When Nature Is Nurture

By Luma, John | Newsweek, February 11, 2008 | Go to article overview

When Nature Is Nurture


Luma, John, Newsweek


Byline: John Luma; Luma Lives In Moorpark, Calif.

An encounter with a feathered friend showed me just how much the natural world needs us.

Like many people living in our tight modern suburbs, I don't often think about nature. Sure, I notice the sunny or overcast day, the wide sky, and maybe I glance at an occasional bird or squirrel. And even though I grew up an outdoor kid in Detroit--even planting my own childhood garden--I view my weekly grass cutting as a monotonous chore, the wind in my face an irritation.

My sense of wonder is seriously "adulterated." I'm too busy looking for work as a media marketing producer and raising a family. I don't have much time for such grandiose concerns as nature.

That all changed last summer when my wife, Andrea, called me outside and asked me to help keep two hopping baby birds from frying in the hot sun against the far wall of our backyard.

Busy at work on my computer, I grudgingly headed to the calamity, expecting to offer a brief but effective helping hand. I figured I would move them to the shade and give them a little saucer of water. Then I'd watch them chirp gratefully and fly off to live happily ever after.

It didn't quite turn out that way.

The two birds refused the water. One took off into the shrubs, never to be seen again. That seemed to me like Nature "doing its thing," the way it should be. I didn't worry about that birdie. But the second little guy just sat baking in the sun, refusing to move. He seemed to be passively accepting a very dire fate. I picked him up. He chirped as if thanking me. I could see he was not injured: legs toothpick thin but steady. Wings very short but feathered. Eyes looking up at me alertly, mouth wide open.

Of course, that's what did it. That needy, desperate, adorable open mouth. As he sat there in my hand, a little feathered ball of warmth, he said to me, "I'm starving, and it will be on your conscience if you don't feed and take care of me, starting right now."

I looked up "feeding wild baby birds" online and discovered my pushy little friend was a mockingbird. I fixed a nice sampler of cottage cheese, canned dog-food bits, soaked cut-up raisins, mashed egg yolk and water from an eyedropper. I hand-fed him right off the tip of my obsessively washed index finger. He ate like Godzilla munching New York City. …

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