They were so careful. We heard the baby birds begging and followed the sound, determined to find the nest. There they were, in a cavity in an oak, mama Oak Titmouse dutifully feeding her young whatever morsel of insect she had gathered.
We've made regrettable mistakes before. Years ago we watched a mother bird feeding her young, and in our excitement, exclaiming and pointing, we forgot that we, too, are being watched. With our eyes, our voices, and our body language, our exuberance we gave away the location of a carefully guarded nest. That time, the crows came, taking every last baby from the nest. We were heart broken. And as healthy cultures do, we've told the story again and again, year after year, as a cautionary tale.
This time, they tried to be careful. They averted their gaze, walked at an angle to the nest, not directly toward it. They hid behind a screen of young elderberry, hoping they would not draw attention as they watched in awe.
But we too are always being observed. Mama Oak Titmouse flew away from her nest, working feverishly to hunt enough insects to feed her growing young. Just as she'd gone the Scrub Jay came. He pointed his head into their cozy apartment over and over, trying to find enough food to feed his hungry young. He tried. He really did. All the while the children held their breath, waiting and watching.
With ferocity, Mama Oak Titmouse returned, scolding and swooping at the jay. That tiny, plain little bird chased the jay away. The children exhaled. No one said a word.
They knew they'd played a role in that drama. They knew that they were not the only ones with an observing eye. The next time time they will try again to see without being seen, to change the way they move, and where they stand, and where they point, and how they turn their faces.
This story will be added to the treasure chest of stories, and told again and again. A cautionary tale.
Story from Wild Roots Forest School, as told by Founding Director Lia Grippo
Santa Barbara, CA