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  • Writer's pictureMj Pettengill

Marya of the Wood: Blue Jay Way

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Blue Jays
Blue Jays

Gravitating towards creatures in the wild is not new for me. A few years ago, I realized that I genuinely love blue jays. Of course, I love many other birds, too. I have been involved in rescue, watches, and banding. I once had an aviary and serious chicken farm. Still, now, at this time, my heart is overflowing with adoration and gratitude when I interact with blue jays.

Many people hold a grudge against blue jays, shouting, shooing, and complaining as they simply behave according to design. One neighbor went into fits whenever one swooped in near her feeders. This woman was so upset, she stopped feeding the birds altogether. After that, it was no surprise when a blue jay flew up to her door and tried to snag an Indian corn decoration.

As much as I wanted to suppress it, hearty laughter escaped, and there was no turning back. "What do you expect?" I asked. "They, like other living creatures, need to eat."

I went through the same thing with my mother, who not only cursed the blue jays, but she was at war with the squirrels and chipmunks as well. We would be sitting together having tea when suddenly she would shift into high gear about the damn blue jays. We could see them on the feeders out on the deck.

Had we been earlier versions of ourselves, I wouldn't have bothered trying to reason with her. It's natural. I grew into my own wisdom by way of experience. Standing in my truth had become acceptable. She had reached a place of hearing me, and I learned how to express myself. It took nearly a lifetime, but we renegotiated our bond, which is vital when reaching adulthood. Staying locked in childhood roles spells dysfunction, but we can talk about that another time.

So, I calmly described the logic and importance of comprehending that when one provides food in the wild, it is an open invitation to that which sniffs it out. It could be as small as a chipmunk and as large as a bear. As higher-developed beings, we must understand the consequences of our actions. It is essential to be prepared for the possible outcomes. Is this not applicable in all aspects of life?

Having been influenced by so many blue jay haters, it took me about a full season to shake that false narrative. My instincts were to frown and wish away those pests, those greedy hoodlums. But then I realized that blue jays are not bad. In fact, they are quite beautiful. Their iridescent hues are aligned with the brilliance of morning glories. I have often mentioned this in my writing; their colors cannot be authentically reproduced on the canvas. Yes, you can come close, but there is only possible illumination in the actual creation itself.

Once I was willing to look at blue jays with fresh eyes, I was enchanted as if I had never encountered them before. All it took was a stripping away of beliefs thrust upon me because of the cumulative story I had heard for so long.

I explained to my mother that I wanted to support my wild neighbors—feathered and furry—responsibly and realistically. To do that, I had to understand the response. What would happen when I put out the food? Would the animals think, She doesn't want me here. Even though I love sunflower seeds and cracked corn, I will be compliant and return to the depths of the woods. No dice.

I told her about how I have troughs for the ones that would otherwise climb, dangling from the feeders. The squirrels are gifted gymnasts, both willing and able to navigate most contraptions. It is rare to outsmart them. Yes, some folks devote countless hours rapping on windows, shouting threats, and resorting to a BB gun after investing in squirrel-proof feeders that didn't pan out.

Now, I don't bother much with any feeders. I am like Rapunzel, hanging out of the tower. I open a window and cast out various nuts, seeds, and crack corn. Except for a single suet feeder, that's it. I am done with conventional feeders.

The reason is that I do not want to get the bears in trouble. It's not worth it for them to come by and gather the seeds one by one. They still walk through from time to time, but there is nothing for them here. I cannot deter them from checking out the berries and clover. But that is the natural order of things. Still, in keeping aligned with this rule, I bring the suet in at night. Soon the bears will be in hibernation, but I'm in the rhythm of this. In the summer, I go in and out morning and night with hummingbird feeders.

So, what's going on here is foraging. The birds and small furry ones are used to seeing me go out in the early morning hours with the suet, and then I hang out the window, casting nuts and seeds. Just as they are accustomed to the morning and evening songs I sing, welcoming and signaling the end of the day.

My neighbors are harmonious with each other, even squirrels, only having a few skirmishes now and then. The chipmunks of the past season were abundant and more aggressive than what I recall. Throughout all of this, I have managed to attract large bands of blue jays. When I go out in the yard, they spread the word. I stop and listen. I acknowledge their presence.

In the summer, food is plentiful. They feed on insects, not visiting my feeding stations. Blue jays eat acorns, being a primary factor in oak trees' return after the last glacial period. They return at the beginning of fall and stay throughout the winter.

Their bright feathers are a sharp contrast against the snow. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology states that the pigment in Blue Jay feathers is melanin, which is brown. The blue color is caused by scattering light through modified cells on the surface of the feather barbs (1).

I am grateful for their presence. Now, the blue jays may be my favorite bird. I take notice of how they flutter down to the ground and then back up to the branches. Their graceful yet powerful wings in flight have become a symbol for my heart and brain connection.

For me, the world of research, writing, and music is often steeped in the workings of my brain. I am aware of this and must remember to consult and create from the heart. Especially now, during these times of uncertainty and conflict, operating from my heart space has been invaluable.

This morning, observing the blue jays flutter to the ground and then returning back up to the tree branches became a visual metaphor for maintaining balance. The earth represents the heart, and the trees are cerebral. I am beholden to these glorious creatures. They have reinforced the lesson of perception, taking the time to see for yourself, and then trusting your intuition.

1 Comment

Nov 17, 2020

I love bluejays. They are very big birds too. We have a few up here on the Mountain. Not sure why we call it Mountain View Estates. You can't see the Mountains unless you drive up Page Hill. Anyway Blue Jays are definitely one of the more frequent birds up here. The other is the Robin. Tons of them.

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