27th July 2011
I walk into the café this morning to bouquets of flowers on the shelves. There is a birthday in the house! And this is a very special birthday – Brenda’s 50th. Yet it is as always, “business” as usual. Brenda says she would not wish to spend her birthday anywhere else but here in the place that is such an expression of her own self. Except we all know this place is not about business, but pure hospitality and the delivery of good things – service, food, conversation, comfort and even kindness.
Let’s just think about the power of kindness because it is so important to me, and I believe tends to make a difference in the lives of both the giver and receiver.
There are many who pass through these rooms, or sit at these tables, who are here in some way to find comfort, whether in the form of a place to read the paper, share a meal with friends, or a quiet space to just indulge in the simple pleasure of a cup of tea or a slice of cake. Several conversations this week have centred around the theme of how we all seem to put on brave faces, and muster up courage to hide away our pain and miseries behind smiles or even humour, we work hard not to crack and let our supposed “weakness” (read “humanity”) show, and yet the quickest way through those walls or facades, is a simple act of kindness .
How often have you been battling though some personal trauma, tragedy or stressful time, thinking you are coping very well, and then someone says a kind word, or offers you a small gift, or, in our case, Brenda delivers that hot drink, with a plate of cake and a single rose carefully placed on the napkin? And the tears break free and fall? I know only too well what that is like.
These past few weeks I have felt the weight of life’s sorrows upon those near and dear to me, with so many tragedies and difficult circumstances rising up to challenge them. I have one friend who lost not only one beloved parent but both, a week apart. I have another who is suffering from a terrible illness that causes great pain and there is no cure; several other close friends have recently lost their life partners, including my younger sister, and yet another friend is struggling to break free of an abusive relationship and rescue herself and her children. And that is just in my immediate circle, without even mentioning the world of friends I connect with online and whose own life stories are at times so poignant, heartbreaking, even tragic. Even in my own life, I have my own share of hardships to deal with, not the least of which is a debilitating and very painful chronic illness and a deep sense of isolation. I know that these small moments of pleasure we allow ourselves, are the medicine our souls long for and when we give ourselves permission to take a break from the pain and sadness, and savour the tiny precious moments of what IS good in life, no matter how fleeting, then we open the door to healing and future happiness. We all deserve this much! And we must not wait for others to bring it to us on a plate, these are things we can give ourselves.
In my case, I won’t bore you with details of suffering, but suffice to say, no matter what kind of day I am having, even when I can barely walk at all, I only have to go outside into my garden and there awaits the best medicine anyone could ask for. Not only do I have fresh air, wide open spaces and trees, nature and bird song, I have something particularly unique. I live in the country, miles from main roads and with state forest all around. In my garden, I have some wild fairy wrens (Blue Wrens) who have made their home here. And who have, it seems, adopted ME, as their friend.
Now it is quite ironic for me, that as a photographer, I have spent years, stalking these brilliant little blue birds, struggling to get close enough for even one shot that wasn’t blurry, or that had the “tail end” of a bird flying from the frame, and I truly did despair of ever getting a good “blue wren” photo.
Then three years ago that all changed. People who are familiar with Blue Wrens (or “Splendid Fairy Wrens”) will know that they can be very cheeky and friendly, especially if they get used to humans feeding them. I have always chosen NOT to feed wild birds where I live as I am a cat lover and have always had several cats. So over time, I noticed this one little male wren (it is the males of the species who get the brilliant blue plumage) who constantly hopped around my garden and flew up to land at my feet, or sat in the bush close to me, singing. He was more friendly than any of the wrens I have ever seen around here, and so I called him “Blue Boy” (yes, very original, I know) and proceeded to talk to him whenever I saw him. As time went by, this little bird seemed to know I would not hurt him, and would fly up to my doorstep and call out to me, or fly in and land next to me when I was outside in the garden.
Eventually my curiosity got the better of me, and I held out my hand and he flew in and sat on it, just very briefly, but “we had contact!” The next time I saw him, I took out a few plain biscuit crumbs (low sugar) and offered him. And he landed on my hand and ate, with his little claws gripping my finger, like the tiny hands of a child holding onto a parent. I was rapt!
Over the past three years, this little bird has succeeded in introducing me to his mate “Henny Wrenny” and many of his babies. At first Henny was very nervous and would not come close, but as time passed, she became very bold, especially at nesting time, and would knock him off my hand to come and have some treats! Bossy little bird! At times I have had this pair with up to three babies before me, entertaining and filling me with pure delight.
The little wrens are very watchful. Even when they are eating, only two will eat, and one watches. Then they alternate. They watch the sky, for larger birds, who all seem to be a threat to these tiny avians (kookaburras, hawks, butcher birds and eagles are notorious predators), and they scan the ground for lizards and snakes, cats and dogs, and other threats. They have different alarm calls for different animals and I have come to recognize most of them. Their warning for a snake is the most intense and unmistakable. They have warned me of a snake approaching my yard on a number of occasions.
When their babies first fly from the nest, they are quite helpless and clumsy. One parent will stay with them and watch while the other flies for food. It is a constant task to bring food to nestlings or fledglings, they are bottomless pits! At times like this, the little parent birds love me offering a few crumbs, but I do not need to worry about harming their health with “human diet” as they never just eat biscuit crumbs, but stop and fetch a few bugs in between the crumbs, as if knowing a balance diet is good for them! (Now if only to teach my kids the same thing!)
Knowing how watchful the wrens are, I have been touched by their deep trust in me. One day while out photographing the babies, both parent birds disappeared, leaving me spying on the babies as they hopped and fluttered in a pile of branches. This was very unusual as I know that only one parent bird would fly away at a time. After quite a break, both “Blue” and “Henny” returned, with their feathers all wet, and proceeded to shake, flutter, and fluff on the fence rail. They had been off for a bird bath while I babysat the little ones!!!
So now I have as many blue wren photos as I can handle.
Every day, my little blue friend greets me and sings his heart out for me. It is the most precious gift, and so very healing.
So I give Brenda a blue wren image for her birthday – This simple photo of a little blue bird, awakes a memory, a poem, and line by line, the words flowed, bringing with them a rush of feelings. She smiles as she quotes Gerard Manley Hopkins “Spring” :
NOTHING is so beautiful as spring—
|When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;|
|Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush|
|Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring|
|The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;|
|The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush|
|The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush|
|With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.|
|What is all this juice and all this joy?|
|A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning|
|In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,|
|Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,|
|Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,|
|Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.|
So for my little blue bird – a connection to this poem, where Hopkins’ little thrush sing upon a background of sky – “descending blue; that blue is all in a rush…” which pretty much describes my own little friends in colour and character, if not in species.
And synchronicity being as it is, this poem was left at the Café for me during the week…
Pretty little blue wren
Cheeky as can be,
Hopping here and there,
Performing just for me.
I wonder if you realize
Just how cute you are,
With your vivid blue colours
Pretty as a flower.
You like to hide in bushes
And flit across the ground
And when you sing your happy song
It’s such a lovely sound.
A bird that’s so endearing,
Would be very hard to find.
When I think of Australian bush,
You are on my mind.
(I believe I can thank Rosalie for this gem. Rosalie, you really summed up the character of the little fairy wrens and it made me smile, so thank you!)
I have a few more treasures from the table tops at the Café….
“Whatever it is,
It always looks better in the morning”
(I smiled reading this one, guess they have never seen me in the morning! LOL)
And this beautiful piece from Bec Larsen (Perth)…
Sweeping roads fade away into the darkness
Drunken Saturday night lights left behind
Soaked days of glutony, indulgence, lust,
Eat, Pray, Love, for the love of wine,
New experiences, spontaneous, new faces,
Winding bus dissects the countryside
Glass after glass after glass
To escape the reality.
Winding roads revisited,
Life begins again.
(Thank you Bec, this evokes so many images and memories for me, I feel the stories peeking through the lines of this one. Smiles…)
I will close with another pearl of wisdom…
“It’s not your aptitude
But your attitude
And so it is …