That morning a month ago with coffee and journal in hand I looked out to see two bluebirds atop the bluebird house. This particular house held several birthings last year prompting much anticipation this year, in us at least. The weekend prior as a cold front approached, we looked out to see six bluebirds fly into the same bluebird house one right after the other as if to say, "Mom, Dad, incoming. Make room." This may have been a test for the bluebird parents cramming six now adult bodies in the oddly shaped home, but it was not my test.
Watching the rush home that afternoon was delightful as was seeing the two prospective parents inspect the accommodations. As a story began to form, a story about the bluebird branch on my family tree, another drama was suddenly being enacted outside. Three bluebirds were fighting two black birds who obviously thought they had dibs on the house too. I like to think I'm accepting of all my children but this put me to the test. From my chair I shouted, like they could hear me, "There's space galore out there. Go find a nesting site that's not already taken" to the blackbirds that is.
In a minute at most, the blackbirds flew away and my tension subsided only to see the bluebirds this time going at one another. Two of them were headed earthward in a mid-air dance that didn't appear all that graceful, wings flapping and of course, me indoors shouting, "Cut it out, guys. Don't make me come out there." I later learned that what I interpreted as fighting is mating not unlike some human couples, I guess.
The point of my prologue is this mother felt such despair that she never completed the story of her feathered children. I became discouraged and also grateful that I wasn't a parent while holding a sense of wonder as to how parents do it. I did not forget the story entirely though and the challenge I found in loving the blackbird equal to the bluebird which brings me to another morning.....
A month after the above, I sat coffee and journal in hand with the bird house in sight as two bluebirds arrived. The male, the brighter of the two, perched on the roof while the female went inside. I was hopeful they'd ultimately find the pine needles I had gathered and scattered about for nesting material.
A bit later while passing a window I happened to notice two blackbirds busily going in and out of yes, the same bird house. Maybe it's a time share this year. They went in and out repeatedly then sat on the roof top surveying the surrounding nursery area for their young.
My first impulse was to grab a ladder and remove the nesting material from their house. A temporary flash of actress Tippi Hedren in "The Birds," my favorite childhood movie, prevented this since the potential tenants were in the neighboring yard.
This was not a good idea for other reasons. I had been considering the many ways I've not consciously used my energy over the years. My motives have been good but I've still dabbled in others lives thinking I knew best when I didn't. What was the right and wise use of my energy in relation to the birds, the bluebirds and the black birds?
I wondered why I couldn't be as happy with two blackbirds nesting nearby as I would be with two bluebirds. For starters, we've no shortage of blackbirds. They're everywhere whereas bluebirds were endangered in the 70's after a 9o% decline, a result of massive clear cutting with the advent of the chainsaw, the use of pesticides and DDT and the loss of habitat thanks to imported starlings ie. my blackbirds and house sparrows.**
It doesn't seem fair to blame blackbirds for human shortsightedness as to the long-term results of pesticides and our develop-or-pave-every-square-inch-of-America attitude. I also shouldn't blame them for reminding me of man's greed, but they do. Blackbirds crowd my feeders scarfing seed the way we've scarfed up Earth's resources. I want to shout, "There is enough, enough! Now share!"
Most curiously in my ponderings, I recalled last summer in France hearing blackbirds sing. My friend Vera tells me they sing in Germany too. Yours may sing. Mine do not. I find this fascinating and intriguing. I wondered if American blackbirds don't sing because we've yet to embrace our darkness. We fight darkness, try to keep it at bay. We deny our shadow, our wounds and end up with compulsions, secrets and addictions. We deny the darkness of grief and even with Oprah and bookstore shelves lined with self-help books, we do not give ourselves permission to deeply cry, to really mourn.
Europeans have their addictions as well as their developers looking to make money from concretizing Mother Earth, but they've been through dark nights of sorrow in a way we haven't. War after war has been fought on their soil. They've suffered a depth of loss unfathomable to us. I wonder if this is why their blackbirds sing. The people of France and Germany have found deep joy amidst many deep dark nights.
I also wondered if our blackbirds are songless because they were brought here, to America along with house sparrows, by humans wanting reminders of home as from their home lands they departed. This actually stirred my compassion reminding me of step-children brought along by adults into new situations in which the children have no say.
I spent a full hour while going about my tasks considering the above and whether to take a ladder to the bird house. If it came to this, I knew what I intended. I would nail a strip of wood over a portion of the hole to make it smaller in hopes this would dissuade the apparent new and larger tenants.
I determined instead to wait until my morning meditation call with Mystery School friends to see if the reading for the day shed light on my struggle. I had only to hear: "...the world is a mutual, interdependent, cooperative enterprise" to know the answer to my dilemma for now at least.***
The blackbird, blue bird and I are all part of the enterprise in my yard as well as the enterprise being worked out within. For the remainder of the day, I allowed the enterprise to unfold and remained open to the teachings of all my children. The thought even crossed my mind that a baby black bird born in this yard might be the first American blackbird to sing.
These ideas temporarily helped the part of me that felt like an addict in recovery working the first step, owning my powerlessness as to which birds would ultimately move into the house.
Night arrived and I still carried tension, torn between my feathered kids knowing I should love both, yet mesmerized by one and upset with the other. I read "Captivating Bluebirds" aware I've never seen a book about blackbirds or starlings. My tension increased as I read of their aggression when occupying another's nest, kin to how we've occupied countries.
The book also confirmed why I am taken with bluebirds. As the underdogs of the bird world, they've rebounded from near extinction. They also represent happiness, deep happiness which captivates me.
This did it. I fell asleep determined the next morning I would ensure the bluebirds had a home. I would be the guardian of happiness while trying to gently, but firmly model for the blackbirds limits to aggression. This would be tricky but I knew it could be done.
The next morning at sun up, I was up and so were the bluebirds. The entire morning passed as the female busied herself flying in and out of the house, dead grass in her beak preparing the nest. The male perched atop the house. His stance seemed to say, "I am the guardian of the happiness that lives here." It was as if they were both saying, "Mom, we'll take care of the enterprise out here. You take care of the enterprise in there, the one inside of you."
I sometimes wonder if that's how we've gotten to this place in human history. Over the centuries the heart of the world has been pummeled black and blue. It has been witness to the pains of war and ethnic cleansings, concentration camps and crusades, slavery and starvation, witch hunts and burnings, the killing of animals and the domination of the earth.
The heart has been pummeled black and blue. Then not so long ago, along came manufacturing, mass marketing and the media selling the idea that the "enterprise" involved stuff. We temporarily forgot the enterprise within. Tired of pain we became anesthetized.
Fortunately the Inner prize, deep love from the heart, is like the bluebird still very much here. It is this love, a mother's love, found in the feminine of women and men, that must hold the tension represented by the black bird and the blue bird especially when doing so leaves you black and blue.
As with 'real' children, this is not the last time mine will push the limits of love, forcing me to mindfully look at my actions and motivations, my stereotypes and judgments. My feathered and four legged children will offer many more opportunities to navigate uncomfortable terrain.
I want to stake my claim in the terrain of deep happiness, in the home that is the heart. I want to claim a home that can hold love for all the kin on my family tree, the black birds and blue birds, even when doing so leaves my heart black and blue.
-Dawn! The Good News Muse
*Click "Where is Your Heart in the World" for the Feb. 19th Musing.*** Quote from "Buddhism and Ecology: The Interconnectedness of Dharma and Deeds" edited by Tucker and Williams.
** Facts from "Captivating Bluebirds" by Stan Tekiela
** Facts from "Captivating Bluebirds" by Stan Tekiela