Monday, January 6, 2014

The Thing With Feathers

I grew up in a family that loved birds. As far back as my mind can remember, I have opened my eyes each morning and quickly found a window through which I could spot the birds already bustling about the yard.
My childhood house had a tall window over the kitchen sink and just outside there stood a sweet little redbud tree with heart-shaped leaves. It was just tall enough for its limbs to reach to where we stood inside and from one branch we hung a modest little feeder. Most of the time, however, we just threw bread crusts and stale crackers on the ground. I think the birds liked those the best.
My dad taught me the name of every single bird that visited. His eyes always lit up at the flighty dance of the chickadees or the flashing red of a cardinal and with every new arrival he welcomed them by name, like old friends returning from a lengthy absence.
That is how it always felt when the juncos appeared. We called them “snow birds” because they always arrived on the cusp of cold weather and were nature’s gentle reminder that winter was on its way.
Over the years my dad’s vast ornithological knowledge gradually seeped into the corners of my little head and, to this day, I can still name every bird I see. It is one of the greatest gifts my father has ever given me.
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