If you do much TV watching, you’ve probably heard what’s been happening the last week or so on Jeopardy, the near-legendary answer-and-question TV game show. 

The idea behind Jeopardy is straightforward: There’s a game board with categories, and under each category there are a bunch of hidden answers. Contestants pick the unseen answers and then must come up with the corresponding question. If they get the question right, they are awarded money. It’s oddly appealing, and I’ve been a fan for almost as long as the show has been on. 

But the last week or so has been special. It seems that contestant James Holzhauer has been racking up the wins big-time (around $1.2 million at last count) and he’ll keep going until another contestant claims the “champion” title.

Anyway, the other night, one of the answers had to do with the Salvadore Dali painting “The Persistence of Memory.” You may have seen it; it’s the one that features melting watches against a cryptic landscape with lots of other little details to ponder as you try to figure out what it means. I actually got to see the original, one day long ago, and I still remember it vividly —see? The persistence of memory and all that. I’m no art critic — far from it — but that one strikes a chord.

The persistence of memory…yeah...

But it’s nothing compared to the persistence of birds.

You’ll recall that my “bird binoculars” have opened up a whole new world of outdoor adventure. Thanks to the wonders of optical physics, they let me appreciate all sorts of feathered creatures from a distance that doesn’t disturb the creatures I’m admiring. Those binocular lenses really are windows into a world I would otherwise not see.

The birds, for their part, seem to appreciate the attention and actually seem to be going out of their way to make my novice bird-watching easier and more convenient. Just a few minutes ago, for instance, a cardinal decided to take a break right there outside my window. And yesterday a hummingbird (yes, one of those!) hovered for perhaps 30 seconds not three feet from my nose. Neat!

But the award for most accommodating bird has to go to the one which is, persistently, trying to build a nest in our mailbox.

My first hint that this was going on was the discovery of a handful of pinestraw on top of the assortment of advertising circulars, credit card solicitations, and buy-one-get-one cheeseburger offers that these days passes for mail. I used to love to get mail and still do, going so far as to ask my world-traveling friends to send me an old-fashioned postcard from wherever they happen to be. The arrival of one of those cards is an occasion of great excitement and much more interesting than even the juiciest two-for-one burger offering. Y’all remember that. If you travel somewhere fun this summer, send me a postcard. I promise I’ll put it on my cork board for all to see.

But I digress. Back to the straw.

Figuring that said straw-in-the-mailbox was the result of, oh, maybe a mis-directed leaf blower, I gave it not a thought as I swept out the straw. Ellie the Miniature Schnauzer, who was helping me get the mail, looked pointedly at me as I did so.  Then I retrieved the day’s haul (two catalogs and a real estate liquidation promo) and went back inside for some iced tea. 

I didn’t think about the straw again until the next day when (you guessed it) I found more of it (and some twigs and moss too) in the box, again atop the mail.

I cleaned it all out again (Ellie looked at me even more pointedly) and retrieved two more credit card offers and dual promos promising me significant savings on eyeglasses and shoes.

The next day was Sunday. No mail is delivered on Sunday. But then came Monday – and lo and behold, what should await Ellie and me on Monday evening but yet another mass of straw, much bigger than the previous ones and this time with a telltale indentation right there in the middle.

Ellie looked at me meaningfully, as if to say, “See?”

Yep, you guessed it. Those persistent little birds had apparently decided to make birdwatching really easy for me by building a nest right there in the mailbox, no matter how many times I tried to mess up their plans.

But now that I’m enlightened, I’ve got a dilemma. Clearly, I have to fetch the mail. Even with all the junque mail we get, it’s still a highlight of my day, and yes, I do get teased a bit for that. 

I’ve gotta get the mail. But I don’t want to dump a nest-to-be either.

Oh, decisions.

The moral of this story is probably that bird nests are where you find them, or something like that. This really is a great time of year to look for them, too. For even more fun, take a kid or grandkid with you. I’ll bet you won’t have to look too long before you too spot a one of ‘em too.

Yeah, that might be exactly what the moral is. Or maybe it’s just a testimony to the persistence of birds.

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