Rainbow Rant: A bird's eye view of home

Joy Ellison
Believed to have been blown inland from the Gulf of Mexico by the recent hurricanes, a brown booby sits on its perch at Nimisila Reservoir south of Akron. It's the first recorded sighting of the sea-going bird in Ohio.

Birds are undignified and that is why I love them. 

Confined to my apartment by the pandemic, I have joined the swelling ranks of backyard birders. I am slowly becoming my mother, a woman who owns five bird feeders and a solar-powered bird bath she made herself, and I don’t even mind. 

Mom bought me a bird feeder for my birthday, which I eagerly attached to my office window. It took a few months for the local birds to pass the word about the all-you-can-eat buffet I had prepared for them, but like senior citizens on a Sunday afternoon, they are here to stay now.

Sparrows hit up my feeder like Ohio State students sniffing out forbidden frat parties. The picture on the box in which my birdfeeder arrived showed dainty birds perching on the lip of the feeder. My birds, however, didn’t get that memo. Instead, they fly inside the feeder, find a comfortable spot amid the bird seed, sit their feathered asses down, and begin to feast.

As I watch these fuzzy brown creatures of the sky sitting on their food, I imagine what is going through their little bird brains: “Yep, my ass goes here.” 

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I can’t blame the birds for their lack of decorum. If I were confronted with a vat of trail-mix twice the size of my body, I might climb in just to reach the almonds and M&Ms. Or if I found a ball pit filled with donuts, you can bet that I would sit myself down inside it, knowing full well I would soon be covered in sticky-sweet icing and jelly filling. 

When I see tell-tale bird-butt impressions in the birdseed, I admire my avian visitors for making themselves at home on the fly. They already know a lesson I am trying to learn.

When I was a queer kid trying to grow up, I searched for somewhere I could feel at home. I flitted from place to place like a migrating bird. I spoke of “finding myself,” before I realized that wherever I went, there I was. 

Now that I’m stuck inside, I’m ready to accept a sparrow’s lesson in homemaking: Home isn’t where the heart is; it’s where the snacks are. 

Hearts aren’t meant to stay home. They’re supposed to roam wide, daydreaming better futures, probing our interconnections, comforting us when home isn’t enough. But there’s a lot of wisdom in sitting your ass down and settling in to make a home of wherever you find yourself. That’s when you notice that the birds are singing, and start to wonder if they’re hungry. Pretty soon, you wonder about your human neighbors, too. Then, finally, you’re home.