“There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.” – Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
In 2008, I applied to be part of a scientist-in-the-field study for teachers through a grant study that invited teachers to gather at the Jones Ecological Research Center in Newton, Georgia to engage in scientific research in the areas of aquatics, forestry, wildlife, and plants. This was a life-changing experience for me, helping me to understand the reasons for controlled burns, showing me how trees talk to share the history of drought conditions throughout time, and helping me to develop an even deeper love of environmental science.
Each teacher chose two areas for the week-long study; my first year was spent studying plants and wildlife. I reapplied the following summer and was blessed to be able to attend a second time and complete the studies of forestry and aquatics. From the readings over these summers, I became a fan of Aldo Leopold’s Sand County Almanac; it is highlighted, with notes in margins, and each time I reread it, I find another favorite part. When the nation was mesmerized with Where the Crawdads Sing, I smiled at Owens’ first line – it came straight from Leopold.
As a teacher-scientist participant, I received a gift certificate to Forestry Suppliers, and I had not one moment’s hesitation about what to order. Bluebird boxes.
My love of birds was born as a child, when my mother taught me all the different kinds of birds that came to our backyard feeders. She was your typical birdwatcher – she’d don a bucket hat and sit with binoculars, watching for hours on end with a glass of iced tea on the porch and shared her love of birds she’d gotten from her own mother with both my brother and me. So I ordered 20 bluebird houses – some to be placed on school campuses, and a few on the Johnson Funny Farm, where I live in middle Georgia.
And here is my moment: today, I have baby bluebirds in the same surviving bluebird house that has been in its exact spot for 14 years – as there have been every year since 2009. The house is not in great shape – it is weathered and worn, but it has drawn the bluebirds to it year after year to raise their young.
If you’re wondering what to do to honor Mom on Mother’s Day, give her a bluebird box. If she’s no longer here, put up a bluebird box in her memory to honor the motherhood of bluebirds! And sit back and watch.
Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.
May 5, 2022 baby bluebirds