Grandma's Chickadees

I have my own picture window now, complete with bird feeder.

Grandma fed her chickadees
religiously, for years.  Filling 
a rusted coffee can with sunflower 
seeds, she loaded the feeder outside 
her big picture window, daily.

Seated with binoculars and bird book in hand, 
she watched the window like a big screen TV.
A .22 leaned casually against the window frame.  
She slipped its nose out occasionally, firing a round 
into marauding Blue Jays and other greedy types.

Her letters to me, in shaky script, described 
birds she saw and bears; often
mother bears moving through the old
orchard on their way to the river
with cubs in tow.  

She stopped shooting the rifle, she said,
after she accidentally shot a hole in the floor.  
When a bold bear came and stood outside the window
making eye contact with her, she also stopped feeding the birds. 

I wanted her to feed them anyway,
to stand her petite frame in the wide
window, binoculars in one hand and riffle
in the other, like a sharp shooter in the WWII
movies Grandpa and I watched in her
living room.  I wanted food for the birds,
which were food for her.  I wanted her to keep
feeding them.  

Now I walk my own property
toting bags of oiled, black sunflower seeds. 
One by one I lower, fill, and rehang feeders.  
I watch dumpy doves, dapper cardinals, bright yellow finches 
and the greedy squirrel who hangs upside-down by his back toes.
I lift my children to face the window, “Look! See!,” I say.  

We’re a long way from the mountains,
though I can see them in the distance.  
I don’t believe the bears will find me here, 
but if they do, maybe I’ll tell them
about my Grandmother – her binoculars and gun,
her happy, well-fed chickadees.    


  1. sweet, sweet bird story, Kelly. my husband and I are the grandma and the grandpa, too. How we love the chickadees (and juncos, and housewrens, and finches...especially the goldfinches.)

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