Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Thoughts on Birds and Happiness

Last December the robins were sharing drinks with the cedar waxwings. This year instead of robins at my fountain, there is now a pair of bluebirds in the mix.  I've read that this co-mingling of species is a tactical strategy because it provides the waxwings with protection from predators. I wonder if it works and if their numbers and diversity discourage the cat that is usually lying in wait? I prefer to think it is partly a social construct too; a sort of “peaceable kingdom” amongst birds.  

The waxwings are extremely cautious by nature, more so it seems than the other birds I watch from my window.  They travel in groups and react swiftly en masse to sudden movements and noise.  In my willful imagination there is a bucolic and magnanimous aspect to sharing the fountain, not merely an act of instinctual self-interest.  The bluebirds accept the invitation and it seems mutually beneficial because I had never noticed them at the fountain before and here they are with the waxwings, enjoying themselves on a cold winter morning.

Since we are now more than halfway through the holiday season, it got me thinking about the things we share with our friends and whether or not we are like birds.  Do we seek security from our friends or sustenance? The answer is both. My friends and I share interests, but more than mirrors that only reflect, they are windows into other lives and worlds, showing me better ways to live.  Nourished by their wit, intelligence and compassion, I happily sit beside them.

At a dinner party last night, the conversation turned to a discussion about Soylent, the engineered food replacement drink.  Soylent forfeits the texture, aroma and flavor of food for the sake of expediency and nutrition.  It is curious to me that in sacrificing the communal joys of shared meals and nurturing, Soylent seems to believe that these are expendable.  It reminds me of science fiction movies from my childhood when the epitome of the future was taking a single pill for a meal.  Food is so embedded in my psyche as something to be shared and savored that I can’t imagine substituting it with a single product. The notion of using a meal replacement drink seemed especially ironic in the company of my friends surrounded by good food, and wine. The loss of that camaraderie would be strongly felt.

As I grow older, I find greater joy in making meals for friends or family for the simple reward of their company.  Unlike the waxwings, I am not looking over my shoulder or expecting my guests to protect me.  I just want my bluebirds to join me at the table and rejoice in our good fortune, especially the one that allows us to sip our drinks together into the night.

Happy New Year, everyone!  Good health and much happiness in the year ahead for you and your friends and families.