Jay BirdI’m trying to write, but birds are squawking outside the window. Not just a few chirps.  These guys are upset.  OK. I press “save” on my computer and head outside to find six Steller’s Jays flapping about in a heated conversation. On the lawn is Obi, my sweet old Animal Save dog, his mouth slightly open with that evasive “I’m not going to show you” look.

Ignoring my demands to “drop it,” he heads downhill accompanied by an aerial Greek Chorus.  He has his prize and isn’t going to relinquish it to me or the worrisome birds swooping overhead. I follow and corner him by his invisible fence, pry open his mouth and extract a bedraggled fledgling. Yes, it’s still alive.

Now the jays turn on me. Like the procession in Peter and the Wolf, I hold the bird high and head for home – dog leaping at my heels, ten birds now circling overhead.

With Obi locked in his dog yard, I set the soggy fledgling on the grass and watch from inside the house. I count twelve jays now. One lands next to little bird and gives him a poke, causing him to topple over, feet upright in the air. Another joins the poking.  Parents, probably.  I set the fledgling in a safer place and return to my computer.

After two hours of non-stop squawking, I realize the birds are now obsessed with my caged dog who is huddled tightly in a corner. They vent and dive. Obi’s eyes plead. I suggest he apologizes.

The Steller’s Jays continue their diatribe for four hours solid.  They seem to have no scruples about raiding other bird’s nests and eating their eggs, but they watch each other’s back more than any bird I’ve seen.

© All materials copyright Shirley DicKard, 2012 – 2013, except as otherwise noted.


  1. Oops, meant to say:

    I can picture a man thousands of years ago, spear in hand, looking on a last tribe of Neanderthals and shaking his head, and another man, nay woman, some years ahead, spear in hand, looking on a last tribe of humans struggling to attach a crooked branch to an ancient shovel blade and shaking her head…

  2. A wonderful post Shirley. I imagine the Jays will be with us in 2080 too, but I wonder now if the future residents of Cville will be more like the Jay’s or Robins. Will they harass and bully away “visitors” traveling into town, like Jay’s when the random little flicker try’s searching my garden for worms? Or will the town be inhabited with people like “robins in the spring” only to be shooed away when the Jays arrive behind them?

    On other notes: Been reading Orlov’s post on “Communities that Abide”, about the various close-knitted cultural enclaves that seem to be around no matter the tone of the times. Gypsies, Amish … He has sparked some heated discussions but the central idea remains: There are communities that have evolved as “survivors”. They tend to coexist amongst the so-called “normal” communities but as things changes these abiding communities more or less remain fixed to their ways and tend to survive hard times better than the “norms”. The Jay’s exhibit a trait of “communities that abides”, in their protective ways with their young and their bullying of other species.

    Also, Greer’s latest post “Imperfect Storms” (thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com) is good reading. He’s defending his notion of a slow decline (as opposed to some kind of apocalyptic decline) with the notion of “negative feedback” from systems theory, which says that “negative feedback” tends to keep things from going haywire when bad stuff happens.

    But in this blog, Greer also gives his take on timeline of the coming times, which is interesting for your story line. What will the world be like in 2080? Hard times expected, industrial decline pretty much complete. A world full of salvaged parts keeping things going, sort of like “burning man” meets “main street” living.

    I can imagine your descendent returning to Cville to find such a world inhabited by tinkerers, scrappers, growers of course. Imagine the water works! A culture abiding in place but only by developing some rather severe cultural traits, like jay’s turning away the occasional curious but prodigal daughter.

    So that’s my contribution to the story line. Of course, the opening scene of this chapter is of this young lady grasping the gunnels of a small schooner making it’s way from frisco to marysville, eyeing the sutter buttes in the distance, Diablo behind and marveling the derelict structures poking above the water’s surface, and the birds, oh the birds. Following the rivers to Cville.

    1. Mark, your insight and eloquence is always an inspiration! Thanks for the concept of “communities that abide.” I’m getting the book. I’ve been grappling with what Amisha will face when she finds the mountain homestead. Definitely there are small, wandering groups that move according to the now erratic seasons. She will also discover the core of an “abiding community.” I do sense, as Greer does, that we are headed for a slow “devolution.” Progress will unwind as resources are depleted, technology is unable to be powered, and life forms are engineered beyond recognition. You get it – so keep the flow coming!

      1. Here’s another glimpse ahead: was reading Greer from May 23, 2007, where he posits five hallmarks of the future: population decline, migration, political disintegration, cultural drift (the absence of the means of long distance communication leading to the dehomogenation of culture) and ecological change. But then a commenter, Jason, says there is a sixth: a reversal of the current trend where domesticated humans outnumber the feral humans. I think he’s right, in fact I think I see them near once a day! It’s one thing to imagine pockets of communities maybe thriving in their decline, and its another thing to imagine the monkey wrench of warlords and colonial powers butting in and taxing these peaceful clans, but isn’t it yet another constantly over your shoulder fear of running into, or running off, yet another pack of ferals…. And don’t the old stereotypes and racist genes just jump into your imagination! I can picture a man thousands of years ago, spear in hand, looking on a last tribe of Neanderthals and shaking his head, and another man, nay woman, spear in hand, looking on a last tribe of humans struggling to attach a crooked branch to an ancient shovel blade and shaking her head…

        1. Feral humans. Hmmm . . . I like the term. Amisha’s already met a band that showed up at the homestead, didn’t treat her too kindly.
          Another thought – how far must humans devolve before the earth gets her well-deserved reprieve?

        2. Well, me thinks the devolution started a few thousand years ago. We’re just hoping that evolution picks back up again real soon.

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