The tall pole for three years held up an empty two-story penthouse that could have sheltered up to a dozen pairs of purple martins and their young. Until this spring, those little hotel rooms were empty, and only once before–early last spring–did a single martin circle cautiously, almost landing, but moving on.
So I held my breath in early May when not one but two martins spirographed high over the barn, in time spiralling lower and lower in their tight or sweeping bezier swirls, finally landing on the front porch and tentatively inspecting apartment 1B. They quickly deemed it acceptable, and moved in. Yes!
This has pleased me far more that it would many homeowners, and at first I was at a loss to explain this warm fuzzy satisfaction over a couple of birds. But here’s the thing:
These are no longer just any birds. These are OUR birds. They have chosen the same living space as we have, and most waking hours, when we’re active, so too are these birds–our martins. They are likely to return to this same high perch in front of our barn next year, and perhaps their young that will born here will also return to be “our birds” just like their parents, and on and on for generations after we’re gone from here.
I do not use the possessive when I claim them as our birds, but intend a kind of mutual connection, and one that is not generic, not anonymous but particular. Like we recognise “our black rat snake” who we look for basking above the sliding doors of the barn or Waldo the brown water snake (as in “where’s waldo?) hiding but findable in the rocks of the barns foundation. In other years, we’ve had our ten point buck, our black bear sow, our pasture-hunting coyote, our barn-basement groundhog or albino fox squirrel.
Yes, these two martins out of all the world’s martins make me smile–they, and the other creatures around us that have names, that exist here with faces, with histories and personalities, with a place within our shared space that makes all of this OURS together, a complete community–a common unity on a common landscape for a shared season before migrating to South America for the winter.
So this simple fact weaves a fine thread but an important one, knitting together a life here that is more whole and complete, at least in my odd book, than if our martin house stood idle for one more year.