds of the lake just beyond.  Birds of prey, birds of substantial size, birds with piercing calls of attack and eerie laughs all together there on the lake.  Bald eagles, great blue herons, and loons dance, call, and pose for attention.

But, like my quiet father, if you stand still and quietly for a bit, these littles here are a spectacle all their own.



This tiny protected spot.  It is aflutter with activity.  Nurtured for a number of years, as much with patience as with seed.

As we finished our game, birds were chattering out there, just outside the window.  Movement in and out of the light.  Elliott hopped up to watch the birds through the screen.  My father watched him for a bit and then quietly headed out the back door.

And arrived in the grove of trees with a step ladder.  Elliott opened the door and danced out, without saying anything, intrigued, with Julia and eventually Nicholas not far behind.

All my father said was, I was thinking that maybe you might like to see if you can get the birds to eat seeds from your hands.

The paint can tray of the stepladder became the seed holder.  And Elliott climbed up on it, to get closer to the birds.  And watched them.  Standing so still.  A small smile on his face.  There was very little human talk, though several times I realized that the bird calls I was hearing were in fact accurate whistles by my father.





Elliott was quite satisfied with this.  

But Julia and Nicholas really wanted to entice a bird to land on their hands.  As my father told them he had been able to do.  They watched him for a bit, and then tried it for themselves.  The kids spent hours out there, hands outstretched, standing as still and as silently as they could.  



 


Not a single bird landed on anyone's hand.  And honestly, I don't think anyone was really disappointed by that.  But it was still a day that now, amongst the rush of school schedules and the changing of summer toward fall, and the necessity of all of us focusing a bit more outward, it is a day that I return to in my mind.  A day that was the result of a summer of togetherness and swimming in pools of open and unstructured time.  Where you can move from pajamas to bathing suits and then back to pajamas, having done not much more than trying to touch the world with your hands and sit with silence, and for that to be enough, full even.  Those are the days that I think allow us to reintegrate into the noisier faster attention grabbing world but still hold this other summer part of ourselves close, in our outstretched hand.

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