Friday, January 8, 2010
Mary Poppins Comes Back
Most of the birds that have been attracted to my outside bird feeder are what Mary Poppins would call "sparrers." They're little brown birds. One of them has already been caught, killed, and dragged through the cat door into our kitchen. I hope the rest will take warning. It has been great cat entertainment to have a bird feeder hung on the other side of the window from where the parakeet cage used to hang. The cats hide among the potted plants next to that window and peer out, obviously having jungle cat dreams.
The only bird that much assuages my longing to see color and hear chirping is the male cardinal. It's snowed just about every single day since I put the bird feeder outside my window, so there's been lots of action out there.
I keep thinking of Mary Poppins when I see the little brown ones. Nymeth's recent post on reading the first P.L. Travers book made me realize that not everyone has already read the books as children, so here's the excerpt I keep thinking of--from Mary Poppins Comes Back--in which a new little sister to Jane and Michael holds a conversation with two birds:
"Good girl!" croaked the Starling approvingly. He cocked his head on one side and gazed at her with his round bright eye. "I hope," he remarked politely, "you are not too tired after your journey."
Annabel shook her head.
"Where has she come from--out of an egg?" cheeped the Fledgling suddenly.
"Huh-huh!" scoffed Mary Poppins. "Do you think she's a sparrer?"
The Starling gave her a pained and haughty look.
"Well, what is she then? And where did she come from?" cried the Fledgling shrilly, flapping his short wings and staring down at the cradle.
"You tell him, Annabel!" the Starling croaked.
Annabel moved her hands inside the blanket.
"I am earth and air and fire and water," she said softly. "I come from the Dark where all things have their beginning."
"Ah, such a dark!" said the Starling softly, bending his head to his breast.
"It was dark in the egg, too," the Fledging cheeped.
"I come from the sea and its tide," Annabel went on. "I come from the sky and its stars. I come from the sun and its brightness-- --"
"Ah, so bright!" said the Starling, nodding.
"And I come from the forests of earth."
As if in a dream, Mary Poppins rocked the cradle--to-and-fro, to-and-fro with a steady swinging movement.
"Yes?" whispered the Fledgling.
"Slowly I moved at first," said Annabel, "always sleeping and dreaming. I remembered all that I had been and I thought of all I shall be. And when I had dreamed by dream I awoke and came swiftly."
She paused for a moment, her blue eyes full of memories.
"And then?" prompted the Fledgling.
"I heard the stars singing as I came and I felt warm wings about me. I passed the beasts of the jungle and came through the dark, deep waters. It was a long journey."
Annabel was silent.
The Fledgling stared at her with his bright inquisitive eyes.
Mary Poppins' hand lay quietly on the side of the cradle. She had stopped rocking.
"A long journey indeed!" said the Starling softly, lifting his head from his breast. "And, ah, so soon forgotten!"
Annabel stirred under the quilt.
"No!" she said confidently. "I'll never forget."
"Stuff and Nonsense, Beaks and Claws, of course you will! By the time the week's out you won't remember a word of it--what you are or where you came from!"
Inside her flannel petticoat Annabel was kicking furiously.
"I will! I will! How could I forget?"
"Because they all do!" jeered the Starling harshly. "Every silly human except--" he nodded his head at Mary Poppins--"her! She's Different, she's the Oddity, she's the Misfit-- --"
"You Sparrer!" cried Mary Poppins, making a dart at him....
"I don't believe you! I won't believe you!, cried Annabel wildly.
But Annabel does forget where she came from, when she begins to learn to speak to other Humans.
Birds are fierce little things, and I'm glad that the local varieties are getting some unexpected food at my window during these extra-cold and snowy weeks, even if I feel like I should post a "beware of cat" sign for potential diners. What do you think of a cat owner who attracts birds to her yard? I wasn't sure that it was a good idea, but so far one death seems to me an acceptable loss, given the harshness of the winter.