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163: All Creatures Great and Small

The Cardinal Mom whom I wrote about two weeks ago, whose nest is about three feet outside my bathroom window, has been one very busy lady! She feeds two or three babies constantly.  Sometimes her male partner appears and helps out, too.  Did you know that Cardinals are monogamous?

To watch them has been a remarkable experience. By comparison it makes the politics of today blur into unreality. Whatever drama attempts to claim the daily news cycle, whatever disturbing headlines appear in my New York Times, whatever TV drones on about at breakfast, whatever challenges pop up as the day unfolds, I somehow feel real life is only actually happening in a little three-inch nest outside my window. From a higher branch above her little ones, the Cardinal Mom leans over filling up the the little beaks reaching up to her. Other times, she squats upon them, with only her tail sticking outside the nest and I wondered how they all fit. They are definitely a very close family. One feels love is the force behind their endurance.

Besides being beautiful with brilliant red plumage (the male) or bright orange-red beak and driftwood-colored feathers (the female) there’s more to appreciate about this magnificent creature. I read cardinals are intelligent, capable of conscious thought, able to make specific choices about food and place, to scavenge for exact nest materials or insects, to watch out for danger, and even to play. They communicate by singing, show affection, and mate for life. They strike me as very principled beings. I’d like one for a friend.

But this afternoon my cardinals all disappeared! Mom, Dad, and babies–gone! An empty nest.

I was worried until I read moms stay in their nest for about ten days. I first noticed Cardinal Mom building her nest about eighteen days ago, her babies arrived about six days later. So I guess the time to move on had come. Perhaps the babies are off learning to fly, roosting at night with Mom and Dad in some new cozy place. I read they do not come back to their dirty birthing nest, so I ‘m not likely to see my friend and her babies again unless I spot them flying overhead one day.

I wish I could have talked with Cardinal Mom, watched her and her family longer. I wish I could have brought them some crushed nuts for breakfast or put a roof over their heads on rainy afternoons. I hope they know that I loved them and I wish them a beautiful life of many years.

Five years ago, a similar feeling hit me with the death of my Landseer Newfoundland, Heidi. She’d given us ten perfect years of comradery, joy, and love. Smart, funny, a lover of all people, she was also quite the queen. She could swim across current, teach a new puppy (even if it wasn’t hers) how to behave, take herself down the mall, through the automatic door into Petco to the water bowl at the back of the store when she was thirsty, parade her regal being among a flock of adoring admirers of any age, make anyone’s sad day turn into smiles. I miss her every day of my life. Among my many dogs–I counted and adored 50 throughout my lifetime–she was my best friend.

I hope when we leave this world we connect with the wonderful animals that brought such joy to life.  I’ll listen for Heidi’s deep WOOF and Cardinal Mom’s sweet song.

Landseer Newfie at Water's Edge, oil, 14" x 11" $475 by Gwendolyn Evans

Newfie at Water’s Edge, framed oil, 14″ x 11″ NFS by Gwendolyn Evans

ArtworkNewfie at Water’s Edge, framed oil17″ x 14″, NFS

When we moved to Maine Heidi loved swimming in the ocean as much as she’d loved swimming the current of the Delaware River near our Pennsylvania home. I painted this oil as the sun was setting near Pemaquid about a year before she died.

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