A mockingbird sits in the top of our Yaupon holly tree every evening right before sunset. I watch him out the breakfast room windows, admiring, wondering as he defends his tree from all comers. The would-be plunderers of holly berries include several squirrels and a particularly determined blue jay.
It’s a good-sized tree with thousands of red berries. When the weather turns really cold, the squirrels are all over it, stuffing their cheeks in spite of the dive-bombing bird. But on sunny days, no one bothers. Most years, there will still be fruit until late February or mid-March. The berries will turn orange and what hasn’t been devoured will fall to the ground to feed the field mice.
I wonder if the mockingbird is simply being territorial. Perhaps he would defend the tree as a future nesting place even if there were no berries. Whatever his bird-reasoning, he does an admirable job of it. I would say he’s a good steward.
The bird causes me to reflect on my own stewardship. Realizing I’m in the later third of my life (perhaps less; who knows) I sometimes think about what I’m going to leave behind and to whom it should pass down.
Money is the easy part. There may not be any left, especially if I live into the ninth decade as some women in our family have done. Even if there remains a tidy sum, to me it is the least important. What matters most are those things an heir could not obtain for him/herself: a crocheted bedspread, embroidered pillowcase, hand-carved wooden doo-hickey, recipe collection, grandfather’s Civil War pistol. These are the things I steward.
And memories. I should write a book.
In addition to all the family stuff, I could tell about having my foot stuck on the bottom of the Arkansas River, raging water over my head. I could explain how to brown the bottom of biscuits after cooking them in a wood cook stove, circa late 1800’s. I have actually written a little book about some of the medicinal herbs I know.
I’m in charge of getting these things and this information and these memories into the hands of those who outlive me.
Perhaps the most valuable thing I’ve been given to steward is my time. I fear I haven’t done a very good job of it, spending too many minutes/hours/days worrying about things I couldn’t change or playing computer games to take my mind off those things.
I want to be more like the mockingbird. He’s focused, he has a goal, he’s determined. He is a good steward of his tree and his berries.
I’ve noticed this week a second mockingbird is joining him and he has stopped protesting. I suppose it is the mate he’s been saving those berries for. They will build a nest soon and those squirrels better look out!