of batteries and bluebirds

Written by Sandra Heska King

PRAY EDITOR "Once a nurse, always a nurse," they say. But now I spend my days with laptop and camera in tow as I look for the extraordinary in the ordinary. I'm a Michigan gal, mom to two, grandmom to two, and wife to one. My husband and I live on 50 acres in the same 150-plus-year-old farmhouse he grew up in. I love this quote by Mary Oliver, "Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it." That's how I want to live. And I'm still learning how to be. Still.

February 19, 2013


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




  1. Patricia W Hunter

    I’m sure you know I love this and it made me laugh…especially the part about crawling under the window. A couple of weeks ago, I saw a fox making it’s way between the fence and the creek bank. I slowly backed off the porch to get my camera and when I returned to take a photo, i realized the battery was still being charged. Backed out slowly again, got the battery. Repeated the steps only to discover I’d left the photo disc in the computer. By the time I repeated the previous steps and returned camera ready, the fox was nearly out of view and my photo is hardly worth showing. I would have been better off just watching. There is a balance, isn’t there? Can’t wait to see the photos when you get the battery back. xox

    • Sandra Heska King

      Oh my! Been there. Done that.

      And I’ve crawled under that window many times, and back, and then peeked my little head over the sill…

      Balance. I need a bit more of it…

  2. Martha Orlando

    We never expect to see bluebirds as we live in the forest but miraculously, a couple visited us briefly the other day! No time for the camera, but I will long remember these beauties.
    Lovely reflection about living in the moment. Blessings, Sandy!

    • Sandra Heska King

      What fun! Have they returned? Mine were back today, and I did manage to get some more pictures with the baby camera–several snaps for a few tolerable photos. So far, though, they don’t seem too interested in the feeder. It was hung high, but I’ve tucked it into the shrub. Pretty sure they’re gone for the day, though, and it is cold, and windy, and snowy now.

  3. S. Etole

    Can so identify with this!

  4. MsLorretty

    Yes…when we lived in Tennessee we had a bluebird box on our balcony and had some regular residents my daughter (then 3) named Hensey and Muck Muck! If you hadn’t said it was a house sparrow above, I would have sworn you had the blue male and his less colorful mate! I am rather amateur but so much enamored by our fair feathered friends!

    • Sandra Heska King

      They came right to your balcony? I’d love to have them that close. We plan to place the boxes away from the house out by the field. They really are beautiful.

      • MsLorretty

        YES they did but the house was a rental and I don’t know how long it had been empty so chances are they’d gotten used to the quiet of it. I know they like to be up higher because of predators. It really was so cool.

  5. David Rupert

    I love photography, but i see the most with my camera in the bag.

    • Sandra Heska King

      That’s so true sometimes, David. Just like what Patricia said below about not being able to see and enjoy the fox as much while she was fumbling with trying to photograph it.

      But you know, there are other times I see things I never would have without the photo. Deep details. And surprises. There’s that balance thing again. 🙂

  6. Megan Willome

    I love the part where you dropped on all fours and crawled under the window. Big-girl camera or not, you are after beauty. And you always find it.

    • Sandra Heska King

      Heehee. I’m willing to bet you’ve crawled on all fours, too. 🙂

  7. Laura Boggess

    oh, oh, oh, I know this! I saw my first bluebird of the season over the weekend. He was inspecting my bluebird box, which always gets invaded with house sparrows. I’m always pulling out nest after nest, only to have them win in the end. I haven’t had a bluebird next in there for ages. Wouldn’t it be lovely…? And, BTW, I’ve perfected the camo crawl under the window to avoid scaring the birds!

    • Sandra Heska King

      Being a bluebird landlord sounds like hard work…

      Camo crawlers unite!


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of batteries and bluebirds

by Sandra Heska King time to read: 3 min