I haven't had my own outdoor space in twelve years. I had Fort Greene and Prospect park. I had the Brooklyn Bridge, the Promenade, Washington Square and Central Park. None of these disappoint. But I fancy myself a gardener since I grew up with chores like:
1. pick a bucket of weeds
2. rake a pile of leaves
3. plant the box of marigolds
4. spread two wheelbarrows of mulch
My Grandfather, who my sister and I call "Papaw", always took enormous pride in his yard. A corner lot, his yard on Gatesway Court held court. People called him "the yard man". He spent hours outside everyday and his yard reflected those hours. Papaw had his own pace. He didn't just stop to smell the roses, he made friends with them and helped them grow.
I went to Sunset Nursery to look for the inhabitants of my new garden in Los Angeles. I walked the leafy aisles and some brave souls volunteered their lives. At the checkout, I noticed bird feeders. I bought one that looked like a mason jar, filled it and hooked it to my central tree. For two weeks, I watch the jasmine start to wrap it's fingers around the chain link and the fern fronds open, but no birds. I mean not a single vist; not even a fly by.
"Am I doing something wrong? The birds aren't coming" I said to the manager at the nursery. The salt and pepper haired, twinkly eyed manager smiled at my seriousness, "You're welcome to return the feeder if you're dissatisfed, but give it time, they will find the food. Give them a chance."
In the car driving home, I finsihed listening to a podcast on dark matter. Don't ask; I still don't know what dark matter is but I loved listening to physicist Lisa Randall hypothesize. She and her team of scientists at Harvard build a theory based on faithful observation and big ideas and then grow the hypothesis with the assumption of success. If their experimentation disapproves their hypothesis, they still end up with an illuminating conclusion.
My hypothesis: my garden and my feeder will not attract birds because I didn't do it right. I predict my own failure a lot. I wonder why. It makes feel more serious, more scared than my nature. All that dread about doing it wrong and sure enough, a week later, the birds came. They now come in busloads. Our garden is Woodstock for birds. They are eating us out of house and home. The plants are happy too.
Papaw would like my garden. Everything in it, the wings, the water, the sun, the dirt, the ants, the sticks all say what Papaw would say: enjoy your life, you are doing fine.