My sister told me on Mother’s Day that I was going to be a father.
Wait. That sounds awfully hillbilly-esque. Let me rephrase. In May, Caroline told me that birds were constructing a nest on my back patio.
I was surprised to hear. Normally Esme stands pretty firm in her patrol of the house, which she considers her own and rules like a plump matriarch.
One rainy evening, as I was showering, I heard Esme and Teddy sniffing around in the bathroom. When I opened the shower, I found a possum, corpse-like in the doorway. I grabbed a towel, peered down at the little fella — he looked like a baby, which routinely get separated from their moms in storms — and figured Esme killed it and brought it in to play fetch.
Or he could be playing, well, you know.
Adorned in only a towel, I leapt over the rodent to exit, certain it would startle, jump up and bite me in the slats. It didn’t, but after opening all the doors and heading to the garage for a shovel, I returned to find him gone. Mom taught him well. I never saw him again, despite a room-to-room sweep with Esme. I did, however, load the BB gun, just in case an angry mom returns for her child.
Weirder things have happened. Los Angeles moonlights as Los Fauna.
I once saw a rooster in my backyard. My next door neighbor claims to have found mountain lion scat on his roof. A backyard woodpecker I’ve named Plastics starts rapping about 5:30 a.m., the front yard mockingbirds earlier (now that’s Tweeting, bitches). A coyote ate a friend’s cat. Esme’s never been fond of crows, and shoos ravens the size of ostriches.
But the nest changed things.
It’s in a seemingly ideal spot: A crevice under the patio awning, out of reach of the ambulatory and sight of the migratory. Safe from crows and roosters and mountain lions and ostriches and possums. Always shaded.
I spy them from the spa. They perch on the awning, eyeing a backyard that must teem with life unseen. I watch them dive bomb, quick and silent. If they catch an insect or crumb, they fly under the awning to gack into their kids’ mouths. They’ve even begun stopping at the dogs’ water dish for a sip.
And Esme doesn’t stir. Or even perk her ears. I think she’s had a Maude moment of enlightenment: “Dreyfus once wrote from Devil’s Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls. For me they will always be glorious birds.”
I know fall is coming. You can feel it at night, that approach of stillness. Soon, the nest will be gone.
I will miss the sparrows. Maybe the dogs will, too. If they’re reading, chirptweettweetchirp (translation: “You are officially invited to move in and stay forever.”).
It’s funny, when you drop your guard, how easy it is to take another’s cause as your own.