I always consider it an auspicious sign when I find a feather. Yesterday I decided to avoid unpacking by planting onions and a few varieties of peppers, when I found a vibrant Blue Jay feather underneath the mulberry tree. Oh, and I also discovered we have a mulberry tree. (Props to my sister for the long-distance identification!) The Jays love the berries, and so does my dog, Ranger. I tried one, they taste like a tart blackberry. Although they are making a total mess of the driveway by the barn, it sure is a pretty tree and the birds are happy so I’m happy, too.
The sight of a Blue Jay feather always makes me smile, even though I used to hate them. My hatred started when as a knobby-kneed seven year old I saw a Jay pluck a baby robin from our birdhouse in the backyard. I screamed and yelled at it as it pecked the head of the tiny bird and ate its brains. I found the robin’s tiny body behind the garage, discarded like so much trash. I cried and told my dad. He told me simply that the Jay needed to eat too, and although it seemed cruel, without the robin the Jay would die and that would be a death to grieve, as well. It makes sense to me now, but for decades I continued to hate Blue Jays.
Then I fell in love with raptors: glorious Red Tail hawks soaring over the prairies, my first sighting of a Golden Eagle near the Grand Tetons out west, and watching the Bald Eagles of Traverse City, Michigan, raise their young on the river’s edge. I came to appreciate the ways the Blue Jays would scream in the trees, warning the local wildlife (and me!) that a raptor was soaring above. Sometimes Jays mimic the cry of the Red Tailed Hawk-possibly to alert other birds to a hawk’s presence, or maybe they are just having a bit of fun! And they are renowned for their love of acorns, burying so many that they are credited with helping create the forests that I ramble in every day.
So when I found this Blue Jay feather I considered how I have come to understand something I once disliked and feared. I placed the feather next to my bed, a totem that reminds me to understand all sides of a story, to speak my mind, and to always stop to taste the sweet berries of summer at Three Dog Farm.