Ahhhh….Spring in Venice…for some it means jasmine perfumery, The Venice Art Walk, or the return of the tourists to the beach. For me, spring’s atmosphere wrenches with a cry of desolate despair: the cry of the baby mockingbird.
I am particularly sensitized to it since Michael and I have raised two mockingbird orphans: Amelia and Beauregard. We began with the name Amelia as inspiration for it to fly, but when we inherited another one the next year, naming them in alphabetical order seemed to be called for. As a child, one of my favorite books was one where the heroine had 26 dogs, one for each letter of the alphabet. (This might be a clue for my rescuing of any creature lost or abandoned so that I, too, could gather so many of the earth’s needy.) Here I might add, Michael holds the reverse philosophy, and opts that the universe to deal with any issues at hand. As you can imagine, this is raw material for, shall we say, interesting ‘discussions’ throughout our relationship. In any case, I am always meddling in everyone’s biz, just ask any one of my neighbors…
Speaking of neighbors, I have been racing at the neighbor’s cat, Jack, on the attack, clapping and yelling like a mad woman to chase him from any vicinity of the nest. Poor Jack is now quite confused; at other times of the year, I pet him so he falls on his back, paws in the air, belly vulnerable and exposed. No more! At the first alarm from the mockingbird parents, loud clicks and daring dives of gray flecked with white, I race from our studio on the alert. Buckets of water stand at the ready. Last night at dusk found me at my loquat tree battling a very large and very pissed off raccoon with a rake. No matter that he probably only had hankerings for the sweet fruit. The mockingbirds had sounded their clicking alarms, and out I ran, at first thinking it was one of the cat, buts…no, he was just a very wild raccoon. I called Michael for help and out he came immediately with a long stick to assist in my battle like a knight of old. You can see the difference in how each of us deals with the world — Michael generally is just trying to save me from the results of my many interventions…..
But back to the raising of baby mockingbirds…a large box will generally suffice as a cage. We always had a cat, so we got a cage to keep the babies out of harm’s reach. We used a dropper to squirt water down its throat for hydration. The baby bird acts like it’s being drowned, but ours thrived in spite of our efforts. For food, we found that frozen peas and ground turkey work best, the ground turkey closest to our idea of regurgitated worms. However, I must warn you. Forget about having any life other than feeding and caring for this featherless bit of blue-veined flesh. The baby mockingbird is relentless in its demands. Absolutely relentless. Its loud voice adamantly claims that it is starving to death and very nearly at the end of its rope. Michael and I were either feeding it, or cleaning its nest every 15 minutes. As a result, I totally get putting one’s children in front of the TV; for peace, we would wearily put the cover over the baby mockingbird’s cage so it would shut up and go to sleep. With some guilt, I might add, until dawn, when our day of servitude would begin all over again.
When we were raising Amelia, I had to go to Texas for work for a few weeks. (You can see why Michael hates me to get involved in anything – when I do, he invariable does as well.) When I returned, Michael came out to greet me, Amelia hot on his heels, mouth gaping, wings outstretched, running as fast as she could to keep up with him, yelling at the top of her lungs. It is one of the most endearing snapshots I dearly hold in my memory. As well as his…
No matter…how I have come to love that early springtime warble of the mockingbird to attract its mate. Trills and spills of percussion and melody that outdo Louis Armstrong or Jimi Hendrix. As Harper Lee said, “mockingbirds don’t do one thing except make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corn cribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
Amen. Especially in the sacred city that is Venice!