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Monday, April 7, 2014

(Not) For The Birds.

There are sparrows trying to build a nest in my front porch light.

This happened last year as well, while the outside cat looked nonchalantly on. I, personally, am mildly freaked out by birds -- something about their smallness and sharpness and beady-eyed-ness while they can just swarm and then fly away and I will never have the hope of catching them. Also, they drive the inside cats crazy to the point of mass destruction and while they are a good chunk of the reason I can't have too many nice things, I do like to try and preserve the nice things I already have, and cats tearing up furniture and hanging by their claws from windowsills and door frames isn't really simpatico with that philosophy.

Last year, I shooed at the light fixture with my hands, waving my upper extremities about like a madwoman, ducking for cover whenever one of the small, brown creatures flew in my direction. I got a broom and shook it around the circumference of the glass-paned part, taking painful care to not hit the actual fixture because it would be my luck to smack it and shatter it. The actual wired, lighted part hangs like a pendulum inside the glass enclosure, and I would reach up with my outstretched fingertips brushing the weighted bottom-most part of the actual electric mechanism, causing it to swing inside itself and the random twigs and sticks would fall out haphazardly around me, sometimes landing in my hair and causing another kind of madwoman dance altogether.

I took it personally, this nest-building, defiling my brand-new light fixture. Get out of there, goddamnit, I'd mentally curse, This is not your house to build in there. Find somewhere else to roost. I grew frustrated with the number of times in a day I could hear the little beak and talon scratches on the glass and metal, the amount of times my cats lost their everloving minds as if they could somehow reach this prey that taunted them. I hated the detritus piling up right outside my front door, looking like miniature tumbleweeds rolling across the bare cement expanse as if to denote a dead zone or pending battlefield. I chided the outside cat, asking him why he wasn't doing his job, what the heck was I feeding him for anyway, if he couldn't chase away a couple of mangy birds. I imagined spraying the entire fixture down with the hose on full blast (but would then remember water and electricity shouldn't mix) or blowing a large air horn right at the base of the fixture, anything to get those filthy little pests out of my beautiful and now hard-fought design choice.

Yet, at one point, a bird appeared to be stuck in the fixture, unable to remember or figure out how to exit through the same path it entered.

And I panicked, heartbroken for the terrified thing, unable to sit by and not help a creature in need.

After much hand-wringing and Twitter crowdsourcing, I used a broom stick to tilt the interior parts of the fixture to one side, lifting the outer glass casing along with it to create a larger, more obvious opening. The bird inside flapped about manically, hitting every surface inside of the glass cage it unwittingly created for itself. The latest attempt at a nest fell out and scattered in the breeze across my small porch as I curse-crooned to the bird that it was okay, just calm down and get out, and you'll be fine and I'll be fine and the cats will get down off of the goddamn door and we'll all have learned a lesson, won't we, just get out already.

The bird more fell out than anything, but in that split second the plummet shifted to flight and a dart away, away from the porch and the light and me with my broom stick in my pajamas, terrifyingly huge with my peacock hair and bevy of predators impatiently waiting on the other side of the bright yellow door.

The birds didn't come back much after that, and the nesting issue faded away with the spring breeze.

But this year, they have returned. I hear the extra-loud tweets that sound practically inside my home. I notice the fixated eyes of my cats as they sit in the foyer, a place they rarely hang out unless there's something super interesting outside, especially the more anti-social ones. And there is a small pile of twigs and dried vines and random string accumulating mere inches from my faded winter doormat.

However, now I am less afraid. Sure, I might get scratched, but that's no different than my daily life inside, between the pets and the kids. I don't see this as a battle over territory of turf, just a misunderstanding of propriety because I am a sentient creature and they are operating just on instinct. They see a safe, warm, enclosed place to protect their efforts at procreation and I see an expensive, beautiful yet functional piece of hardware that will not be obstructed nor house wild animals to the detriment of myself and my family and my home.

I reach up as I pass under the light, pulling away the mishmash collection of fibers and dropping them to the ground or into the breeze, mid-stride. I do this repeatedly through the day -- taking each child separately to the bus and returning inside, again getting them off of the the bus, when I get the mail in the afternoon and when I leave for work in the evening. I make mental note of needing to sweep the remnants of the thwarted nests away, off the porch and away from the home I've tried to build for my little family.

I remind myself it's nothing personal, it's not about the individual birds. It's about me and how I want my life to be and what I find acceptable and do not.

And while I empathize with the need to literally nest before laying eggs and the protection instinct nearly all creatures carry for their young, my porch is not an appropriate place for that. I won't be avoiding defensive adults, rushing my children past their impending threat each day. I won't walk through the inevitable cascade of shit that will ensure, staining my porch and tracking into my home. And I'm certainly not going to be responsible for disposing of the inevitably electrocuted creature or the putting out of fires because you can't build your home in the center of a heat-conducting mechanism without getting burned somehow.

I won't put my life on hold so something else can overtake it for its own purposes, inconveniencing me for nothing but their own benefit. Despite being aware now that this is a temporary battle, only to be re-waged next spring, it is the slow and steady-ness of it that will guarantee my eventual victory in the now, and that, for now, has to be enough.