I have a Pavlovian thing going with my birds. Every time I go outside onto the terrace and down the steps, they watch me. Quietly. No chirping. No sound. And then, when I come back in and close the door, they wait. One by one they start inching towards the bird feeder sitting on the bannister. I have four – the other three are down the garden. Until recently, this was the one they’d visit last. Most likely because it is in full view of the kitchen and they were a distrusting lot.
But gradually, over the last few weeks, they’ve realised that I mean them no harm. They’ve come to see me as a friend. I feed them. And in return for that kindness, they’ve agreed among themselves that it’s okay if I stand and watch them eat. They took a vote.
I’ve no idea what they are. They all look the same. There’s about 40 of them all told and they’re getting chubbier by the day. Of course, that could be my imagination.
I’ve read up on how often you should refill a bird feeder. And it varies from weekly to daily to whenever you can afford it. So I’m winging it.
I bought some seeds which I mix with breadcrumbs. They like it.
I’ve crumbled up stale muffins and cakes – they like anything with apples in it – that goes the quickest.
They’re not fans of plain bread but they do like raisins.
I could watch them for hours. But they eat so quickly that each handful gets me just a couple of minutes of their time.
I’m not overfeeding them – there are so many that each one gets just a couple of beakfuls. They all bale in, head first, squeezing in beside each other, flinging the feed all over the place. The cuter ones simply bide their time on the ground, waiting for the crumbs and grains to fall. Their patience is always rewarded.
This week, in particular, I’ve noticed that I’m feeding them more often. Watching them is my therapy. It grounds me. With them, I’m really in the moment. In the now.
We had visitors this past weekend. A legal number, don’t worry. All careful about where they go and who they see. It started off as a joint birthday celebration but it became more than that.
I’d almost forgotten what it was like to laugh. That deep belly laughter than comes from your core and bubbles over, stretching your mouth into shapes it had nearly forgotten it could make. The one that gives you a pleasant pain in your side, the remains of which you still feel the next day. The one that has you throwing back your head and wiping away your tears.
I’d almost forgotten what it was like to cook for so many, too. Back in the day, I loved to entertain but lately, that’s not been possible. Curfews. Restrictions. Wariness. They’ve all combined to make us less hospitable and more inward-focused. I’m all for self-reflection but too much of it isn’t good for me. I was grateful for the company. For the diversion. For the variety of opinions and thoughts. For the conversation. For the debates, the arguments, and the soliloquies.
We were a lot like my birds. Gathering at the kitchen table to eat and talk and laugh and simply be. And then once done, we scattered. Back to whence we’d come. A little happier I think in ourselves. A little lighter from the 24-hour reprieve from COVID. A little more grateful for the company of good friends, feathered or not.