I awoke with a start. It was dark. Very dark. And nearly silent, except for the hum of the fan, and the occasional gentle sound of waves lapping up against the nearby rocky shore. Unsure of what had woken me, I settled back into my pillow, and started to drift back to sleep. And then I heard it again: the shrill, high-pitched and repetitive sound of someone whining, someone calling for food, someone who was intentionally making a horrible sound in an attempt to force their parent to turn into an on-call meal delivery service. A parent would recognize that sound anywhere, including on a remote island, at 4 am, on the third day of an idyllic 10 day Maine vacation.
But who would be whining for food at 4 am in such a picturesque place, you may ask? A goddamn blue jay, or more accurately, somewhere between 12 and 120 fledgling goddamn blue jays, who although capable of feeding themselves, decided a better course of action would be to land approximately 15 inches from my window, and whine to the poor goddamn blue jay mothers to bring them their breakfast. More breakfast. Faster breakfast. Again breakfast. Repeat.
This whiney call of the wild is all too familiar to me, after experiencing it with litters of kittens, litters of raccoons, and now my very own one-member-litter of Baby 1.0, but for some reason it never occurred to me that it’s all the same; it’s all whining. Until, that is, last week when I flew (no pun intended) into a fiery rage directed at the pseudo-helpless goddamn blue jay fledglings, wanting to scream that them, “SHUT YOUR BEAKS! She’s working as fast as she can! And YOU can do it yourself, if you’re so hungry! Just quit your WHINING!”
Lying in bed, with images of branches covered in whining blue jays dancing around my head, I couldn’t help but wonder if the mother blue jays feel the same way. Do they interpret these calls as whining? Does it chap their little blue butts (or cloacas if you want to get technical) when their “kids” squawk at them in that tone, or are they just hardwired to become their “kids” servants, waiting on them wing and talon, answering their every peep with a fresh mealy worm? Is there a lesson here, swooping and flittering gracefully among the Hemlocks, in patience and kindness? Or are blue jay mothers just like the rest of us, rolling their beady eyes and digging far into their deepest recesses of patience when little Blue’s whining pushes them nearly to the breaking point?
Over the course of the remaining week, the goddamn blue jays came just about every morning, usually around the same time, and did their thing. Never once did I hear a mother scream back, or see her give a side-eyed glance that silently told little Blue he was one squawk away from a blue jay time out. She just came and went, as fast as she could, each time supplying her little precious with whatever grub she had procured from the grounds below. The longer I watched her, the more it became clear that what started as sheer irritation and annoyance had morphed into nothing but revery. What I would give for one ounce of her endless blue jay patience!
Having traded the (mostly) quiet solitude of our lakeside retreat for our loud, busy, urban apartment, I am thankful for the small lesson in parenting I received from Mama Blue. Whining may cross species, but so does patience, apparently.