Backyard Volunteerism

We have an upstart sunflower with one little head growing beneath one of our bird feeders, the one that holds black sunflower seeds. A second, about half the size, has started growing beneath a second feeder, the one that holds an assortment of fatty seeds. I imagine that in a few weeks, the taller of the two will block our view of the sunflower feeder as it pushes that growing head of seeds up toward the sun. Maybe they both will, as they look healthy. Here’s a close up of the emerging head, in which you can see a little bit of yellow.

Volunteer Sunflower

Volunteer Sunflower

Similarly, we have a peach tree growing beside our propane tank, which is now, though slightly pushed southward, is full of 1-2″ peaches. By our front door, squeezing out in front of one of our overgrown bushes, is a weed of some sort. It’s going to blossom soon and I can’t wait to see what kind of flowers emerge. Among our more annoying volunteers are the grasses–crab and jamaica–that sprawl along the undergrowth like gnarly knuckled fingers clasping at whatever grows there. I think they rather diminish the meaning of volunteer. Among humans we think this is what builds community. This is what builds character.

Last night, Omni and I watched Chimpanzees, a movie-fied true story about a chimp whose mother dies while he is still just a youngun. The other mothers reject him (rather nastily, I might add), the other babies seem to pull away. The last “person,” I was going to say, that little Oscar turns to was the leader of the tribe, Freddy, a tough old loner who has no time for the antics of lesser beings. But Oscar follows and Freddy changes. He becomes Oscar’s volunteer mother, carrying him around on his back, teaching him how to survive, grooming him (in some of the more touching scenes). No one anticipated that Freddy had such nurturing in him, such tenderness. It seemed more likely that Oscar would waste away, ignored, losing weight, no one to pick the ticks and lice from his little body. I was reminded of Jane Goodall’s David Greybeard, and for a moment forgot I was looking at a community of apes.

Then this morning, I found a new sort of volunteer outside our window. It hangs from a branch that holds a third bird feeder, for thistle seeds. This branch is like a skinny hand with many twigs where birds like to land, if fleetingly, and take a look inside (or so I imagine). I don’t recall seeing spiderwebs on this tree-branch till today, but with the dew clinging to the threads, it was impossible not to notice.

This week I’m a volunteer child sitter, something I raise my hand for whenever I can. Yesterday was pretty boring for my good 8-year-old, and I appreciate her patience. She goes to work with me in the morning, where I occasionally have to remind her to turn down the youtube volume, and sometime around lunch we head home. Today she hopes to see her cousin and get in some swim time. I may agree to that. I mean, what would Freddy do? WWFD.

Jump, all fours

Jump, all fours

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