July 1st, 2009
Every morning I start my day sitting quietly out in the backyard, coffee in hand with Larry and Missy (my two “kids”-12 year old Himalayan felines) grazing around for fresh green grass. My ears are tuned to the magnificent calls and tweets of the beautiful birds that begin at dawn. No alarm clock needed. What a superb natural way to awaken to nature’s call.
There are so many different varieties of birds here in Los Angeles. Years ago there were only black crows. From the tiny, incredible hummingbird, to finches, to sparrows to unidentified birds all going about their daily business, as they communicate with each other with such intermittent incredible songs.
Sitting very still I observe the way they flit from a power line to a tree; spreading their wings as they look for worms; gliding on the thermals; their mating patterns and the way the males and females work together to build their incredibly designed nests and wonder how they know how to do this, as they never went to architectural school!
I had begun developing a relationship with the two mockingbirds. (Larry and Missy don’t “kill” – they grew up with birds and they and birds ignore each other.) The female mockingbird is very spunky and would come down, strut around the yard, picking out worms, opening her wings sporadically as she went. She would come really close and just sit and stare me in the eye. I kept talking to her with love, telling her how beautiful she was, how much I appreciated her and exchanging, in call and response fashion, her vast repertoire of song.
The house in the back is being renovated. One morning I heard the noise of a raging chainsaw. On investigation I found they were savagely severing the trees that hung over the adjoining fence to this yard. The very trees where the birds were painstakingly building their nests. I popped my head over the fence and yelled over the horrible noise: “Hey! Why are you cutting down these trees? The birds are nesting.” The reply was not unexpected. “They are old and diseased.” A long pause. “ We’ll put in new ones!” “A new sapling does not grow to a five-year old tree overnight,” I replied. “And if they were truly diseased, why not respectfully take care of them”. No reply. Next there was the obtrusive sound of a “tree eater” – those machines that chew up a tree and make it into wood chips – nests, young birds, eggs and all.
I was very disturbed to find that the birds freaked out and flew off. They did not come around for about ten days. I assumed it was because they were disoriented as their habitat and nesting had been destroyed.
By the tenth day, they returned and the beautiful Mockingbirds began building a nest in one of the two bearing, spiky lemon trees in the backyard, under my bedroom window. Dutifully they collected specific twigs to rebuild the nest that had been destroyed in the other tree. I was in awe at how they knew what twigs, the size and flexibility they needed to build and design their nest. This went on for days. Finally Momma bird laid her eggs. I watched, as both the male and female seemed to care and protect the nest. Dive bombing the squirrels that had also built a nest in one of the adjacent trees nearby in another adjacent neighbors yard. Ganging up on any crows that came near, courageously joining forces to chase them out of the area. A David and Goliath encounter, I thought. Such brave little beings, willing to go to any end to protect their young.
Momma bird would hear me coming out each morning and begin warbling her litany of bird songs as if to say, “Good morning, pleased to see you”. She always made me smile and felt good about the day. Her songs kept expanding and were out of this world. I continued in my stillness, to copy her song by whistling back to her and we enjoyed a call and response session like I have never had with a bird before.
Every other Wednesday the “gardeners” come to mow the lawn. I do not own this home; otherwise I would do it myself. I was inside, on the phone with China when I heard the roar of the lawnmower start up, then another horrible devastating sound tore into my equilibrium …a chainsaw. By the time I got out there it was too late. One of the men had a gigantic chain saw in his hand razing to waste level a young line of saplings I had been allowing to grow naturally. They were where the little birds would hang out, and had red flowers for the hummingbirds and bees to feed off the nectar and pollen. I was horrified. As he was about to move to the rose bushes, chain saw screaming and raised at the ready, I yelled, “Stop! What do you think you’re doing”? The two men looked at me as if I was a crazy woman.
The roar of the lawnmower and chainsaw screamed on in idle mode as the “boss” came over to me. “You are destroying the habitat the birds, bees and hummingbirds need. This is not the time for pruning and you don’t use a humongous chainsaw when you do.” “ And further, although you may think the roses are “dead” the hummingbirds and bees are still drawing from them.”
“We’re making a hedge”, was he reply. “That’s what the owner wants and they’re the one’s that pay me.”
I advised them to ask me whenever they were going to do anything else besides mow the lawn, and “under no circumstances do you bring a chainsaw into this yard again.” I wondered what happened to the days when we took into account the wonder and beauty of all the symbiotic relationships of nature going on in our own back yards. When we hand pruned everything with loving tender care and did it at the right time. When the garden was not just an object to be formed to our liking, but when we worked in harmony with the natural forms and growth of nature. When we took care of the needs of our birds and bees, helping them along in their urban struggle to continue their life’s purpose. Deep inside my entire being was still in trauma from that horrible vibration and frequency of all those man-made machines disturbing the atmosphere, in particular the chainsaw.
I noticed all the birds had disappeared, again. Nature abhors the sound of a chainsaw. Something about it is very distressing and rings out “danger”. I know it does for me too. Man-made machines and their screaming, disturbing sounds seem to be at odds with nature and her symphony tearing at our audio senses and inner peace. In fact, I find they completely disconnect me from the whole natural system of life.
Sadly, the mockingbirds abandoned their nest with six eggs in it. “Not safe”, “Can’t Trust” was the message. They have never come back. And I miss them so. The other birds slowly returned within the next ten days.
The “gardeners” come again tomorrow – and I am nervous. Nature and her inhabitants are crucial to our wellbeing and organic life. Again, the birds and I will be faced with an intrusion that makes us shudder. Perhaps I will dismiss the “gardners” this time and give the backyard and myself a rest from this fortnightly trauma and intrusion. I am beginning to dread every other Wednesday.