The Wind in The Willows is Inspiration Enough
In the foreword to the children’s classic The Wind in the Willows, Kenneth Grahame wrote:
Every animal, by instinct, lives according to his nature. Thereby he lives wisely, and betters the tradition of mankind. No animal is ever tempted to belie his nature. No animal, in other words, knows how to tell a lie.
Blue jays are boisterous, bombastic creatures. The loudest and biggest bullies of all the birds that frequent the feeder. I confess they are not my favorite birds. To be truthful, they are my least favorite birds in the yard–most of the time.
Every Spring, in the Rhody bush outside the living room window, they attempt to nest.
Two Springs ago we tore their nest apart a couple of times before they could get established and they moved on. I felt like a heathen for doing that, although it was the old man who physically went out there and brutalized it, but I was the one who informed him of it’s existence.
Last year he was inclined to do the same, but I asked him to let it be. Once, in Port Orchard, the Jays had built a nest in the eaves of the wrap around porch, just outside the back door. I was amazed at how quiet they were on the nest and even more surprised at how silent the babies were once they hatched.
How stealthily the parents went about the business of child rearing, from building the impressive nest to persistently and patiently sitting on the eggs, to feeding their brood until they were big enough to fly the coop.
It was fascinating, when you consider how jarring the sounds escaping from their big black beaks can be.
It was the same last year in the Rhody beside the house here: Quiet, quiet; stealthy, stealthy: stoic, stoic: barely a peep was heard.
This year it was my pleasure to accommodate them. I watched and wondered as the birds began to build two nests, just a few inches from one another, and commented to Glenn that they seemed to be rather undecided, like a young couple looking for their dream home site. Eventually they chose the southern exposure. Maybe it was warmer.
They didn’t waste any time moving in, and I watched Mama sitting on the eggs stoically during the wind and driving rain storms that shook the branches and drenched the leaves for most of April. It was so wet and cold, I worried that the eggs would not survive, or the hatchlings not thrive once they emerged. At one point, I observed the male hanging around the nest and chattering at her in annoyed tones, which was uncharacteristic. I thought maybe the eggs had succumbed and she was refusing to leave the nest.
Soon after she did leave the nest unattended and I was sure then that there would be no chicks this spring.
I needed to know. I crept up to the bush with a step stool, climbed up and parted the branches ever so carefully. I stuck my head in far enough to see into the nest. Eight little beady eyes stared out at me. The chicks were alive! They made not a sound as I quickly retreated.
Since then, I’ve been watching them grow, observing their heads looming higher and higher in the nest as things progressed. Only three birds left though. I wonder where the fourth went?
For the last couple of days two of them took to sitting on the edges of the nest or in the closest branches, obviously preparing to fledge. Last night as I watered the potted plants nearby, they startled and moved around in the bush, reeling clumsily from branch to branch and flapping their wings. I made another hasty retreat.
This morning, they are gone. The nest is empty. There is no sign of the babies or their dedicated parents. Where did they go?
Maybe they will be at the feeder soon, all crackling caws, jerky movements, and bullying postures. How odd that they are so smart, to know to be silent when they are the most vulnerable. Most other baby birds sing like sirens while on the nest.
Perhaps that is why they are such loud, obnoxious birds as adults–survival of the fittest and all. They know they are bigger than the chickadees, the juncos and even the grosbeaks. The genteel doves are no match for them. They use their enormous size and their loathsome, loud voices to subdue the lesser birds. I have watched some of the larger wood peckers take them on at the feeder though, and win. Take that blue meanies!
These little nature dramas unfolding outside my door are a never ending source of inspiration to me. How intricately woven are the threads of the natural world. How strong is the tapestry. And yet, we see how deeply it can be wrent if we disregard it’s rhythms.
It’s a jungle out there. You have to work smart, not just hard, to survive. It’s something we might all need to take to heart, and soon.
The blue jays know how to survive. I guess you’ve got to give them that. The big bullies.
Every animal is honest. Every animal is straightforward. Every animal is true–and is, therefore, according to his nature, both beautiful and good.
©2018 by Ilona Elliott