Sunday, April 26, 2009

Perhaps They Were House Swallows

A few days ago, I wrote about how Spokane had fooled some chickadee birds into believing that spring had arrived when in fact the weather had turned foul again. Silly birds, I had said at the time, and loved their singing all the while.

A friend of mine who read the entry told me she enjoyed it, but then asked, "Do we have a butterfly situation here?" Alas, it appeared that we did.

Many years ago, going to breakfast with my boyfriend at the time, I saw a butterfly. "Oh, look," I said. "A monarch butterfly." My boyfriend suggested that perhaps I had no idea what the name of that butterfly was. I assured him I did. He assured me that I had no knowledge base from which to pull the name of any butterflies. I protested that my knowledge of butterflies was plenty extensive. He challenged me to name three kinds. "Well, there's the monarch," I said. He nodded, spotting me that one. "And the swallowtail," I said, trailing off ... "And the moth!" I proclaimed. No one could tell me that I didn't know my butterflies!

When my friend pointed out the current "butterfly situation," we ended up looking at some pictures of various birds and I had to concede that my reference to "chickadees" in my posting may have - just may have - misnamed the birds outside my window. Apparently chickadees look a bit more glamorous than the bland brown birds I had described. "I think you're describing house sparrows," my friend said (gently so as not to hurt my feelings too much). I had to admit that perhaps she was right. My little chickadees flourishing outside my window may not have been as exotic as I hoped. Perhaps they were only - gulp - common house sparrows.

I thought I'd see one this weekend, and take a picture, and hold it up for a vote. Apparently the storm from yesterday has chased them all away, under the old adage, "fool me once..."

And then something magical happened. In my world of procrastination (today is the day I had designated for completing edits of my screenplay, so obviously I needed a distraction), I decided to choose a piece of literature at random from this website that I use every so often that does just that. It's like opening up 1,000 books at random simultaneously to read just one paragraph from one of them. This, I did. And I ran across what appeared to be a sweet short story that I then had to dig up and read in its entirety. It's called "The Happy Prince," by Oscar Wilde, and tells the tale of a traveling sparrow (!) and a golden statue and how the sparrow helps the statue ease the pain of the poorest in the city by giving them the riches that make the statue so beautiful, and - well, I don't want to give away the whole story. But it made me cry, and my heart ache a little. And it made me glad to imagine that my singing birds from days ago just might have been the honorable, brown house sparrow after all.

And then - oops. I just went back to the story. It's a swallow! Not a sparrow! Man. I'm having some trouble here with bird names.

Well, in honor of them all - here are pictures of a sparrow, a swallow, and a chickadee. (And looking at these pictures side by side - I do think my songbirds were sparrows.)

photo credit, in order of appearance: wolfpix (found here), Max Westby (found here) and Vicki DeLoach, found here

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