A few weeks ago I attempted the gentle way of encouraging a phoebe, a fly-catcher, to find another location for a nest. The phoebe was constructing a nest on a rafter above the deck at the Carpenter's house across the road and into the trees. The nest was directly above the deck on the place you put your foot for first step onto the deck going out the door. Phoebes use mud to construct their nests. On the deck under the nest the bird left an area of mud splatters. Later, when chicks hatch, she throws their droppings out of the nest and they land on the deck below, in front of the door. It makes a mess. We considered what to do, harm to the bird not an option. I remembered a wooden snake I had found in Halsey drug store's toy shelves. The price was $5. I thought it would be fun to have one, but not for five dollars. After having them awhile, they reduced the price to $1. I said, hail yeah, I'll buy myself a toy snake for a dollar. Ten to fifteen years ago. It has floated about the house. It's flexible and wiggles in a serpentine way that is almost creepy. Thought I'd paint it black, black as night, black as coal, I wanna see it painted, painted, painted black. Sprayed its belly white, turned it over and painted it black, tip to tip. It's made of little wedges of wood attached to a ribbon. Painted glossy black, it favors a blacksnake well. We put the snake on the deck a couple weeks ago. When I go to the house, I move the snake. On the big table, on the small table, on the deck floor, on the railings, on chairs. I've seen no more mud droppings under the nest. I see no bird droppings on the railing where she likes to stand still and watch for flying bugs.
We might have found the key to keeping birds off the deck. We were glad to note Mama Phoebe had enough time to build a nest somewhere else. In my early years in the mountains I probably would have found a long branch on the ground in the woods and knocked the nest down or sprayed it down with water from a hose. This is the Western way. Destroy. I have found after a lifetime of paying attention to the four-legged and the winged, consciousness without spoken language, they are conscious, I set out to learn how to communicate with them. I don't mean conversationally, but consciousness to consciousness. Eye contact, tone of voice. Words carry the vibration of their meanings. We hear the vibration, though we're not aware of it. The four-leggeds are not aware of it either, yet they hear it and pay attention to it closely. Consciousness is love, which tells me they live their grazing lives in love, uncluttered by mind, by self awareness, by self consciousness, by worry. I read Donkey Jen's mood by her movements, her eyes, her ears, her snorts, her face, her general demeanor throughout her body. It is similar with Jack, though a different personality. Talking with Jack at carrot time, when I say to him, Jack's my friend, he snorts approval. I remember the first time I told him he was my friend. He put his head down, snorted and shook his head lightly. He understood it and it touched his heart. He feels the same toward me, he just isn't able to say the word. I see it in his behavior, in how he takes a carrot from my fingers and never bites, even when a finger gets in the way.
The donkeys, big, rambunctious, powerful, fierce, dangerous, have become quiet and gentle with me after a year and a half, even affectionate. I feed them treats, talk to them, and most of all, I love them. They, in turn, love me and want to please me. I don't need to scold them, even when they get rampageous and have a sparring match with me between them. They don't want to kick me, step on my foot or knock me down. They know I'm a fragile two-legged easy to push off balance. It is something they'd use against me if I were to make them mad enough to want to get back at me. Donkeys are like cats in that they return to you what you gave to them almost immediately. If not now, soon, and if not soon, when the time is right. I have no reason to make them mad at me. It is natural for me to treat them with respect, because I respect them. They, in turn, respect me. I respect them as other conscious beings, like people, aware they are animated by love, itself, minus the distractions of mind, the illusions of duality. I regard them with a loving heart and they open their hearts to me in turn. It brings to mind a Doc Watson concert. He sang his songs from the heart with a loving attitude toward his audience. The people in the audience felt his love, it opened their hearts and they sent loving feeling to him, enlivening him, and he sent it back to the audience, enlivening them. I felt like a circle of love was flowing between him and the audience, from him to the audience, from the audience to him, until there was no knowing when or how it started.
I feed my birds and squirrels every morning close to the house, and the crows across the road by the mailbox. It's an open place for them where they can see up and down the road quite a ways. They used to scatter when I went out with seed. Now, if any are there when I go out, they fly to a nearby branch and watch. Mostly, I never see one. I call out with two caws when I throw the seeds into the air. Monday, I went out to throw some seed. I did not see a crow that was perched closer than one has ever been while I was out there. I cawed twice, threw the seed, and turned to walk back to the house. I turned around and saw the crow, surprised to see it so nearby. The crow looked at me and said caw twice. Consciousness to consciousness. It doesn't matter how the two caws translate. It matters that the crow spoke to me, person to person. It used the be the squirrels would run for their lives all the way to the nest when I went out the door. Now, a squirrel will jump onto a tree trunk and move around to the side I can't see and wait for me to leave. The birds fly up from the ground to rhododendron limbs and low branches to watch what I'm doing. Chickadees chirp at me. Squirrels sometimes make their chirping sounds. This morning the cardinal did not fly away. I whistle back and forth with a towhee when I walk to the car. Jack likes me singing with him so much that I can start him braying by doing my part of our duet. He joins me right away. Every day we sing our duet at carrot time and grain time.
george catlin himself