Once upon a time there was a bluebird pair who decided to take up residence in the lower right condominium of a purple martin house. The caretaker of this purple martin house had lowered the house in the fall in order to clean it out, and amidst the events of the early spring, she had neglected to raise the house to it's full height on the pole So there the house sat through the winter and early spring, resting on a snake guard made of wire mesh with sharp edges that the caretaker prayed would protect any bird families that would take up residence there.
One day, the caretaker noticed that a male bluebird was sitting on the top of the purple martin pole, as if standing guard. Soon, a female bluebird was seen there as well - and they both after a few days were discovered to be entering and exiting the purple martin house with some frequency. Again, the caretaker was busy and days went by and then a week or more and suddenly small beaks could be seen through the lower right doorway (if the caretaker stood on a large clay pot to take a look). Two beaks actually.
So the caretaker panicked. Her garden is a renowned snake emporium, the Lower Awendaw Snake Emporium to be exact (at least in her own terrified mind) - and she couldn't bear to see these bluebird babies become an evening snack for some wayward snake simply fulfilling it's own ecological destiny. That simply was not acceptable.
So one evening, she decided to move the purple martin house up a few feet so that the snake guard would be more effective. She didn't want to move it too far up the pole, because she didn't want to disturb the baby bluebirds or anger the doting parents - but according to wire mesh snake guard lore, it was best to have the guard about two to three feet below the house.
Fortunately, after moving the snake guard, all seemed good. There was one incident of a gruesome nature that involved a four foot snake and a dog, and the caretaker can gladly say that the dog won (but she just came in on the 'tail' end of this event, quite literally). But one day, as quickly as the bluebirds appeared, everything fell silent. There was no longer the male bluebird sitting proudly on the top of the purple martin pole, taking turns with the female bringing food to the two babies. There was also no longer any starving cries coming from inside the lower right doorway - and it seemed much too early to just assume that the young ones had just up and flown away. For a week or more, the caretaker feared the worst: that a snake had learned to manuever around the sharp edges of the wire guard through some fantastic acrobatic feat. After a day or so, however, she was looking up over her head, into the live oak canopy above, and she saw the male bluebird and then the female - flying around in an area of the yard opposite of the purple martin house. There were no little ones in sight.
But yesterday, the caretaker learned that there is indeed an advantage to working from home, because one happens upon events that they would not normally notice. Perhaps it's because the dogs are sequestered inside during work days, dreaming of being free in the garden, or perhaps it is because the caretaker isn't roaming the place, digging here, planting there. But suddenly, from the deck, the caretaker noticed once again the male bluebird on the top of the purple martin pole...with a baby bluebird. Before long there was a flurry of flying bluebirds, the female stopped by, and then the second offspring. Yes, it appeared that the two baby bluebirds had made it after all.
Which brings me to poetry, and Pablo Neruda. This morning while I was procrastinating the inevitable (i.e., work) I was roaming my favorite sites and happened upon a post mentioning Neruda over at A Lake County Point of View. I marvel at Pablo Neruda, for a million different reasons, the first of which is that he wrote love sonnets with such clarity and force that they bring you to your knees. My favorite, perhaps, is The Infinite One, of which he writes (a partial verse):
For me, you are a treasure more ladenwith immensity than the sea and its branchesand you are white and blue and spacious likethe earth at vintage time.In that territory,from your feet to your brow,walking, walking, walking,I shall spend my life.
I mean, my God - 'walking, walking, walking' - (men, read this man, study him, and as for me - I shouldn't be reading his poetry late on a Friday evening) - words that he not only wrote but lived by. He not only wrote beautiful love sonnets, but he wrote them about a woman that he truly loved, he felt the immensity of all of her. But then...Pablo distracts me further, because he writes of the sea with such intensity, and of flowers with such passion (as the County Clerk makes mention of), and (yes, there's a point to all of this) of birds. Pablo was a birder. This man rich in odes and sonnets also wrote 'bird by bird I've come to know the earth'.
by Pablo Neruda
A provincial poet and birder, I come and go about the world,
just whistle my way along,
to the sun and its certainty,
to the rain’s violin voice,
to the wind’s cold syllable.
In the course
of past lives
and preterit disinterments, I’ve been a creature of the elements
and keep on being a corpse in the city:
I cannot abide the niche,
prefer woodlands with startled
pigeons, mud, a branch of
the citadel of the condor, captive
of its implacable heights,
the primordial ooze of the ravines adorned with slipperworts.
Yes yes yes yes yes yes,
I’m an incorrigible birder,
cannot reform my ways -
though the birds
do not invite me
to the treetops,
to the ocean
or the sky,
to their conversation, their banquet,
I invite myself,
without missing a thing:
dark fishing cormorants
or metallic cowbirds,
to the mountains of Chile,
meadowlarks with pure
and bloody breasts,
hovering hawks, hanging from the sky,
finches that taught me their trill
nectar birds and foragers,
blue velvet and white birds,
birds crowned by foam
or simply dressed in sand,
pensive birds that question
the earth and peck at its secret
or attack the giant’s bark
and lay open the wood’s heart
or build with straw, clay, and rain
the fragrant love nest
or join thousands of their kind
forming body to body, wing to wing,
a river of unity and movement,
severe birds among the rocky crags,
lusty, erotic birds,
inaccessible in the solitude
of snow and mist,
in the hirsute hostility
of windswept wastes,
or gentle gardeners
or blue inventors of music
or tacit witnesses of dawn.
A people’s poet,
provincial and birder,
I’ve wandered the world in search of life:
bird by bird I’ve come to know the earth:
discovered where fire flames aloft:
the expenditure of energy
and my disinterestedness were rewarded,
even though no one paid me for it,
because I received those wings in my soul
and immobility never held me down.
— Pablo Neruda
translated by Jack Schmitt,
University of Texas Press, 1989