Iconic Roadtreks, the ones with three little roof windows, and all manner of conveniences built-in, are most often seen motoring happily along interstates and country byways, or exploring parks and traversing up little used camping roads. But they have other, closer-to-home uses as well.
The week of Christmas last year, we joined friends at Kensington Metropark Nature Center, about twenty minutes from our home in southeast Michigan. Our goal was dining with a bunch of our avian friends. Our group consisted of one of our very best friends, her daughter, and her daughter’s five children, along with two “grands” of our own.
On the frozen-over marshy trails near the Nature Center a few chickadees, tufted titmice, sparrows, downy woodpeckers, and cardinals flit overhead as you hike through. You may not notice them as you walk along. On a very cold day you may lack patience to look around and catch them darting through the trees.
The cold tempted our young friends to do just that, but their resolve held firm. Seven young pairs of eyes and four pair slightly more mature excitedly scanned the trees near and far. The little feathered creatures they sought were surely hungry and our group was determined to feed them. With packets of black sunflower seeds nestled deep in coat pockets, there would be a meal.
The kids knew this would happen. What they wondered was HOW.
The adults, with watchful eyes and chattering teeth, wondered IF, and HOW LONG it would take.
My wife, who embodies of the Spirit of Exploration in all our adventures, walked ahead of the group, her eyes heavenward. She stopped suddenly and raised her hand palm upward toward the trees in a gesture of offering. Patiently she waited as a small flock of birds materialized from afar. One chickadee, usually the bravest of the avian group, swooped in, landed on her hand and deftly snatched a seed.
In rushed the birds, and quietly slunk the children toward them, and so began the 2015 Christmas Vacation Bird Feeding Frenzy.
Hands were filled with seeds and raised in offering. Feathered creatures cautiously swooped in for a quick peck and a tasty seed. Some hands were more successful than others being rewarded by a rapid succession of diners lighting, feasting and flitting off. Other hands, younger ones, had to be cajoled into stillness eventually to feed the
quavering masses. Everyone ate. Everyone fed. And to the last of God’s creatures, there was pleasure abound.
With either the food gone, or the digits frozen, or in some cases both, it became cocoa time.
The Roadtrek was up to the task. Ours being an older model, the generator was flipped on, the electric kettle put on to boil, and seven cold but excited children encircled the dining table. They chattered on about how many birds they had altogether, or how many at one time, and how light and quivery they felt on brave bare hands. Leftover seeds were counted and the best seeds were deemed to be those with light streaks in them, as there were only a few of those left, outnumbered greatly by the pure black seeds. Their discussion had the sound of genuine ornithologists, save for the fact that no one had counted how many of each kind of seed there were in the beginning. Tactfully, though, Mom and the older children assured the younger ones that perhaps the reason they had fewer birds was because they had the wrong seeds and next time everyone would get both kinds equally.
Cocoa was served, being cooled and smothered in miniature marshmallows, and silence filled the Roadtrek as they sipped. Moms, and Grandmas, a Godmother, a Godfather, and a Grandpa all sipped as well, and after the quiet satisfaction of a tummy warmed with liquid love, chatter began anew.
It came time to part. Our friends loaded into their SUV and we into our Roadtrek. Though a minor but nonetheless important player in one of Nature’s Memory Makers, the Roadtrek delivered us home to a warm fire in the fireplace and dinner on the table. All was right with the world, and we all felt gratitude at having made it so.
~Feeding birds along this particular path has been a tradition in our family for nearly thirty years. We bundle up, load up with seeds and head to Kensington Nature Center. When we first began it, the practice was considered by the park staff to be forbidden so we had to furtively feed our feathered friends. Over time the park has changed its policy and now offers for sale the very seeds we bring from home. We aren’t sure if this is in recognition of the pleasure derived by the folks participating, or a meager attempt at fund raising. But we don’t care.
~Also over time, the population of feeding birds has changed to now include the occasional sandhill crane family. These creatures we are warned against feeding. This is a warning we heed as coming face to face with a nearly four foot tall male bearing a beak sharp enough to spear amphibians in the mud is somewhat daunting.
~But we love this interaction between God’s little creatures and our own small ones. We know the childhood memories built here may help form a foundation for the appreciation of this Earth, and that can’t be bad.