By Diane Lockspeiser

I know several people who sincerely believe that when a cardinal (the bird) comes to visit, it is a sign of the presence of a dearly departed loved one.  I could never get myself to adhere to that belief, probably as a result of living for twenty years in a house where a pair of cardinals resided in the yard year-round for most of that time.  That could be considered a haunting, right?

New insight and sympathy for the belief came to me a few mornings ago, however.  It had been one of the unseasonably frigid nights that we had in early November and so I was getting a fire going in the woodstove.  Outside of several windows in that room is a gigantic, beautiful Norway Spruce.  All year round I watch the birds, and sometimes squirrels, who seem to love that tree as much as I do.  As I tended to the fire that morning, I had been thinking about how the chickadees have taken over the tree, as usual for the Winter.  Then I kept hearing a rather persistent short peeping call that did not sound like a chickadee, so I finally looked up at the tree.  A very large bright red cardinal sat there, staring straight at me before flying away.  It felt at that moment as if he had been trying to get my attention just to say hello.  A visit from beyond, maybe?  It’s more likely that he had been staring at his own reflection in the window, and maybe challenging it, before noticing me there.

We have had many birds crash into our windows, but no one can blame it on the glass being too clean and clear, since that is one task that I am NOT good at keeping up with!  Unfortunately, a couple of birds have died from the collisions, but most just sit there stunned for a moment before flying off.  I’m guessing that they were not travelling very fast because of all the trees and bushes surrounding the room.  I have noticed that the windows reflect the images of the branches, so maybe the birds thought they were landing on one.

In that same room, my dog Xena has trained me to let her in or out of the sliding glass door whenever she taps on it.  Some of the chickens then learned that it’s a great way to get my attention if they tap on it too!  The day after the first ice and snow from the November cold snap, I made the mistake of letting them free-range.  Several made their way through the snow-frosted ice layer to the back porch and just spent the day hanging out there, pooping everywhere.  When evening descended—time to go back into the coop—they did not want to go back down the still-icy steps.  Instead, they started tapping frantically at the door.  Well, they got my attention all right – I chased them, and even let Xena happily join in.  She is usually a good girl and leaves them alone, but she really enjoys the times when I tell her it’s okay to chase them.  A few minutes of frightened chaos for the chickens and suddenly the stairs weren’t all that bad after all.

Poor girls, I notice that they haven’t tapped on the glass ever since!~