My older sister, Hanna, died this week. She was the gentlest soul I know; kind to people, kind to animals – a very “giving” person. Hanna’s home was many miles outside Dawson Creek in a wooded area. She loved it there among the birds. She reminded me of Snow White. When I visited her I was amazed at the concert going on in her backyard.
I gazed up at the forest. “You sure have a lot of birds here. It’s like an orchestra.”
“Yeah,” she said with a humble smile, “one for every tree.”
In the space of only a few minutes, I noted many of the usual songbirds, but also red-winged blackbirds, an oriole, and three varieties of woodpeckers. It makes sense that Hanna would feed the birds, being the caring person she was. I had brought her some little gifts, but although she accepted the fancy soaps and face creams graciously, I knew that the small gift I brought her the second day was much more to her liking. She ran for the scissors, took the bag of sunflower seeds from my hand, and filled her birdfeeders immediately. More than personal gifts for herself, the birdseed made her happy.
I wished that I could have had her visit me on Vancouver Island, but it was so far away. I would like to have taken her to the bird sanctuary near our house where the chickadees and nuthatches come to your hand if you hold out birdseed for them. I know she would have been thrilled.
In this blog, I’d like to tell about one of the visits to the bird sanctuary, and hope that somehow she can know that I wrote the following anecdote for her.
My in-laws were elderly, close to 90, when they came to visit us. My father-in-law was in poor health but my mother-in-law was, and still is, quite spry. In spite of the cool day we all felt a need to go for a walk before dinner. I filled a plastic bag with birdseed and drove them to the little bird park.
“Wait till you see how the birds will land right on your hand,” I told them. “It tickles a bit but it feels so wonderful.”
“But they won’t really land on our hands, will they?” my mother-in-law asked. “They don’t know us.”
“You’re kidding us, right?” my father-in-law said.
“No, you’ll see. I’ve done this before and they really do land on your hands—or your head, or your shoulders.”
“Will we have to walk far?” he asked. “I can’t walk too far.”
“No, it’s not far.”
At the bird sanctuary, we walked along the trail that loops through the woods. Almost right away, we saw birds. I took out some birdseed and poured a bit into each of my in-laws’ hands. But wouldn’t you know it? This was the time the birds were going to make a liar out of me. They flitted here and there, but wouldn’t come to us.
“I know a place along the path where they’ll come for sure. It’s like a feeding station.”
“I’ll just wait here. You girls go on ahead. I can’t walk that fast or that far.”
“Okay… well…, don’t go anywhere. We won’t be long,” I said, and we two women walked briskly along the path to a bench where people sometimes sat to feed the birds. We were chatting quietly as we got out the birdseed. Suddenly, through the trees, I heard my father-in-law shout my name very loudly.
“Oh my God! I hope he hasn’t fallen down and hurt himself,” I said. “You take your time and I’ll run back to see if he’s okay.”
My lungs were on fire as I tore along the path. If he had fallen down and broken his hip I’d never forgive myself for leaving him alone.
“Are you okay?” I panted as I came up to him.
“Oh yeah!” he said, “but look! Just a sec. Here they come again.” And he stood stock still with a delighted look on his face as the little birds tickled his fingers and picked the birdseed from his hands.