Until I looked outside one day and saw a rufus towhee standing on the barren soil with a look of triumph about her. Then I understood that she’d been eating each seedling just as it raised its delicious green head from the soil. I couldn’t help but resent her.
I complained to my friends about my archfoe, the rufus towhee. She deserved my annoyance, I said. To thwart her, I gave up on snow peas and sprouted my green beans in tiny pots on the breezeway, where she couldn’t go. I’ll show you, I thought with my own look of triumph.
But then one day as I was watering my daylilies, she jumped out from under the leaves and glowered at me with fury in her red eyes. You deplorable fiend, you’ve sprayed my nest, she let me know. In it was what looked like a lump of raw steak, which I realized was her baby. In one second my resentment changed to remorse.
I’d been a brute to judge her snow-pea theft. She’d just been trying to earn a living. If I’d been a mother towhee, I’d have helped myself to the pea sprouts, too. With contrition, I put out a birdbath for her, and I refilled the birdfeeders with special seeds. Following the advice of my friend Patty, I tossed tiny bits of walnuts toward my towhee’s nest for treats.
It’s interesting how in just a finger snap a villain can turn into a friend. My towhee made me wonder about people I may not like – such as obnoxious neighbors or slimy colleagues. If I knew more about what was driving them and what their hidden circumstances were, my feelings toward them might quickly change. If we scratch below the surface of an adversary, maybe there is gold.