My Heart Leaps Up When I Behold

My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth
I have been thinking about Fathers these past few weeks, in part due to the recent passing of my Father-in-law. It was a sad occasion but also a happy one, as his five children grieved and reminisced and told stories about their dad, who lived to be a venerable 86 years of age before his death. My own had died many years ago and had been estranged from we three siblings for years prior to that, so his death was not dramatic in the sense that we had long buried him. I guess in many respects we had all worked out our our feelings of loss for the father we wished he had been, long before the actual time of his death. The older I get and the more I see and experience the world, I understand that there is no perfect family, no perfect relationships and no perfect Fathers. There are however some that are pretty close.

I witnessed the power of a Fathers love first hand one morning this week and in a most unexpected way. I was sitting in our home office working on the computer. The room has very tall floor to ceiling windows which look out onto the driveway and some trees beyond and I heard something just outside start making a big ruckus. I thought maybe a cat had caught a bird so I jumped up and ran outside to try to stop the carnage. I was shocked to find a male and female Cardinal engaged in combat with a black squirrel. As I stepped outside the garage the female jumped up onto some wood piled outside and started hollering, or at least it sure sounded like that, as if she was egging on her husband and cursing out the offending squirrel.


The male was jumping and flying at the squirrels back and furiously pecking at him. I realized that on the ground, very close to the offending squirrel, was a baby cardinal, barely fledged who must have been his intended prey (at least that is my assumption). The baby flittered rather crookedly up to our car when I stepped outside, his tiny pin feathers not quite doing the job as smoothly as a fully mature bird and for a moment he dropped in the air but righted himself and made it to the windshield edge. The battered squirrel managed to extricate himself from the angry male and hopped up, ran to the trees at the side of the driveway and leapt up onto the roof and over, quickly out of site. The male then flew up to the cedar trees just to the other side of the car and with a clear view of the baby. I had my phone in my pocket and was attempting to snap away at the players in this scenario as it played out.


For the next hour or so the Father sat in the tree and chirped away to the baby. Mom seemed to have a brief conversation with him early on as if to say “I’ve got to go check on the others, you stay here with him” and she was off. Baby sat on the edge of the car and chirped back at his Dad, seemingly too afraid to move. Dad ‘kept up his encouraging tweets, never moving more than a few feet away and more than once sitting on the opposite side of the car. It was terribly hot, and full southern exposure so after an hour I became worried for the baby. I took a little tub of water out to him but he wouldn’t move. Finally, I approached him and he perched his tiny feet on my finger. Dad stayed ever vigilant in the tree, chirping slightly louder but did not attack. I carried the baby over to the trees and set him just a few branches below Dad. A few minutes later they were both gone. That Father had fought for his son, encouraged him to take flight and then watched from a distance to keep him safe and wait for him to fly. What a perfect example of a Fathers love.


I am the lucky partner of an excellent father. He loves our girls unconditionally, with pride, wonder and occasionally, utter confusion. After all, the Venus and Mars paradox runs strong in our house, even the dogs are girls. I have watched him grow into this role, remember his fear when it was all beginning and his delight with both of his newborn girls. He is not the particularly verbose one in our pairing but he loves to listen to my conversations with the girls, he loves to hear about their lives and will step in with advice or comfort when it’s really needed. He is their strong presence when things in their lives crumble and is always their ally, even when he disagrees with their choices. It was very sweet to watch the interplay of those birds, nice to see Dad help out when mom clearly had other equally as pressing responsibilities and a reminder to always be grateful for the good Dads out there. I know a lot of men who have worked hard all their lives to make sure their kids grew up in safe and happy homes, who carried the weight of that family commitment and never showed their fear or their worry to those that relied on them most, who showed their children that love can and does exist.

I hope that little baby bird grows up just like his Dad 

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