Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cousin Larry

This week there has been a lot of activity at the hummingbird feeder outside our kitchen window. One bird in particular likes to sit in the vines growing up our patio cover, and one day he sat there for probably ten minutes, grooming himself.

Have you ever seen a hummingbird do this? He ruffled up his feathers as if he was airing them out, and he kept shifting his weight back and forth, using his beak to clean under his wings. I could even see his long tongue retracting every time he took a break and turned to the other side.

This hummingbird must have had an itchy neck, because suddenly he raised his tiny hind leg and scratched his neck like a dog. He kept scratching, and his feathers ruffled up in scraggly peaks until he turned to the other side to satisfy another itch. I don’t know that it truly was an itch, but I couldn’t help comparing him to George, whose furious neck scratching verges on ecstasy.

We always had a bird feeder in our rural Indiana backyard when I was a kid, and there are many photos of bright cardinals or blue jays at our wooden feeder in the snow, or at our back door where Mom sometimes spread birdseed so the birds would come closer. Now, after a year of filling the feeder at our house in Vegas, we finally have regular hummingbirds. It took them that long to claim our yard as their territory. Every winter I put up a finch feeder (a regular feeder would attract pigeons) and enjoy the feeding frenzy outside our door. I take it down in the Summer, however, so I can get rid of all the bird poop on our patio! (Grandma calls bird poop “bird dirty.”)

When I had my first apartment in Vegas, there was a sparrow who regularly came to my balcony railing to sit and torment my cats. He would face my sliding glass door and sing loudly as if calling to my cats. When they finally showed interest, he would fly away to a nearby tree and then start the game again about an hour later.

Having birds come to my house makes it feel like home, bringing nature to a nature-starved girl. And they connect me to the greater world when they fly far above us, stopping at one house and then another, and then returning again to visit me the next day. They are mysterious, delicate, lofty, yet also ever so simple. They come to my yard and become my little friends.

I think I will name the itchy bird Cousin Larry, in honor of local Hoosier celebrity, legendary Boston Celtic, Larry Bird. Everyone in Southern Indiana claims to be related to him. But he really is our cousin. I swear. Just ask my Grandma.

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