I find that I am being taught wisdom by a Stellar's Jay. Twice in my life I have had an unusual interaction with a coyote.
Their impressions have mingled around in my brain and raised them to the forefront.
When we moved here, it was the easy nature of the wildlife that spoke the loudest about the spirit of this place. We set out to be at harmony with the creatures that came and went and I began placing nuts on the short branch of a tree. The nuts disappeared faithfully and I expected squirrels were taking them.
At some point, I discovered a Stellar's jay and began to watch and learn what a marvelous creature he is. One jay became two because he brought his mate. She would wait nearby and watch. My Stellar Jay spent a lot of time here alone. After a while I noticed that when he eagerly took a nut or two, and flew off only to return- he was tending to someone important to him. This went on for a long time. I would put out nuts, he collected them and flew away with singular focus, calling to me a bit later as he returned.
Then we saw the babies. He and his mate came with them and watched while they tried to manage whatever it was they were to learn. The babies were awkward, scrawny, and angst ridden.
Even then, on the nights that all that was left of me could only sit and breathe outside, he would be there, rock solid and enjoy the time as much as I did. My soul seemed to marinate in peace.
I grew to count on him, at the slightest sight of me or sound of my voice, he would come. When I came back from a class, he would swoop over my car to perch on the shed ahead of me and wait. We sat outside for hours. He puffs up into a circle and hunches down when I tell him he is beautiful.
And then I went out and nothing. He didn't come. I’d call for him and wait and only little jays would come squawking in and fighting.
We saw so many babies and almost never a mature adult of any of the three pairs that had begun to regularly come.
These new guys were loud, brazen and rude.
Several times a day, I’d go to places he would have met me and search the sky for him. I’d call quietly, wondering whether my neighbors could see me and if they thought I was mad. I wondered if I had lost my sanity or become humanly unpalatable. My heart sank each time as I turned to go inside. I hoped he was okay.
I ached for the Stellar’s Jay that had befriended me while cheeky young ones cried out for control of our home territory and monopoly on the peanuts.
I especially resented the loudest, most brazen, and obviously new male with angular lines to his crest and a sleek physique that would swoop in creating havoc and seemed to startle away any jays that were more sensible.
What corresponded with this time that I longed for the jay was my daughter's surgery and the novelty of recovery care was wearing thin as exhaustion and frustration began to rise.
But I would search the yard and sky for my Jay because his quiet presence and gentle voice has quieted my own.
He did not come. I blamed the young one I paradoxically felt might be his. And after some time, when, to my delight, I spotted him in the yard, I saw those two quarrel and my Jay looked beleaguered with molting and would often concede and fly away. Crestfallen, I’d vent to my daughter.
Again, I felt justified. I even stopped eagerly feeding the young jays because the thought that, in their youth, they may have taken over rose up a fight in me to prove it would not be true on my property. I fed them, but less.
My property... the wildlife have been here far longer than I can wrap my head around. Their memories passed forward are more than I can guess. And yet, my jay picked me. So, where was he?
In the midst of this, the needs of my household vied for attention and were a source of reminding me I had no life of my own and my spirit was rattled. If our blind little dog got under my feet, I let fear for her safety bubble up and express itself by yelling for her to get back and lamenting how frustrating it was to be afraid of hurting her. But as the fresh air wafted through windows, those tense moments were met with an eerily quiet yard compared to its usual bustle of a variety of wildlife.
I noted this inwardly but didn’t change course. Maybe I wasn’t ready. But I have come to notice that the same frustration I am turning outward is a reflection of the weapon I have used on myself. Angry at my need for rest, food, an outlet or compassion- especially compassion- I did not quiet myself for fear of what I would find.
Through the undeniably kind presence of friends, daily writing, the left over impressions of a dream tending book and a whole lot of serendipitous happenings, my daughter and I began to approach life creatively and I realized that is a first priority in my life, not a last.
But, I am off topic. My soul has found a lift and joy has seeped in without seeking it to remind me it is not gone.
In the last week, ‘my’ jay began being spotted in the yard and preferred quiet placing of nuts to tossing them (I already knew that but convenience had won out and the young ones don’t know any better). I had let go of him returning when I noticed the young ones quieting to better manners and occasionally hanging out like he had. I had let go of him when he returned. Since he is in a process of change, it was his demeanor that confirmed it was him rather than his glorious or molting feathers.
He made himself comfortable somewhere nearby. He wasn’t fearful about food but went and enjoyed it at leisure. When I spoke quietly to him, he responded and settled in further or gently cocked his head, watching my face not like he was trying to know me, like he already did.
This morning we sat for hours as I wrote. The small (previously annoyingly cheeky little young bird swooped in after a while with his compatriots of other children).
Like the last few days, I could feed them all peacefully if I spread out where I gently tossed nuts. My jay had had all he wanted hours ago.
He was gently speaking when they all came. I sat out with them for a good hour, talking to them and tossing nuts. The young one paused often to turn his head, listen and consider. He has been able to take a nut next to others without crying foul far more often.
Then an argument broke out in the leaves of the tree. I could hear it and see the rustle of branches but not see which of the now 6 stellar jays that were stopping in. That little one is always involved.
The tussle moved out of the trees and my jay had another loose feather hanging from the dulled blue fluff on his torso. This time, I watched quietly and did not get ruffled or feel hurt for him.
I tossed out a few nuts and left my seat in the back yard to go inside for a bit.
I can see them from the restroom window, when standing, and they know it.
My jay sat on the frame of the hammock just outside and listened when I told him he was beautiful.
I looked outside shortly afterward and saw the cheeky young jay on the same stump as my beloved jay. The young one had his mouth open and my jay was placing food inside.
All my previous frustration plummeted as understanding arose. He is a loving Father. He knew his cheeky son would find food and learn manners here. He returned to the hammock frame and listened quietly, making himself comfortable as his little one drank water from the bird bath.
Then his little one lay prostrate and opened his wings out to take in the sun, all the while leaving his beak open wide should his Father wish to return. His little body was fluffed happily and he was the calmest I have ever seen.
It wasn’t until I treated this cheeky little booger with the same awe and quiet attention as his Father that his Father returned. And now my jay is back sitting with me quietly for hours and speaks in that gentle voice that almost draws my tears.
And his little one is making a remarkable effort at listening and learning his ways.
Life is so incredible.