Friday, July 23, 2010

I'm a Home Wrecker

Let us a little permit Nature to take her own way; she better understands her own affairs than we.
Michel de Montaigne, translated

I've destroyed a family, or two.

For the past couple years, we've had a family of Barn Swallows living in our dock eaves. We like them. They sit on the fan above us and sing to us. We watch as their young awaken and the parents tend and protect them, teach them to soar the sky and eat the spiders and mosquitoes living around us. They keep a neat nest and have a lovely song.

On another eave, we've had a sparrow family. I've lain in my hammock and watched that mother push her young out of the nest and down the railing, letting them know their time to explore on their own has arrived. One day last year I observed an eight hour process from pushing the babies away to their actual flight. (Wish raising my own kids had been that easy.)

The Swallows and Sparrows appeared to live in relative peace until this year. The Bird Wars have begun. Apparently in this mottled sparrow mess of collected treasures, the eggs did not hatch.

Which caused the male sparrow to stake out another space and claim the entire dock as his domain. With relentless fervor, he and his female crew began nest making in various spaces, including the swallow nests. Messy nests. Eggs galore.

The swallows relocated their nest to the neighbor's dock, but the neighbors promptly removed it. These human inhabitants also spray constantly for spiders and fog their entire yard to kill any bugs. Seems rather futile to me - we are at the lake.

After a few days back in town, I returned to the cabin. From our front window I saw a flurry of activity down on the dock. With my binoculars, I watched a flustered female sparrow pick up stray nest pieces in her beak, a tad frantic as to how to get them back in place. I assumed the swallows had returned to reclaim their own home and deflect the new building. A walk on the the dock proffered indeed the discovery of broken eggs on the ground, their yellow yolks on the sun-warmed wood looking like a miniature fried egg.

Finally having an opportunity to string a couple of days together to mimic a compete slug and hibernate in my hammock, I found myself engulfed in the middle of these bird wars swarming above me. Seemed a nonstop daily cycle of rebuilding and destruction of homes. The swallows flying through the spires of the dock patrolling the area. No physical fights, just a show of unity and diligence on the part of the swallows. The sparrows - domineering and invasive, unwavering. I decided to intervene.

I had my tallest son - 6'3" climb the ladder and remove the sparrow messes from the swallow nests. And, the extra ones they had started on other rafters. We only cleaned up the nest with the unhatched eggs, as the grasses and collected pieces of feather and matter in that nest dangled like two feet of hanging trash. Following Linda at Wander to the Wayside's lead, I hoped that the nest with lifeless eggs and the loss of their new makeshift nests might force the sparrows to relocate to another dock. My swallows could live in peace. Me, too.

I stayed for a while that afternoon, awaiting the response. The male and female sparrow arrived at their dismantled swallow nest and displayed quiet distress. The female leaned her head against her mates neck for a moment, then flew off. The male, took a few of the loose strands of grass remaining from our cleanup and placed them gently inside the nest.

A tender moment, I'd experienced. I felt like a beast.

Upon leaving the lake later that day, I wondered what might occur while I returned to my home and tended the flock living there. When I returned to the cabin a few days later, armed with my new Google research on the invasive sparrow empire in North America, I worried about my swallows. I found their original nest remained clear. However, another haphazard sparrow nest loomed above me in the rafters. But only one. Seemed the swallows with their tell-tale forked tails had gathered in force - the parents and both sets of babies born this year joined and running recon. One alighting on the fan, while several sat on the eaves, and when the male sparrow inched his way toward the swallow nest, two to three swallows huddled, emphasizing their presence.
Mr. Sparrow keeping watch, never giving up, never giving in.

The swallows equally vigilant.

I question my involvement in this process, that I turn up my nose to my neighbors decisions of chasing away the birds, hanging fake owls, and spraying weekly for spiders. But, I, too, have intervened in the process of nature. Even though I only sought peace for all of them, I chose one over the other. Difficult.

Meanwhile, my birdie looks on.

Happy to visit the lake and spend his mornings outside talking to all his friends as they fly by. Another piece of nature I have to admit I control.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Every 18 Year Old Boy Dreams of...

Children aren't happy with nothing to ignore,
And that's what parents were created for.
Ogden Nash, "The Parent," Happy Days, 1933

When I was 19 years old, I enrolled as a junior at Michigan State University. With two years of community college behind me, I drove myself the two and a half hours to East Lansing for summer orientation. I registered, bought my books and paid for my first quarter of tuition and living from my own bank account. All that jazz.

When school began in the fall, I lived in a dorm. A few freshman lived on my floor and come to find out, they had attended a different summer orientation. One where their parents had attended as well and spent the night in a dorm. I had to chuckle to myself. As a transfer student, that option wasn't offered to me and besides, no way in hell would my parents have done that. My mom sleeping in a bunk bed? In a dorm? With other parents? I don't think so.

I just returned from orientation at the University of Alabama with Ian. No way in hell did I sleep in a bunk bed either. Ian stayed in the dorm. I had my own hotel room. Me, myself, and I. A remote control. A bottle of wine brought from home. A cooler of fresh berries to savor. Bag of cheese puffs. Worked for me.

Yes, for those of you that have been here before, Ian's turn to road trip with mom. (New readers - my kids just love this.) Complete with AAA guidebooks. Instead of heading west as I did with Jordan driving to Flagstaff, Arizona on this road...

...we went the other way. A new part of the country to explore. Road trip - always an adventure.

As usual, took FOR EV ER to get out of Texas, but most surprised at the beauty of the Piney Woods.

The Mississippi at Vicksburg, MS
The casino over on the right. I can't believe all the casinos everywhere. My husband and I are not gamblers, so always surprises me to see how many exist and in such odd places. When I grew up, you could only gamble in Las Vegas. And Monte Carlo.
Finally we arrived at the University of Alabama. Here's a view of The Quad.

Ian's college - the football stadium conveniently located next door.

The President's home - one of the only buildings to survive the Civil War.
The library - I took this photo so Ian could read this and recognize the building while he's there. (I bet they let you inside there, too, Ian.)

After two days of "disorientation" and the up/down emotion of the reality of his decision, more familiarity with the campus gained, classes registered for and a quick peek at the future dorm room, we were ready to hit the road. Had intended to visit the Alabama or Florida beaches on the way home. Followed the oil stories and felt this wasn't the best time to take a dip in the ocean. I'm so sorry for that as I've never seen the sugar white sand beaches. Hopefully, soon...

Instead, we drove to New Orleans.
And saw the Mississippi way down the road from our previous stop. We walked a mile or more. Doesn't seem fair that New Orleans and the gulf regions affected by the hurricanes again face such devastation. Although, crowds shared the sidewalks with us and we found a great deal on a hotel in the French Quarter. A few oyster houses had no oysters to sell and some of the gumbo was missing a little of the local fare. But, we didn't care.

New Orleans - what fun!

Here's Ian talking to his dad on the phone with St. Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square in the background. I handed the phone to Ian after his Dad said, "I've never been to New Orleans," in one of those poor, woe-is-me, voices.

Yeah, and I've never been to Singapore, Malaysia, Japan, Taiwan, Seattle, or Prague. Here's a few photos I took on our walk.

I'm thinking we'll be back. Bring that husband of mine so he can say he's been here, too. Ian had his red beans and rice and I had some delicious craw fish quesadillas. Had exhaustion not permeated our minds from our two day stress fest, I would have made a fine dining reservation as Ian, the future chef, appreciates good food. But the meals we chose comforted our weary college orientation souls.

In answer to the title of this piece - What Every 18 Year Old Boy Dreams Of... A road trip with Mom, right? RIGHT! That's what you were thinking.


Every 18 year old boy's dream...

walking down Bourbon Street with his mother.
Go visit the south. They need us and there is much to enjoy.


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