Last summer, as I was kneeling beside a strawberry bed, my fingers searched for the last berries, those tiny nubbins that seem to be more hull than berry. June was fading into July and the late afternoon air felt thick. A quartet of bluebirds chortled over a nearby field, bits of indigo flitting over faded daisies and red clover.
The bluebirds zigzagged across my garden, and I recognized that these were parents exercising their fledglings. Suddenly, one of the youngsters glided onto my shoulder and clung to my apron strap. His parents darted near me and chirped, but their baby merely tightened his grip and cheeped. I breathed slowly, remaining rigid while the fledgling looked about. His mother, father, and sibling landed on the wooden garden fence and called to the adventurous youth.
Finally refreshed, he took flight, and they escorted their brood back to the peach orchard. I resumed picking strawberries, my enthusiasm regenerated by the bluebird that rested on my shoulder.
â€“ Joan Donaldson