My Mother always looked for bluebirds. On winter walks when I was a child she taught me to spot the red of the cardinal, the purple of the finch. From her I learned to recognize the blue jay, brown thrasher and dove. Before I was three I could mimic the song of the towhee and I knew that the robin brought spring. I was schooled in the lyrical lilt of the mockingbird, taught to crack the secret code the woodpecker rapped on the oak. She would call me down from the back of the house whenever a flock of redwing blackbirds gathered in a rolling dark sea beneath our pines. Though unimpressed by what seemed to be just another boring murder of crows, I would do as I was told and wait until an inaudible signal was heard by the flock and, as one, they would lift into the summer air, black wings flashing blood red before my eyes. The stuff of fairy tales.
But the one bird that eluded her always was the one that she most longed to see. The Bluebird. This tricksy fellow took on the quality of myth in my house. I knew the bluebirds from Disney movies, of course. They sang duets with Snow White and helped dress Cinderella for the ball. But around my Mother’s window, they remained as rare as a rose in December. We thought we saw one once. On a frosty morning, a flash of cerulean in the ice-covered trees; a bit of the ocean at home in the sky. We stopped still, unblinking, finally deciding it was just a forest mirage. My Father was commissioned to hang bluebird houses on our trees in the hopes of enticing them to our garden, but none ever moved in, something my Mother seemed to take as a personal affront to her hospitality.
When Mother died I brought home her capacious, extravagant bird feeder. For years it sat like an avian castle outside her screened porch, easily seen from her kitchen window. The Songwriter now keeps it filled with the tastiest seed, just as my Father used to do. And goodness, do we have birds! A feathered congregation forever in concert high up in our trees like a chorus of childhood friends. But I’d long given up on the bluebird.
So I doubted my eyes the first time I saw one. I blinked and I stared in full disbelief. But this year in our garden, as unimaginable as it is true, a veritable sea of blue has risen up, a July sky has drifted down, and we have scores and scores of bluebirds in residence round our house. They splash in the birdbaths and foliate the bare branches of the poplar trees with brightest blue. They sit on my dining room window sill and watch me drink my tea making me feel not that far removed from Snow White herself. They are a wonder.
At first this unexpected abundance of the very riches my Mother longed for, but was denied, made me sad. Why couldn’t she have had this in her own garden before she died? I have turned this over and over in my head for weeks. Then it slowly dawned on me that perhaps this could be a heavenly message sent down just for me. A message from my Mother to me and me alone; knowing I would remember, hoping I could know. Perhaps she wants to tell me she’s happier than she’s ever been; that her days are now full of everything she’s ever wanted. For what could be a more joyful message? And who could be a better messenger for me than this seldom seen fellow clad all in blue?
I have chosen to believe this is true.
For such are the mysteries of life.