Almost every morning, I hear a tapping out on the deck off my kitchen. Double glass doors open to the deck. And almost every morning, there’s a jay perched on the railing, impatient for breakfast. Breakfast is mostly the same: a handful of black sunflower seeds from the bag in the cupboard under the sink. Sometimes there’s a small pile of shelled peanuts or pumpkin seeds. But usually it’s the sunflower seeds.
For the past month I’ve taken a photograph nearly every day. That’s how I know that the zinnias have been blooming since late August, a lucky combination of oranges. Seeds from the same package, planted in the greenhouse, produced pink and strawberry flowers. Some years I save the seed so these might be offspring of last year’s flowers, or the year before.
Some mornings there are two jays. I wish I could tell them apart. For a week or so, one of them seemed to have a grey area on its right side, possibly a juvenile in late moult. But now they’re pretty much identical. The same size, the same intense blue. Are you this year’s jays, I ask them? Did your parents tell you I can be persuaded to put out seed? This morning one of them moved sideways along the railing with exactly the body language of a kid racing along a sidewalk on a skateboard.
I’ve been working on a quilt for grandson E. and I always sit in the rocking chair near the glass doors. When I do that, the jays often come again, for a snack or maybe just to see what I’m doing. Are they surprised to see that the quilt has something of their colours in it, the place where I feed them? Though it’s a school bus under a blue sky, because E. always asks about ours when we talk to him on the phone. Where is your bus? If it’s a video call, I go into the room where he sleeps and hold up the bus so he can see it. He likes to hear about the school bus that stopped at the bottom of our driveway each morning to take his dad and his aunt and uncle to school and then brought them safely home at the end of the day. There were jays then too although I didn’t feed them on the deck. They ate from the feeders, arriving with a squawk that drove away the smaller birds. When I stitch the quilt that remembers the bus and the faces in its windows, I am half-listening for the sound of it stopping at the foot of the driveway where the black dog Lily waited to walk up the path with her children.