Feeding Time

The envoy

On our way toward the road for a walk, Buki and I passed the inner gate on our driveway. There on the gate post was a gray jay, one of the flock that was otherwise perched on various twigs in the nearby trees. An envoy, come to plead the gray jays’ case for treatment equal to Ravena & Rowan, the ravens. The Steller’s jays were attentive nearby, with their own interest in this case. A few times already, Ravena & Rowan had to share their gatepost-top kibble meals with the gray jays. Gray jays are clever and bold. Though much smaller, they will raid a raven’s meal. “Oh, come on, Ravena, they’re just little gray jays, they can’t hurt you.” The Steller’s jays, which are astonishingly beautiful dark blue, crested corvids, are shy, even around the smaller gray jays. They hover around the feeding scenes, hoping to find a moment of unguarded food they can swoop in on, but so far they’d had no success. Though she and Rowan are easily scared off by the gray jays, still, they will hold their ground long enough to take most of the food.

And so, now, the gray jays want a meal served expressly to them. It’s clear they recognize me. This little jay wouldn’t be sitting on the gate post staring at any other human. It’s me. I’m the overly generous one known to the whole corvid neighbourhood. Ravena and Rowan already know me so well, they track my whereabouts all day. They watch me chop wood, garden, swim, nap. They join Kabuki and me on walks along the road or through the forest. Even when I’m in the house, I’m monitored by them. They stare at me through the windows. Sometimes when I’m upstairs, they perch on the roof. I can hear their claws scratching along on the tin ridgeline, sauntering along from one end of the roof to the other end, corresponding to my movements between my office and Trevor’s and then back again. They must be able to hear my footsteps below. I wonder, do I ever appear in Ravena’s and Rowan’s dreams?

And now the jays seem to know me personally. And this one had come to plead a case. “Oh what have I started?!” as I returned to the house for a bowl of dog kibbles for the day’s second corvid feeding time. I knew I shouldn’t, but I did. A pile of kibbles on one post, and a pile on the other. And then I stood a few feet away to watch several gray jays swooping to the gate posts in turns each for their share. Buki sniffed around for her own snack, which I buried under the snow so she’d have to put some effort into it and so that she would keep some distance from the jays. I was pleased to see the Steller’s jays work up their courage to snatch a few kibbles, too. Ravena & Rowan came around, also. Everyone had a portion. Buki worked her way over to the gate posts to look for any spilled kibbles, and the jays, even the Steller’s jays didn’t mind her. How beautiful they all are, the corvids and Buki. I sometimes dream about them.

Direct communication is now established with two more species. More friends. The banquet repeated the next day. And again two days later. This will continue. Gray jays, Steller’s jays, two ravens, a dog, and a man.

This morning, while waiting for my coffee water to boil, I stood looking out the dining room window, where two Steller’s jays were perched on the veranda railing, staring back at me.

Here’s a story I read recently:

I was reminded of the Pygmy legend of the Bird with the Most Beautiful Song. This bird was found by a young boy who heard such a Beautiful Song that he had to go and see who was singing. When he found the Bird he brought it back to the camp to feed it. His father was annoyed at having to give food to the Bird, but the son pleaded and the Bird was fed. The next day the Bird sang again; it sang the Most Beautiful Song in the Forest, and again the boy went to it and brought it back to feed it. This time the father was even more angered, but once again he gave in and fed the Bird. The third day (most Pygmy stories repeat themselves at least three times) the same thing happened. But this time the father took the Bird from his son and told his son to go away. When his son had left, the father killed the Bird, the Bird with the Most Beautiful Song in the Forest, and with the Bird he killed the Song, and with the Song he killed himself and he dropped dead, completely dead, dead for ever.

–Colin Turnbull, The Forest Pygmies: A Study of the Pygmies of the Congo, Simon & Schuster 1962.

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