Spring, a story of birds

Life is your bird bath.

A post shared by Stefano Iacono (@stefamaybe) on

A mourning dove built a nest outside our window. She laid a pair of sweet, little eggs outside the room in which our birds sleep. Daily, a few birds visit the green area behind our apartment now, beginning their spring search for sprouted food. I try not to disturb her in the morning when I wake my own little eggs up.

A few weeks ago a young European Starling began a daily ritual of puttering about on our fire escape, practicing his songs, and dancing up and down the stairs. He has visited us all winter long, some days for just a minute or two, but he stays for longer visits now that it’s warming up. He rearranges the greenery on our fire escape and looks inside at the strange birds that live on the other side of the windows. He will attempt to secure a mate in the coming weeks and hopefully will grow his family in our midst.

Our indoor birds have grown restless and downy, anxious for the upcoming season change and (hopeful) increase in indoor humidity. Gandhi, our smaller bird, has started teasing Zoe more and taunting him from just beyond the reach of his cage. The hormones of spring are nearly in full swing and I can’t leave them alone together for a second.

And while the birds have been arranging for their changes of pace with the lengthening of days, it hit me only when emerging onto Herald Square from the Q train that winter is over. As the sun shone on my face for the first time in weeks, I squinted the tears from the corners of my eyes and understood. I am from Texas, and no matter how hard I try, winter will always be a psychological challenge for me.

Winter was a beautiful romance. I love the coziness of heated flooring and the warmth of a pre-war fireplace. Snow, ice, slush, and wintry drizzle amaze me. Far less precipitous winters are the norm where I’m from, so this year’s protracted winter started out as fun but eventually I found it more and more difficult to get out of bed in the morning (and to the nay-sayers: according to reported figures, this winter was the worst in ten years and smashed decades-old records).

Perhaps it was the announcement on WNYC today that we would see the 70s this weekend that prompted my tearful encounter with the sun. I scratched my head, unsure about how to dress for weather that warm. Do I just go back to my old clothes or is there a transition period in which I am expected to wear the lightest of sweaters over thin cotton? Will I look crazy if I head out in shorts and a t-shirt? I have forgotten what it’s like to leave the house with my arms and legs exposed.

Unlike the birds, I do not have an instinctual stirring that I know of (other than seasonal affective disorder) that makes me ready for spring. Instead I mark the passage of time by shifting our liturgy one important sentence: morid ha-tal we chant now, and rather than giving thanks to the One who causes the winds to blow and the rains to fall, we thank the One who makes dew come down.

I steadied myself last week at the end of Pesach and prepared to chant the words for the first time in a year. Morid hatal. My first winter is over and spring is rearing its head. I have so much to do before the summer is here and nearly no time to prepare! At last, I join the birds in our flits of hurry. I must clear out my winter nest and look forward to a new coziness. Our second wedding anniversary approaches and at last this Texan’s skin has felt the sun.

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