Carolyn StevensContributing Columnist

I’m not proud of this story but I have to confess the first part before I can write the rest of it. It all started out well. A little black kitten, obviously an orphan, found his way to our front porch and was crying. We only intended to help a starving throw-away so we took him in and stuffed him full. He was so grateful he didn’t stop purring. The next step was to take him to the veterinarian to be de-wormed, inoculated, and … be neutered. (I decided he’d never miss what he’d never had. What do I know?) That was a hard way for him to learn there’s no such thing as a free lunch. He stayed anyway and became an indoor cat with a box bathroom. He went outside whenever he wanted, learned to dodge the traffic and all was fine for quite awhile.

I inherited an appreciation for the tiny creatures who share this space with us, specifically the birds. Without direction, they tirelessly and dependably help in keeping our corner green by re-seeding. We’ve had “surprise” plants in our yard that could only start from seeds … that we didn’t plant! Birds multiply their flocks with no help from humans. Well, maybe a few pounds of bird seed through the winter months. I credit the squirrels for their part in giving us a variety in our flower beds; they transplant the neighbors flower bulbs to our corner. We forgive them for taking off with some of our pricey iris rhizomes; it evens out.

At the time of Cricket, the cat, we had pots of lovely ferns hanging around our porch. Families of finches found our ferns, claimed them as their own, and we happily supplied the seed to support three families. They weren’t the beautiful gold finches but those of a drab brown color, the singers. Their voices are sweeter than canaries, letting go with lovely clear notes, like angels in total joy. We came home one day to see those ferns had been disturbed. No, destroyed! Jumping up from the porch railing, Cricket had attacked and eaten three nests of baby finches, then he went into the house to vomit all of that onto the carpet. He hadn’t overcome his survival instincts, catching and eating prey when he wasn’t even hungry. It hurt me to send him to the veterinarian, a final trip, but I could not like him anymore. He had made a fatal mistake. I had to send him off to be gently put out of MY misery.

All these years since, a finch has never again graced our doorstep. We know they’re in the neighborhood because we hear them singing, about a block south east of here. This year, RB (a Southerner who cannot admit defeat, dear boy) was determined to have finches again. He started with two bags of thistle seed, their favorite. In about two days, the brown bag was discovered; they never touched the green bag although the seed was identical. Then he bought a huge fern and hung it in the corner, away from the porch railing Within days, a pair of finches landed in the center of it. They undoubtedly already had a home established with eggs … or babies. They were just checking the “apartment” for a possible move with their next family. As an added incentive, I bought a bird bath. They took a sip of water but never got their feet wet. Birds do take a bath in dust to get rid of parasites. I just wanted them to have something elegant.

All this time, we’ve had our reliable tenants, the faithful sparrows who never fail to build under the corner of the porch roof. This fall, we must clean out that little bird house. Instead of using it this year, they built on the small shelf beside it. Even birds can’t tolerate trash. I love little sparrows. They’re even mentioned in the Bible and in a song related to the verse, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow.” In Biblical times, people too poor to give a lamb or calf as an offering could give a gift of sparrows, two for a penny. I’m not even worth that much on a good day!