Since I’m in Brooklyn this Christmas, I’m going to celebrate it with a re-post about that lady I met years ago feeding birds here on Christmas morning.
My Toronto daughter and I just made this trip to Brooklyn to visit my other daughter, little granddaughter and her papa. Prevented from crossing the border for years because of the epidemic, and 76 yrs old now, I was concerned whether I could still do the 9-10 hr drive.
But the approach of the massive storm from the mid-west changed things. Given the blizzard predicted for Friday, Dec 23, our planned day of departure, we made a sudden decision to set out the night before from Toronto at 5:00pm.
We drove for hours to stay ahead of the storm. After midnight it began to catch up with us – by 2am we were driving in almost constant rain and gusts of wind, slowed also by the clouds of spray thrown up by heavy trucks. We stopped frequently along New York highway 90/87 for coffee and rest, taking that longer route through Albany to avoid the higher mountains of Pennsylvania.
Only about 10am the next morning did we enter the outskirts of New York city – 17 hrs after setting out. Behind us, back in Ontario, highways were being closed due to blizzard conditions.
The storm brought New York it’s first light snow, along with a minus 11 C temperature, made more severe by strong winds. The birds of New York would appreciate anyone feeding them this Christmas.
So let’s look again at this lady feeding Brooklyn pigeons on Christmas morning some years ago. Because I was there, I know she’s also saved something in her pocket for the cat on her left. She’ll drop it on the other side of the fence for her/him shortly.
Most of my life I too have fed birds in winter. Not just wild birds, but street birds too – for decades I’ve carried brown rice for the sparrows and pigeons, and a little bread for starlings.
I especially watch for birds in trouble – those crouched in doorways, or beside a waste bin or street pole, birds for whom death is obviously approaching. I toss them a little rice, then stand guard to make sure healthy birds don’t come down to take it from them. Despite their condition, they usually eat it eagerly. It won’t save them, but I see no harm in providing a little comfort in their last days.
Many people see bird feeding as pointless. Others see it as pernicious, since it increases the bird droppings on our sidewalks, etc.
But people who feed birds are people who still have a connection with Nature. To me, that means a connection with reality.
However, bird feeding isn’t the way you can connect with nature.
Hunters, for example, who get attacked from so many directions in this society, are connected to Nature by hunting. I come from a hunting and fishing family, and I’ve known many serious hunters. Their love for hunting always includes a love not just for the animals they hunt, but for natural places too.
The people who deliver feed to deer in the depths of severe winters, or who help to restore wetlands and streams, are largely hunters and fishers. To see what they do as self-serving is to refuse to see who they really are.
Those who pick flowers are connecting too. Why do we tell children not to pick wild flowers? When I was a boy in school, they used to teach us which flowers to pick and which not to pick. Why isn’t that done now? When did we become so simple-minded that we have to ban the picking of all flowers?
There’s no harm in taking daisies, goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace, red clover, asters, dandelions, buttercups, purple loosestrife, cow vetch, birdsfoot, butter-and-eggs, pussy-willows or the pale beautiful blue chicory flowers that grow along roadsides.
Picking flowers has served children as their first connection with Nature for thousands of years. Yet today they’re asked to be only spectators of Nature, not participants.
There are other arguments for feeding birds, by the way.
One I sometimes use is this – our cities are artificially constructed deserts, concrete and asphalt wastelands of the worst kind. Dropping a little rice or bread on a sidewalk, we help the birds to produce droppings that find their way into cracks and crevices of sidewalks and parking lots to fertilize seeds that fall in there and sprout, producing plants that each contribute a little to reduce the climate warming cause by cities and towns.
Yes, these unsung city birds and weed plants do that, while, from what I’ve seen, the anti-bird feeding people usually do nothing to help.
Anyway, finally here in Brooklyn again, a city of many birds, I can’t help remembering that lady on that long gone Christmas morning that inspired the first of these posts.