After my husband installed a bird feeder outside our kitchen window, an overpopulated city sprung to life in our silent winter garden. As I pressed my forehead against the icy pane, great clouds of birds swooped in to feed in a jittery mass and then exploded off the perch like scattershot. I was a child again, watching a magician wave his hankie. Voila, a flock appears; voila, it vanishes.
My husband and I ventured in to a feed store redolent of cedar. We were explorers, who'd crossed a border into foreign territory. The owner spoke a language peppered with exotic words like milo, while she rang up a fifty-pound bag of seeds and a bird book for identifying our backyard population.
Today a visitor clad in polka-dotted plumage flapped onto the feeder tray. I scoured the book for its photo in order to prove its existence. When I looked up, the traveler had vanished … along with the magic.
Another lesson from the animal kingdom.
More about the trouble with labeling things.