May 5th, 12th, 7th, 11th, 8th; May 2nd, 2008.

The dates in May I have been recording, relate to the arrival of a dear friend, on an annual basis. Just like looking for the Easter bunny, or waiting at the window as a child, counting the days untilI would see my three old Irish Aunts returning from wintering over in Florida, bearing presents, fun and games, and tremendous stories of their travels and adventures: I have been waiting, with full anticipation, yearning for yet another joyous occasion. I put all that I have into beckoning my friends to come.
I watch, I wait, I listen…. Any day now… Where are they?

The arrival happens by chance, just when I am not looking. Not here one moment, and there the next. Once, I heard them before I even saw them as I still lay in bed, my eyes not open yet. A sweet greeting, a promise of spring, a reassurance that they won't let me down. The song is unmistakable, very sweet and reed-like.

I am talking about my favorite bird.
The rose breasted grosbeak to me is the most beautiful bird I have ever come to know, and it is my favorite friend in nature. He is strikingly black and stark white, with a chunky pale colored beak for grinding seeds. The term gross, of the Germanic language, meaning big, or grande. (Germans call their grandparents gross-papa, and gross-mama.) The most common trait of this remarkable bird, is the big red bleeding heart going down his chest, and a large patch of red under the wing. It is such a sharp contrast to the black head, and white underbelly. I liken the timing of his arrival with the bursting of my bleeding heart plants on our property.

The rose breasted grosbeak
Sibley's Guide to Birds,
National Audubon Society.

The female looks just like any other female finch, almost sparrow-like, with muted colors of tans and white stripes about the head. However she is chunkier. I have often mistaken a common female purple finch for a grosbeak. Is that her??? Nope, not this time, over and over again.

This year on May 2nd, I was in the middle of a massage session. Something told me to turn my head and look out the window. Was that her??? Sure enough is was, and not far was her mate with the beautiful bleeding heart. My own heart leapt with joy, I took a deep breath and let out a long sigh of gratitude.

There are two pairs here this year. They are the sweetest most unassuming birds that come to the feeder. Although slightly bigger than the other birds that visit the feeders, they politely wait their turn. He tenderly places a seed in her mouth. The pairs seem to truly be in love!

They do not spook from us humans, and sit perched outside on the cedar tree looking in the studio window, with their little heads cocked to one side, watching as the massage therapies are in session. Clients are dumbfounded. We would like to think that the birds are attracted to the calm energy that comes from healing that takes place here.

I wondered about the two pairs that arrived on the same day. Where did they just arrive from? Do they travel in flocks, like some other birds? I can refer to the old standby bird books, but as fate would have it, just this morning, my husband left a copy of the Adirondack Explorer on the sink in the bathroom, and lo and behold the headline reads: “The Miracle of Migration.” An article by Brian McAllister entitled “What a Long Strange Trip” seemed mysteriously placed in my path to answer some of my questions.

These grosbeaks winter as far west as the Dakotas and straight down south to Texas and Mexico. These and other migrating songbirds can fly 100-200 miles per day, flying at rates of 20-40 mph.
Most migrating birds fly at night to avoid predators, perhaps riding the currents of the Appalachian Chain and guiding winds over the Hudson River; using the sun, moon and landmarks to guide their ancient paths. Their journeys begin when the days become shorter in the wintering areas, and their sometimes perilous journeys take some 40-50 days to complete, being blown down by strong headwinds, colliding with airplanes or overhead wires. Their arrival is a miracle, one we can count on, and we are prepared to offer them seeds, clean water, and complete adoration in return. When they arrive it feels as though everything is going to be all right.

We did not have television here until the spring following 9-11. We watched the birds instead. We had more conversations, we played music together, and probably went to bed earlier than most people. We were not stressed out by all the negativity on the networks. NO news is good news.

When it came time that we needed a computer to run a business, the television came with the package. Since then we have learned that we had no say as to whether or not we would go to war. We cannot control the price of gas. We learned that we are on our own should a hurricane Katrina hit our area. Many were duped into adjustable mortgages, only to lose their homes. Our beautiful wild lands are being developed, only to have houses sit unsold, uncompleted, or in foreclosure. Do we make a car payment, or buy groceries? Our breath is held, our hands clenched, our jaws tight, and we lose sleep. It's no wonder my massage business is increasing. We are all totally stressed out!

These are tough times for sure. It becomes very difficult to remain hopeful, and to trust that things will get better. For me, paying attention to nature, and witnessing these small miracles, gives me hope, and brings peace to my bleeding heart. I know I can count on something in a world spinning out of control. Here, in Clinton, peace can be found, not far from our own window.


"What a Long Strange Trip," Brian McAllister, Adirondack Explorer.

Pat Laine is an 8 year resident of Clinton. She owns and operates Little Creek Therapeutic Massage. She shares her home with her husband Will and their two Maine Coon cats. Whether walking in the woods, or from their vantage point overlooking Little Wappingers Creek and its environs, they observe the miracles of wildlife and plant life on a daily basis.

Miss the previous months' contributions to IN OUR BACKYARD?

Here is April
Here is March
Here is February
Here is January
Here is December