The Invitation

Bird feeder

I hung the invitation beneath the tree in the backyard and waited. I was so excited. Who would stop by, I wondered? I don’t get many visitors way out here by the sea, so I was hopeful.

But nobody came.  Nobody.

Each morning for the first few days since I had hung the invitation beneath the tree on a little golden hook I had screwed into the low hanging branch, I had waited breathlessly. Somebody will come, I said to myself. And then when they do come, I will greet them, and we will be friends.

But nobody came.  Nobody.

Perhaps it was my fault, I thought. Maybe I had been a bit vague about who could come. I hadn’t meant to exclude anyone, but the feeder was built for the songbirds only. The little-spiraled wire that encircled the feeding tube was thin and delicate, so the invitation was for the smaller songbirds.

Each morning after my initial disappointments vanished, I checked the tube to make sure the birdseed was plentiful. It was. No one touched it. I also cleaned out the bird feeder that sat beside it keeping the water fresh.

Two days ago, when I rose with waning enthusiasm to check the feeder, I was so surprised. A little cardinal was on the wire pecking at one of the feeder holes. I stared through my binoculars so I wouldn’t disturb him. Finally, I thought, they’re coming. And they did. Soon the Brown-headed Nuthatch stopped for a snack along with a boisterous Northern Mockingbird.

Then something unusual happened. Some huge blackbirds sat nearby on a fence rail reading the invitation. They saw the fine wire and the tiny holes and sensed that they weren’t welcome. I stood back and wondered what they would do. I noticed they chatted furiously with one another, their conversation public and a bit edgy.

Then one flew over to the feeder and grasped the spiraled wire. It didn’t fit his oversized claws, but he was tenacious. He hovered, half-perched on the wire, wings fluttering to help him keep his balance. He tore at the feeder holes and poked out huge chunks of seed that fell to the ground.

At first, I was annoyed. These birds were too big, I thought. I hadn’t invited them. But then I slowly realized that they had determined that the invitation was for them.

I’m glad they come now. I’ve thought more about this whole thing, and I have decided that invitations should always be for everyone.

David R. Denny

 

Lucky Penny

Owl1

The claw marks on the front porch said it all–Owl.

And Penny was missing. She’s an indoor cat and hates to get her paws dirty. Each morning brings a feline routine that begins in front of her mirror grooming, getting the whiskers just right, fluffing up the hair on her elegant tail, etc. Toss her outside, and she’ll hate you for life.

But Penny was missing, and the ominous owl talon marks stretched from the door to the front steps. Off an on all night long we called from the porch our hands clenching the railing, our eyes searching the dark yard for any sign of movement. Our somber pleas blended with the distant voices of pond frogs and crickets who hadn’t seen her.

I tried consoling my wife while standing on top of the claw marks so she wouldn’t see the traces of nature’s cruelty. “Something has happened to her,” she wailed. Unable to summon a wise Greek proverb relevant to this emergency, I merely shrugged. “She’ll be fine. She’s just exploring.” Even I didn’t believe that.

After a fitful night of difficult sleep, I woke early and stepped outside. No Penny. The claw marks were fresh and deep. I pieced the crime together in my mind. The owl had studied her patterns of peering through the screen door. He had timed Penny’s brief dalliances with the outside world, her ever so short and tentative excursions a few paces from the door onto the porch.

He had watched, veiled behind pinecones and hunger, lurking. And as Penny played with a cricket just beyond the safety of the den door he struck, his threatening talons striking the jugular and dragging her across the rough boards into the upper branches of the marsh pines.

Just as I was preparing myself to call the undertaker, I saw a little paw flicker in the tall grass. And then came whiskers, a smirk, and a sarcastic trot past me into the house. I stood stunned.

I thought of asking her what happened, and fleshing out the power of needless fear, but she was in no mood for light chatter.

David R. Denny