Eastern bluebird (and a house sparrow in hiding)

I glance out the window and gasp.

“Grace, come quick! Run! Hurry!”

When her lead foot lands on vinyl, I hiss at her.

“Shhhh! Stop! Slow down!

“G-ma’s lost it now.” I’m sure that’s what she’s thinking as the other foot freezes midair. She tiptoes to my side.

We stand there and stare at blue backs and rusty orange breasts, bright feathered balls fluffed in the branches of the red-berried shrub next to the bird bath. I think I’ve seen maybe one bluebird here, drinking from the bath, and that was a couple years ago.

I’m dizzy with delight.

“Don’t move,” I command. I drop to all fours, crawl under the window into the dining room to retrieve my camera from the table. My hands shake as I try to focus and snap before they–four, maybe five–fly to the trees. The photos are blurred.

I hate that we’re in a rush this morning. My daughter picks Grace up for her basketball tournament. My husband and I finish last-minute chores and packing up for a night away at yet another company event. But I’ve got one eye on the window.

One of the birds lands on the shrub again, and I’m camera ready, but the bird takes off when D slams the hatch on the Journey.

“We’ve got to hurry,” he tells me. “We’ll be late for the game.”

I sigh, slip on my jacket, sling my computer and camera bags over my shoulder, grab my books and purse.

But there! There’s a bluebird on a branch. Perfect shot. I fumble for the camera. Ready…aim… And D lets the side door slam. “We’ve got to go. Now.”

I hope the birds are still here tomorrow.

When we get to the hotel, I plug the camera battery in to charge because I’m not sure how much juice is left. I slip out of jeans, shower for the second time, and slide on the black dress. But I decide not to take the camera downstairs after all. The iPhone will do just fine.

We’re in a rush again the next morning. We hurry to pack up and eat breakfast so we can make the next game.

Later, we haven’t been in the house five minutes when I see a bluebird perched on the porch rail. Perfect. I yank out the camera, but it won’t turn on. What? I must have left it on. I’ll need to charge it again. I dig at the battery cover with my thumbnail and pop it open. There is no battery! Then I remember. It’s still plugged into the outlet on the desk lamp at the Marriott–100 miles away.

My husband calls the hotel. Housekeeping finds the battery and charger right where I left them. Thank you, Lord.

But for now I need to see wide-eyed and lens-free, or at least lens-light. The baby camera does not “do” wonder well from a distance, although I did snag a semi-decent photo with it to prove my sighting.

So until the big girl camera is operational again, I’ll need to tiptoe into amazement, stop and sink into it, suck every drop of juice from it, drink it down deep. I’ll need to just immerse myself in the moment, allow it to captivate me, not worry about capturing it. Maybe this will be a lesson. Because sometimes in the rush of preserving the past for the future, we miss the present. We miss the bluebirds of beauty.

We miss it all altogether.

I don’t want to miss it at all.

This morning I send my husband for mealworms, and I look up bluebird food recipes. In the process I discover a spring festival at a nearby nature center. I note it on my calendar. Next weekend we’ll put up a house or two, maybe raise a family of baby blues.

Oh, if they’ll only hang around long enough for the big girl camera to arrive, I’ll be so happy!

bluebird food



of batteries and bluebirds

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min