Kaelin McGee Shipley: “Avian Dance”

Avian Dance

            In the winter my grandfather fed the birds. I followed him to the garage, my red galoshes squeaking across the hard packed snow, our breath billowing out of our noses in a fog of white vapor.

            The sparrows sat in a line, their toes curled around the wire of the garden fence, a brigade of small fluffed out soldiers awaiting their orders.

            He’d fill a half pound coffee can with little yellow seeds and fling them across the snow, dappling the white ground with tiny pieces of gold.

            The birds would rise from the fence in a gray-brown cloud, bodies swooping up and down, peeping, twittering and chirping as they fed.

            Many, many years later I feed the birds, trying different nuts, berries, and seeds to see what will come to the feeders. Where I live there are five different species of woodpecker. How many will I see?  Only three so far. 

______Bluebirds arrive in January attracted to the mealworms—also starlings–they bring their friends—fifty or seventy uninvited guests for dinner. That bright red spot against the snow is a cardinal, watching, waiting for his turn at the sunflower seeds.  Strutting across the patio is a wren, bold and sassy, loudly demanding her right to the worms.

            It’s a late winter afternoon. I sit on the couch, my favorite cat in my lap, the sun streaming through the western windows.  Fluttering up then down, feathery shadows create an avian ballet across the cream walls of the room, ethereal and beautiful.

            Attracted by the commotion a Coopers Hawk alights on the fence. A musical smorgasbord presents itself and he too must eat. Abruptly the yard is silent. The birds have disappeared. He sits for a few moments, surveying the scene, then gives a frustrated cry, lifts off, and is gone.

            Moments pass—a lone chickadee darts out of the bushes. She has the feeder to herself. The ice broken, more return. The yard is a hub of activity again.

______I am transfixed, delighted—addicted–all because my grandfather fed the birds.


Kaelin McGee Shipley is a writer from West Lafayette, Indiana. She has previously published short fiction and essays in The Persimmon Tree, The Northwest Indiana Review, and Litbreak, among others. Odd moments, interesting conversations, and unusual situations inspire her work.

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