Terry Marotta: A bird family and those unseen Hands

Terry Marotta

Off and on all spring we’ve had these thumb-sized mice darting around the kitchen baseboards faster than the light from a laser pointer.

Off and on all spring we’ve had these shiny black ants using their delicate feelers to probe all the soaps and sponges in the bathroom.

Why are they still inside with us, we are wondering? Aren’t they eager as we are to throw off winter habits and get outside in the sun?

We’re at a bit of a loss with them, I’ll admit.

Mousetraps work, sure, especially when baited with peanut butter, but how many mousetraps can you set before you start feeling like a serial killer?

How many exquisitely fashioned insect bodies can you crush before you feel twinges of shame?

And yet I enter the kitchen nights and see a mouse scooting so fast around the baseboards my eyes can hardly follow it. So fast I more readily see where it has been than where it is right now.

I enter the bathroom mornings and the place is a-shimmer with ant-dancing.

Our problem is that between the two of us, my husband and I have grown tender-hearted enough over the years that we’re much slower to spring for the executioner’s implements.  

Not long ago, I watched as a little spider landed on his nose, a tiny thing began that rappelling down toward his chin like a climber descending a cliff-face. And what did David do? He unhooked the delicate rope of web, went to the door and set the whole thing down outside. The Dalai Lama could not have done more.

Now, to complicate things even more, a sparrow has built her nest inside the glass globe of our front porch light.

We realized it because every time we set foot on the porch we there was this great general fluttering as she sought refuge in the maple tree. It took days before we thought to look over our heads to see where she flew from.

We can’t actually see inside the light’s globe – its glass is opaque - but we’re pretty sure she’s hatching a family in there. In fact, one day a tiny egg appeared right under this light fixture, smashed in pieces on the porch floorboards.

Poor bird! She didn’t know she was inside a light source. She never guessed how likely it was that a switch could be slipped, wildly overheating her nest. Is this what happened, and the egg was damaged, so she nudged it overboard?

Last summer, a mourning dove made her nest on the sill of an upstairs window here and for six straight weeks we watched her sit her eggs and tend her babes – not one but two separate batches of them.

It took us outside ourselves to watch the whole process. It softened our hearts to see the way she came to trust us.

We could stand within inches of her watching through the window glass and she would only regard us calmly as she stooped to feed and nuzzle her struggling offspring.

So maybe soon this sparrow will trust us, too. We have taped the light switch in the off position, anyway, so no one will again set her nest on Broil.

The mice and ants will move out soon I suppose, but my thoughts keep returning to this small tenant, who is so like us -- who lives and moves and has her being entirely unaware that Eyes more powerful than she can picture or imagine are daily upon her, watching to keep her safe.    

Write Terry Marotta at terrymarotta@verizon.net or care of Ravenscroft Press, P.O. Box 270 Winchester MA 01890. Enter the phrases "Terry Marotta” and “birth and flight” to see pictures of the dove tenant on her blog Exit Only, www.terrymarotta.wordpress.com.