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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Be Kind to Your Neighbors



Squirrel, Red Squirrel, Public Domain
Squirrel, Public Domain

Marya of the Wood


As if in prayer, tiny hands pressed into their hearts, the red and gray squirrels perch evenly throughout branches of the red maple tree. Perfectly planned, the blue jays circle in from above, fluttering down to roost, mingling with their furred friends. They do not flinch or waiver as all eyes focus on the window. They wait. They pray. 


It is a perfect blend of gratitude and faith, for they trust I will provide them with nuts, seeds, and other merries. And they are grateful for choosing this sacred space— beyond my kitchen window—for wintering. 


I, too, am grateful. Once I make this promise, a trusting bond is forged. The simple act of showing up each day expresses my loyalty and dependability. I do it for them. And if I dare be honest, I do it for me. This commitment is vital. Should I invite them to dwell in what remains of these declining woods, I must be a trustworthy neighbor—and ally.


I go to the place where I keep the nuts and seeds, fill my container, and return to the window. Most of my feathered and furred neighbors know the sound of my voice and the window opening. A handful flutter and scamper, but the distance they flee is less with each passing day. As much as I relish their trust, I want them to be aware of humans. Not all are alike. I may be their friend, but they must keep their guard up.


Most of the blue jays will fly away, but not too far. They know what is coming. I toss the seed out, ensuring to broadcast an expansive distance. There is a skirmish occasionally, but for the most part, they are slight and tolerate each other well. I wish that humans could learn about kindness and sharing from them. They exhibit patience.


I have various feeders hanging here and there, but my goal is to invite them to forage. The initial tossing of the seed is an answer to their humble prayers. I tend to the feeders after I have my own breakfast. 


Soon, the yard is filled with juncos, chickadees, titmice, cardinals, doves, and more. My cat sits on the sill of one of her many favorite viewing places, chattering with her tail swishing wildly. In my mind, I pretend she wouldn’t tear any of them to pieces if she had the chance. She is a house cat, and the scene is akin to a dream for her.


This is our shared morning prayer. I am grateful for them. And they are for me, or at least for the seed. This is a significant ingredient, an element of the magic of winter, should you wish to create a recipe for wonderment. 


Be advised that you must follow through once you make this commitment, this promise of sustenance. Also, be aware of when the bears wake up. They are famished and will find your feeding station without hesitation. When you know this, it is time to bring your feeders in for the night. If you can’t make that promise, it is best to forget about the feeders and sprinkle the food on the ground. It’s more of a challenge for the bears, and it maintains a safe environment for all.


With so much habitat loss in these woods, your responsible involvement is a blessing for them and you. We share this space. It is not only meant for humans to destroy as they see fit and to turn a profit. Please hear their prayers.





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