It had been such a warm winter so far, I hadn't gotten around to putting the heater in the bird bath. But the last week has been different; now, everything is frozen. So I finally rigged up the outdoor electric cord and laid the heater in the bath, then filled it with water and hurried back inside to get warm.
In the kitchen, Ben was at the window facing the feeders and the birdbath, his front paws on the sill, his long tail twitching behind him. I looked out and gasped: in the time it had taken me to cross the patio and enter the house, a good twenty fat robins had gathered at the feeder, this after a winter with not a robin in sight. Then four fat blue jays showed up, taking turns, and a few spangled grackles. A big yellow-bellied woodpecker appeared and took a drink. More and more robins came, and the cardinal couple, and the usual crowd of doves. All afternoon birds came and went, drinking, arguing a little here and there but mostly well-behaved. Ben and I were in heaven.
How did they get the word out? How do forty birds learn about something in someone else's yard so quickly? There must be such a thing as avian telepathy -- they must be able to read each other's minds.
Or maybe they just hear each other talking, and pass it on. The cardinal made a stop at a little-used window feeder he likes for its privacy, and I could hear him chipping as he ate, a steady one-syllable chirp intended, I know, to communicate with his spouse. After he was finished, she came, and dozens of other birds followed. Maybe she called some people. Or maybe they monitor the conversations of other birds. Maybe cardinals speak a little grackle. Just enough to get by. Enough to order from a menu.
All the way across the world, at the Anglican primates meeting in Dar-Es-Salaam: a meeting rather like the one at the bird bath. Different people sharing the bread of life -- or, perhaps, pointedly not sharing it -- struggling to speak just enough of one another's languages, enough to get by. It will be a good thing if all involved remember why we are here, as well as why they are there: it's cold outside. Water is scarce. Life is hard for too many people. We're supposed to do something about some of it, fix enough things so that there is enough to go around if everyone agrees to put energy into changing things.
First things first, please. Let's get the water going, get the seed on the ground, get the fire laid and lit. First things first.