Monday, May 4, 2009

Inner Nature

For the past two years, a family of cardinals has nested in the young pine tree above the girls' sandbox. In spite of their notoriously aggressive nature, we think they make great neighbors.

The girls love them because their bright coloring is easy to spot. We often mimic their harsh, whistling song, watch their babies practice flying, or the parents gather food. Joe and I share some nostalgic fondness for the animal that was once our high school mascot (and that of most of our relatives).

Maya helped set up the tent.... practice camping for her big birthday camping trip!

Unfortunately, the chicken ladies don't think the cardinals make such great neighbors.

Today all five of the juvenile cardinals snuck into the chicken run through a gap in the roof of the fence. True to their inner nature, the pushy cardinals darted around, fiercely and noisily pecking at the corn we had just laid out for the ladies.

Meanwhile, true to their own reputation, the ladies.... well, they were chicken. Within 30 seconds, they had all sprinted to the coop, with all the open-winged off-kilter hilarity of running chickens . The noisy, swirling attack of the cardinals didn't last more than a minute or two. They didn't clean up the corn, just had a taste, then flapped around ineffectually for a bit before rediscovering the way out.

Our ladies didn't work up the guts to leave the coop for a good 15 minutes. Even then, Maya and Elliot lured them with freshly plucked dandelions.

Lately, it has been so tempting to make these sweeping observations about the girls, their similarities, their differences, their inner natures. Maya the tender heart... Maya the helpful. Elliot the gleeful... Elliot the willful. Intellectually, I want to resist this urge. I would hate to box them into expectations or label them in some limiting way.

Is that sunscreen on the eggs?

But the chickens and the cardinals weren't the only ones demonstrating their inner natures today. Helpful Maya covered the newly harvested chicken eggs with sunscreen, so they wouldn't get burned in the basket while we took them inside. She also helped set up the tent for a little "pretend camping." Meanwhile, impish, gleeful Elliot was pulling up the stakes, hiding them in the sandbox, and then running laps... up the ladder, down the slide, up the ladder, down the slide.... Perhaps, this isn't an inner nature thing, just a 19-month-old and an almost-4 thing... Or a big sister little sister thing.

Either way it has been a highly entertaining morning.

It is close to 70 today, making Elle's thermal vest unnecessary...
but Maya had her camping vest on, and Elliot insisted that she have a vest too.

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