I don’t know how you parents do it.

I don’t know how you’re supposed to have this little tiny being that you love more than you’ve ever loved anything in the whole wide world and then you’re supposed to just let it grow up and go away. It’s got to be the hardest thing. I mean, sure, it’s one thing if it’s annoying, but otherwise, how are you supposed to stop worrying?

And then what if it’s not annoying at all? What if it has always been perfect in every way and not once given you a moment of sorrow? What if it’s Studley Windowson?

You get yourself your own personal chickadee and you’ve got a twelve-gram portal to everything important in the universe. Maybe you’re a little down, and you’ve sort of lost your way, and you wander outside and your chickadee lands on your finger and all of a sudden everything makes sense again. Here, he says, your way is over here. And maybe could you bring a mealworm on your way back? Studley thinks I’m a terrific cook, which makes him unique in the world. He thinks I get the temperature and liveliness just right, every worm al dente, but it’s nothing, really. It’s all in the presentation.

I don’t see Studley every day, but every couple days he’ll show up outside my writing room window and chikket at me. I’ll put up one finger–to let him know I’m on it–go downstairs to the fridge and get the mealworms, and he’ll still be right there waiting when I get back. But I haven’t seen him in two weeks.

I worry. I know some day Studley will not reappear but I am not ready for that now. I want to see him through next spring’s nesting season at least. Fortunately for me, our chickadees don’t go anywhere in the winter, or so I’ve always thought. Now that I have one I can recognize, I was looking forward to seeing if I was right.

Every time in the last two weeks I see a chickadee at the feeder I run out with my tub of worms and it’s never Studley. I can’t see his tell-tale bum foot until he’s real close, but Studley is never standoffish, and no one’s come close. I’ve started to think dark thoughts. I’ve started to refer to my neighbors’ unauthorized outdoor cats Boo and Anjali as “Coyote Chow.” Maybe out loud.

Sometimes when you’ve gathered all your big griefs and little griefs and boxed them up neatly for transport without spillage, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales. Twelve grams, maybe.

“Oh Studley,” I think, when I’m refusing to think worse things, “are you seeing someone else?” So  it is not without gratitude that I received a bolt of grace today. I moved on.  I started seeing other chickadees. We’re not intimate, but it’s still exciting. Today we got two new birds at the feeder. They’re chestnut-backed chickadees. Most of y’all don’t have any of those. They’re common at the coast and probably some Portland neighborhoods but this is a new Yard Bird for me. I thought: they’re not Studley, but jeezy peezy they’re snappy-looking. I decided to quit yearning and be happy with what I’ve got.

And that’s when one of the regular black-capped chickadees came to the feeder. They always take one seed and run, but this one paused, and looked directly into the window at me, and didn’t even bother with the seed. Studley?


Merry Christmas, Studdles, and to all a good night.