by Whispering Pine


Over the years I have used different kinds of feeders for birds that visit our backyard. There are so many, many kinds of feeder of different quality and prices. There is none that suits all situations. You may disagree and that is completely okay.

Recently I changed the way I use the bird feeder. I clear the snow from my patio, and I spread the seeds and crumbs evenly all over. This is from my observations as the guests started to visit. When I dumped it in one pile the dominant visitor would claim the whole and the others would flitter around, getting agitated.. or maybe angry and stressed like us humans.

One day I tossed a piece of toast onto the patio, not much thinking. The first squirrel that saw it, quickly grabbed it in its mouth and ran!! really fast, not looking back, away from the other two. . Woh!!! A surprise to me, thinking it would eat it right there. It went all the way to its nest I guess. Next day, thinking a little, I sliced toast into small squares and spread it together with the seeds all over the patio. This time, the crows noticed there was free food. When I came back to the window, one crow had summoned enough courage to come down to feed. Curious, I stayed to watch. The crow was galloping around nervously and fast, stuffing its beak. Noticing there were others around, the crow went around jamming it mouth with the bread squares, and my concern was will it choke? Wrong!!! Actually it was gathering the squares and dropping them around its feet, Wow! Smart one, so no one would dare to come close and it could easily fight off others and defend a smaller territory.

Greed was it or just survival? It was not eating the gathered squares, but stretching out to pick at the sun flower seeds. What is wrong with this? I wondered! Whoop!!, chickadees! a group of them. Got to get my camera for those little ones. Merrily clicking away, my inner peace was briefly interrupted, conscience kicking in from former days when we were shooting with film. "Just imagine the cost!"  it said.  Well thanks to those who worked hard on this new technology, now I can click away as much as I want. But with this "no care" attitude and situation, will it take away my sensitivity and awareness and will I be careless of learning and improving my photography skills?

I tend to worry quite a bit and have so many unnecessary concerns about things, contemplating possible future outcomes. Well, you know, if it happens, I will have already spent time on it and now I am paying again. Twice or more is too much. And if it does not happen, well very good but then I will have paid for nothing. So when should I take action?

Let"s look at the teachings of old, that I know of. There is the "wu wei" concept. This you will find in the teachings of Taoism. The most prominent teachers were Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. From the "Roots of Wisdom"..
"People of this world put themselves in chains for the sake of gain and fame,
Then talk of the world of dust, the sea of bitterness,
They do not know that:
Clouds are white, mountains green.
Rivers run, rock stand erect,
Blossoms invite, birds chirp merrily.
The valley responds, the woodcutters sing,
This world, again, is not of dust;
The sea, again, is not bitter,
It is only that, on their own, they put dust and bitterness in their hearts."
I remember just after secondary school, I started looking and applying for jobs. Once I went to a job interview, I was told to do some typing on an old typewriter. Never before had I done any typing, I told them, but still they wanted to see how I would perform. I was concentrating, staring at the keyboard, pounding away with my two middle fingers, just like now. Ding, the bell rang, I looked up at the paper and  thought what the heck. I got up and left. But I am still typing with my two middle fingers at the moment. I have seen my son, typing with ten fingers, flying over the keyboard, his very good skill learned from hours of playing computer games, which I tried so hard to discourage when he was younger. What is the point you may ask. Well…I don’t know, just telling a story I guess. What about rereading the above quote, I suggest.

There is this red squirrel that lives in the backyard, it thinks it owns the whole place. It will run along the fence top, up and down from tree to tree, really fast for its small size. This little one is fearless in patrolling the yard. It will go after and chase the much bigger black squirrels, and even the crows. Well, they just get out of its way, the tao of "wu wei".  Normally the crows just hop and fly away, easy no fighting, least expenditure of energy. However, yesterday morning, one of the black squirrels stood its ground. It was feeding on the patio, and the little red rushed the bigger black, a little skirmish. Surely I saw the red do a "sutemi ", it was on its back on the ground, and in a split second it was up again and the chase continued. That was spirit regarding attitude and failure. It reminded me of the saying " seven down eight up" and "failure is not about falling down but refusing to get up".  How many times I kept trying when I was learning to skate or ride a bicycle. I remember the many times I fell on my butt on the Rideau Canal, besides having to deal with the cold.

Looking at the birds pecking away on the patio at the seeds, rapidly, I wondered, do they ever miss, misjudge the distance and hit too hard and hurt their beaks? Do they ever exclaim "damn!! @#$%& I hit the concrete again", just like me sometimes when I bite my tongue, chewing too fast absentmindedly. And how do they find each other again after flying away in different directions, especially the small birds? Not the crows, you can hear them cawing for miles. I could easily get lost if you put me in a new place, and not be able to find my partner or hotel. So I always ask for the business card with phone number and address of the place I am staying, when visiting a different big city, especially in a country where I do not know the language.
Do the small birds have a special built in communication system? The chi power?? Just like our cell phones that can  grab information out of thin air? Or like airplanes, to communicate with each other?

More observation and contemplation will be required.