I have mealworms, two industrious chickadees, and a box of beebling baby birds at the goober stage, all ready to assemble. Marge and Studley Windowson did find the mealworm stash near the suet feeder on the other side of the house, or someone else did, but still I yearned for intimacy. I did not want to attract scrub jays. I gave it some thought. The mealworm store lady probably couldn’t guess how much time and care I was willing to devote to this project. I cracked open the window close to the birdhouse. When I was certain only my chickadees were around, I eased a worm out onto the windowsill. Nothing happened. But when I turned my head for a moment–okay, I went to the toity–it was gone.
The next day I edged my palm out onto the sill with a mealworm in it. Studley definitely saw it. Studley definitely wanted it. He made feints at my hand, hovering. Then he landed on the sill, weighed his responsibilities against his fear, stabbed at the worm and rocketed off like he’d swatted a tiger’s nose on a dare. A half hour later he was landing on my finger. Then on Dave’s finger. On two hearts at once.
They say there are wormholes in space-time. Portals to other universes. I was already smitten, but it wasn’t until the next day that my entire soul tipped into that gravity well. I was outside weeding and stood up to stretch, and there came a flibbet of wingbeats, and there was Studley, on a twig eight inches from my face. He tilted his head, back and forth, sent me one bright black eye, then the other. And I fell through the mealwormhole into Studley’s world.
I wasn’t anywhere near his window. And I was wearing a hat. But he knew me. Had he been looking at me for years, even as I was looking at him? He’s paying attention, that’s for sure. Dave stands in the garden with his hands relaxed at his sides and a small grown bird tucks into the cup of his fingers. I get out of my car and a bird lights up the closest branch, and dips over to my hand, his feet as important and small as punctuation. He doesn’t weigh any more than a held breath.
Marge hasn’t taken the plunge. That’s okay. I worry about habituating Studs to people, although he’s only stalking Dave and me, but he did land on neighbor Anna’s teacup. It’s white, just like the ramekin I carry mealworms around in. Maybe it’s because I’ve zoomed in on so many photos of Studley, but even now, when I see him through the window, he seems larger than he really is. Substantial, even. He’s not. He wouldn’t tip a scale with a peanut in the other pan. He is a tiny, tiny bird. But he’s smart.
He’s damn smart. He’s probably known me for years before discovering I’m useful. When I’m too slow to get him a worm, he knocks the hat off my ramekin and helps himself. He goes off to a branch to subdue it for a baby’s gullet, whap whap whap. When we call it a day and go inside, he figures out where we are in the house and hovers at that window.
He knows when beer-thirty is.
I know what he likes me for. But is it love?
I want to get this right.
The sober voices say all love is self-interest. The sober voices are measured in their assessment. They manage risk. Keep their own hearts on a short lead, safe from disappointment.
I choose headlong.
Because I don’t know just where a love story begins. But maybe love is the name of the charged ether that joins our worlds. I do know I’ve got the trust of the smartest, bravest, most valiant chickadee in the whole world, a world that can be frantic, and grabby, and barren. Does he feel a lift in his little gray chest when he sees me? Does he love me too? It might not matter. I’ve got enough love for both of us.
Pin lovingly fashioned by Amy Weisbrot, email@example.com