Friday, December 25, 2009

A Bluejay in a (not so) Bare Tree

My daughter gave me a tree drawing today, which fits in well with what I had started writing about an oak tree not far from our house:

Oaks are among the most giving of trees. They play host to more than 500 species of butterflies and moths--more than any other kind of tree hereabouts. When I lived in the Midwest, my backyard looked out upon two massive bur oaks that, as the squirrels traveled their long limbs, seemed like whole cities unto themselves.

You'd think, at this time of year, as trees stand stark against the wintry sky, that the oaks' giving would be done until spring. Most do appear lifeless and abandoned. So it was surprising to be walking in the neighborhood one recent sunny afternoon and look up to find an oak full of birds hard at work, harvesting a largely invisible crop. Four bluejays, three nuthatches, two mourning doves, and a flicker in a bare tree, or so a song might go. Most acrobatic were the bluejays, clinging upside down to wispy twigs to pluck the pin oak's small acorns, then bracing the morsels between their feet while they pecked them open.

On this day of giving, a time to celebrate trees, both giving and given.

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