Ever since we hung our bird feeder back in August, more and more birds have gathered on our patio for their daily feast. Yesterday, I spotted a new arrival. He was just a tiny thing. Sort of. He was neither long nor tall, but he was so round he looked like a feathery ball that someone had stuck a beak onto one end and tail feathers in the other. His feet were barely noticeable under all his roundness. Like his companions, he hopped and bobbled across the pavers, picking up birdseed as he went. There was something different about him, though. He remained apart from the others as he went about his seed gathering, even venturing close to the house and the glass doors that afforded me this view of backyard wildlife. He seemed rather fearless. Or clueless, perhaps. I couldn't decide which it was, but he fascinated me just the same.
At one point, he flew up and landed on the narrow ledge under one of the kitchen windows just to the side of the sliding glass doors. With his rotund body, there wasn't nearly enough room for him, and he fluttered frantically to stay in place. After several seconds of this, he landed on the patio, but rather than admit defeat, he merely tried again at the opposite window. He was equally unsuccessful and returned to his previous activity of hopping across the patio.
Since birdwatching was not actually on my to-do list, I turned away from the windows and my feathered friend's antics and got back to the business of my day.
Later that afternoon, I stepped out my front door to locate my children who should have been playing right out front but were nowhere to be seen. (Turns out they were playing hide-and-seek. Evidently, they are very good at this game.) I was distracted from my mission, however, by the sight of a bird perched on the side of our fountain. It was the same little round bird! He hopped around the edge, apparently trying to figure out how to get to the water at the bottom of the bowl without dunking his whole body.
I couldn't help but think that if I were living inside a children's book, there would be something magical about his bird. Maybe he would talk and reveal some terrible secret, or he would take me on a fantastical adventure that would somehow lead me to a new and profound understanding about myself and this crazy world we live in.
Neither of those things happened, of course. Instead, a neighbor kid ran across the lawn in search of a hiding place. He startled the bird, which in turn startled him. My little friend flew off and the magic of the moment disappeared with him. And that was the end of that.
Until this morning.
With the house still dark and the kids still asleep, I turned on the Christmas tree lights and settled on to the couch to enjoy a few peaceful moments before the hectic pace of a busy day set in. As I sat sipping hot coffee, I heard an unfamiliar bird song. It wasn't the usual staccato "tweet, tweet" but an actual song, several notes long. I instantly thought of the bird from yesterday and walked to the kitchen to see if he was in the yard. I was disappointed to find only the usual assortment of birds gathered for breakfast. And then, there he was. His little round body was pressed against the wood frame of the glass door. He hopped across the patio, not because my presence had disturbed him, but because it was time to do so according to whatever plan he had made for himself.
Now, I don't have any way of knowing if he was the one to sing me that beautiful song, but I like to think it was. And maybe, just maybe, there is something magical about him after all. Maybe he came to remind me that there is in fact magic all around us, if only we are willing to stop in our tracks long enough to see it. Or maybe he came for no other purpose than to eat as did all the other birds in the yard. Regardless of his reason for being there, I found meaning in those small moments, a gentle reminder of what life is all about.