Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Bird in a guilt cage

Birdseed Arguments
Originally uploaded by CB Photography
The house we're currently sitting is the reason we have a squirrel-proof bird-feeder at home. This is the third time we've sat this house and one of the things I loved most about it (in addition to the hot-tub under a canopy of Garry Oaks and a large hill-top garden in which I only have to water potted plants because professional gardeners visit twice weekly) was the marvelous bird-feeder on the front porch where I could watch finches, nuthatches and many other birds. There were two non-squirrel-proof feeders in the back garden and one morning younger daughter and I watched in disbelief as a squirrel systematically scraped the rope back and forth on the tree limb from which the contraption hung until it plummeted to the ground, carrying several breakfasting birds with it. ("Jack! This is where we met!")

I speak in the past tense, alas. While receiving my final instructions from the owner, he informed me that he was no longer filling the bird-feeders.
"The birds come anyway," he shrugged.

Except they don't. I lasted one week before sneaking around to the pet supply store near where younger daughter is having swimming lessons. Somehow, I feel this is probably unethical. It's his house. I'm not sure why he's leaving the empty, dusty bird-feeders up; maybe he intends to feed the birds during the winter months only. But, oh, it's lovely to have them back. I sneakily hose the seed shells off the porch, and plan to stop refilling just before they return. I'm a ba-a-a-a-d house-sitter...

And that's not all I'm bad at. During this morning's illicit birdseed run, I held the shop door open for an attractive gentleman about my age and his winsome teenage daughter. He thanked me and addressed me by name. My heart sank. I've described my problems with face-blindness before. Even when he mentioned the name of his pretty daughter it didn't help, although he said it was she who had recognized me. I assumed it was a fellow-parent from elder daughter's co-op preschool days as we were in the general neighbourhood, chattered a bit and politely parted. I was shoveling birdseed from one of the bins when it hit me. The man is the widower of a high school and university friend who died two years ago, leaving two girls then aged ten and twelve. I have a photo of the family that I took in seven years ago on my fridge. The daughter has completely changed since then...but her father hasn't. Damn. Damn. Damn.

Burning with shame and with the sun that is unseasonably hot for Victoria this year (Ottawa is unseasonably cool, of course), I headed home with my shopping and waited out most of the afternoon's heat in the lower level of the house. Few houses in Victoria have air-conditioning; a week to two weeks' worth of above 25 degrees Celsius isn't worth the expense.

Unlike Ottawa, Victoria's summer heat quickly dissipates in the evening, so I decided to take younger daughter on an expedition to get ice-cream, envisioning the trek down the hill in the golden evening light with the sea breezes wafting fragances. Instead, the sun hung stubbornly above the western horizon in a blazing ball. We arrived at the local Thrifty Foods, passing parades of young children in tow behind their mums. I realized with a twinge how all of these kids would have been born after we left for Hades nine years years ago.

The supermarket aisles were deliciously cool. I encouraged younger daughter to make a selection, narrowing it down by category: "It has to be Island Farms because we can't get that in Ottawa; do you want chocolate? No? Vanilla? Here's six variations on vanilla." She chose the chocolate chip one, of course. Near us, a small family were also mulling over the selection, debating over ice milk or frozen yogurt. The dad, an early thirties civil servant type, called after his wife: "Well, you're the one who has to wear the tennis skirt. It's your choice...." I watched her walk off towards the cashier and briefly considered bouncing my deposit bottle off his bean, but thought the better of it. It might have upset the two young children this lithe woman had borne him, evidently without gaining an ounce.

The climb back up the hill is deceptively steep and relentless, taking twenty minutes of steady plodding. By the time we'd reached the house, I was in an Ottawa-worthy sweat, and checked the computer to confirm my suspicions. Yep, 28 degrees Celcius at seven pm, with a humidex of 33, the equivalent of a mild summer day in the nation's capital. Hades has followed me home.


Ann oDyne said...

Here in another Victoria we mostly survived 47Celsius on February 7th this year.

Our equivalent of squirrels would be the very naughty brushtail possums who swing on birdfeeders till they crash to the ground.

I have been housesitting continuously for 2 years, and I make sure the pets have a wonderful time while their owners abandon them. So many pets are left alone for their owners 60-hour working week that I wonder why they bothered buying the poor things.

If I lived where there were snowy winters I would be the mad old lady who froze to death while feeding birds.
peace and love

JoeinVegas said...

We have seed bird feeder and three hummingbird feeders, no climbing things, squirrels or otherwise, in the desert to steal the food. But not as green either.

Volly said...

Birdseed is expensive. Nice of you to do this. By the time the owner gets back, the birdies will be well-fueled for their journey south.

As for the face-blindness, I got zinged just today. New job, working with a lot of mechanics, who all wear the same uniform and hat. Yep, you know where this is going. I said a cheerful hello to Brandon as he clocked in. When he turned full-face to me, I knew I'd "done it again." Fortunately, Tommy (for that is who it was) is a friendly young man who shook my hand and introduced himself. He looks like Billy Bob Thornton, which is good and bad. Good because BBT is in my Hot Zone, but very, very bad because you just know what I'm going to call him sooner or later!