10. A cardinal

For a cardinal that knows me. Early morning, poking round beneath the feeder for seeds and scraps the bumbling squirrels spilled, the cardinals see me coming but no longer scatter as they once did, or as the sparrows do. Generations have lived in this yard, built nests in its trees, brought their babies to the feeders I fill, and they have learned who fills them. When I approach with feed scoop in hand they fly to a nearby dogwood a few of my paces away and wait patient. An arm’s length out of reach and unafraid. The male this morning on his low branch is hard to miss, bright red in the naked tree, backlit by dawn. I watch him as he watches me. I talk to him a little, saying nothing he understands or doesn’t know, mere small talk between neighbors: a lovely morning, spring is coming, here’s your breakfast. Like others of my neighbors he is far from tame, and like most he is not my friend. He trusts me less than he trusts my routine, and he knows me less than my habits. But we are on neighbors’ good terms, and that is enough. Neighbors’ good terms may overcome fear, and the routine of two creatures make a tiny patch on the world’s brokenness. He has sustenance until April wakes the bugs, and I have a moment’s peace and wonder. It is enough for this morning.

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