He first appeared one morning some weeks ago. While riding my trainer, I saw him land under the pine trees and walk around looking for food. He worked at his task as if I were not present as I rode the stationary bike. He even walked close to me, but never acknowledged my presence. After several days of his appearances, I asked Mary Ann to buy a box of raisins because I was almost certain he would eat them.
Many years ago, I knew an elderly lady, Elsie English, who fed raisins to a one-legged mockingbird that she named Johnny. Each morning he would perch on her back porch and stare into her kitchen sink window. When she went out her back door, he would hop a few feet away and wait for his treat to be placed on the porch rail. I don’t remember how many years she and Johnny shared raisins, but it was several. The appearance of the mockingbird on the pine needles was a mystery, but from Mrs. English’s shared experience, I had a good hunch about this bird’s taste buds.
I began tossing a few raisins on the pine needles after I set the trainer for my ride. He would soon discover them as he hopped about the earthen floor. I rode and sweated, and he ate one or two raisins before flying to another spot of the yard or to the holly hedge where I think he has a nest. One morning I saw him sitting on a post of my shop deck, so I tossed his raisins onto the deck boards and that became our morning ritual. Slowly, over the weeks, he and I have developed a relationship. He calls from his hedge when he sees me getting the morning paper. He will sit on my opened shop door encouraging me to move faster in getting his raisins. He sits on the deck post, impatient as a five-year-old child. Last evening he was sitting on the back fence as Mary Ann and I went out to walk to the shop. He flew along and perched on his post. He called, and Mary Ann served him an evening snack. This morning when she went to retrieve the morning paper, he was on his post, and she took the photograph of him before placing his raisins on the deck. We now call him Atticus.
Weeks ago when Atticus first appeared and was so calm around me, I told Mary Ann about his, as I thought, unusual presence each morning. He acted as if he was an escaped pet, but I knew that was highly unlikely. Without the “bribe” of raisins, he flew in each morning during my rides.
I am Christian, so my beliefs concerning the appearance of Atticus before the bribing of him are limited by my religion. However, while believing that animals do not have souls like humans, as an animal lover and owner for many years, I believe that they possess qualities which we may not fully understand, and I believe that humans and animals can, and often do, develop strong and rare relationships. Atticus now comes to feed his belly, but why did he fly in before the treats, and for so long? For weeks he came each morning.
Humanity has accomplished much. We now have GMOs and have landed craft on Mars and the dark-side of the moon. We know much yet are still ignorant about more. And if we don’t allow arrogance to blind us to our ignorance, we will continue to accomplish much. Animals will teach us, if we allow them.
Atticus? I believe he was sent by someone or something for a purpose. I believe his presence is a message for me. I believe that, as Reynolds Price said, he is a “visitation”, and it is my Christian duty to ponder his presence and understand his appearance. Atticus is here for some reason, sent by someone, and I am bound to figure out his message.