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A Mama Killdeer’s Love, A Boy, His Sister, and Tech

By Kate Kheel from Safe Tech International | Image by Kenroy from Pixabay 

The killdeer bird is a fascinating species. They lay their eggs in nests made of a few twigs or random pieces of straw loosely scattered on the ground. This spring I had the good fortune of being graced by a mama and papa killdeer who set up camp in the middle of my rather long driveway. Mama sat faithfully on the eggs through rain and shine, wind and cold, while Papa circled overhead or nearby to keep mama and the eggs safe. 

Although not great homemakers, judging by their makeshift nest in the middle of a driveway, killdeer are fierce defenders of their young. If a predator approaches, the killdeer responds with what’s known as the “broken wing display”, letting one wing droop as they hobble about feigning injury to lure the predator away from the nest.

Wanting to protect my new feathery friends, I put up a roadblock made of shovels and other odds and ends; and a few feet away, on either side of the driveway, I placed two large signs: One read BIRD’S NEST and had an arrow pointing toward the nest, and the other DROP BOX beneath which was a bucket for deliveries. 

Every day I came by and checked on the birds. Most often, I found mama killdeer faithfully atop her eggs, and papa nearby making sure all was well.  

A few days ago, a 12-year-old boy and his 9-year-old sister surprised me with a visit. They proudly presented me with a bracelet they had made. It even had my name on it. I was genuinely touched by the gesture. 

After thanking them, they stayed on awhile and we chatted. Noticing the boy had an ear bud in his ear, I explained to him earbuds are quite harmful both from the radiofrequency that goes straight into the brain, as well as from all the germs they carry when passed around among children. He admitted the kids in his class do share them “all the time”. “Eww!” gasped his grossed-out sister taking a step away from her brother. The boy respectfully removed his ear bud. 

As we talked on, he confessed that since he had gotten a cell phone he really didn’t enjoy doing much besides playing on his phone. When I hear this from children, I feel genuinely saddened. I apologized deeply on behalf of my generation for having robbed them of a childhood of exploration and discovery. 

The boy told me his grandfather only lets him use the cellphone an hour and a half a day, and so he does sometimes go outside to play with frogs or snakes. He then added, “As a matter of fact, on the way over here just now I saw some bird eggs in your driveway and moved them.”

My face must have turned white. I ran outside with the children trailing behind me to see if anything could be done. “Didn’t you see the signs nearby and the shovels blocking the driveway?” I asked, somewhat rhetorically and clearly upset. His sister scolded him, “See, I told you not to.”

We walked briskly toward the nest, and as might be expected found the mama bird very distressed, searching all over trying to make sense of what had happened. The boy led me to where he had put the eggs, and I carefully lay them back in the nest…hoping for the best. The children went home, but there remained a thick fog of confusion and incoherence as their kindness and perhaps hurt merged with the mama bird’s distress and likely the father’s as well, and my own sadness and disappointment.

I came back about an hour later to check on the birds hoping things would be back to normal; but oddly, the birds and eggs were gone. All that remained was the empty nest.  

Had the boy not had earbuds would he have understood more?

I returned home and did some reading. Apparently, killdeer do occasionally relocate their nest by rolling the eggs along the ground. That gave me a modicum of solace and hope that the couple had found a safer place. 

I thought further about what had transpired that day. Had the boy not had the earbuds would he perhaps have seen the killdeer birds which were surely close by, or heard their high-pitched call? Would he have noticed the large signs on either side of the nest and the makeshift barricade in the middle of driveway, and pieced together the fuller picture beyond just the isolated bird eggs on the ground? His younger sister, unencumbered by technology was certainly able to. I recalled her intuition as her words echoed in my mind, “See, I told you not to.” 

Life lives in the relational field between all beings. Cellphones and earbuds take us ever deeper into an isolated and artificially concocted silo. Absorbed in our own made-to-order experience, only a portion of our minds and attention are left to interact with and respond to the world around us. When skimming through life, eyes glued to a screen or ears plugged up with buds, little focused attention remains for context, nuance, subtleties, and relationship – the real stuff of life. 

My mind wandered back to the mama killdeer. I thought about her love and devotion to the soon-to-be chicks; a love that just is with no extrinsic reason or justification. Mama killdeer wasn’t trying to be a “good mother” because it was the “right thing to do”, or because her culture taught her that was the way of the killdeer. She didn’t expect praise or gratitude in return for her love. Her love was pure. No adornment. Just fierce love. And though I didn’t focus as much on the father’s love, it too seemed free from egoic overtones of pride or duty in his role as protector. 

But what struck me even more was the intensity and steadfastness of the birds as they tended to the affairs of their life. They were fully present responding to what was before them at every moment.  Has technology obscured the innate gifts of protection and steadfast love bestowed upon us by Mother Nature and that ensure our survival? 

I wondered what our world would be like if humans lived and loved with this same kind of unselfconscious and steadfast presence. No cell phone or ear buds vying for our attention. Time stretched out before us and behind us never coercing or pulling us away from the vibrancy and richness of the present moment. In the spring, treading oh so lightly upon the ground as Mother Earth is pregnant; and in the winter, listening deeply as within her bowels she prepares once again for new life. And nothing, but nothing drawing us out of relationship with all that surrounds us.  

My mind wandered back to how things had gone down for the children that day. Would my strong reaction about the birds leave an unintended scar on them? Heaven knows, we don’t need more scarred people now. Realizing the boy and his sister will play a role in helping civilization find its way through these troubled times, I decided to write them a letter… a bit of which follows. 

I learned a lesson today – that even when we humans love animals and are trying to help, we can accidentally do the wrong thing if we don’t know enough about the ways of Mother Nature. 

Free from a cellphone or ear buds, you will come to know so much more about the workings of creation, and your helping hand can be an exquisite blessing to life. 

I don’t know how much they understood…just yet. Perhaps it will take a mass Exodus from Cyber Space and a return to the Holy Land – i.e. Mother Earth – for our children to hear, sense, and once again understand.  

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  1. I love the world of e-books and information available with the internet, our cellphones, tablets and wifi. However, I’m thankful that these didn’t enter my life or my children’s lives until they were older. I was always totally present with my babies as they grew up. Sure, life would have been easier for me, especially long car trips and plane flights with electronic entertainment, but the lack of these devices made me continually interact with my kids or provide them with crayons, books and travel games that I believe stimulated their minds and encouraged creativity. Today my oldest daughter is a writer and my younger daughter a mining engineer who recently started her own business.

    1. So glad you had the foresight to withstand the ever-growing pressure to outsource and digitalize relationships and the gift of time together. May your children be a blessing to society for having grown up with a wise mom. Happy Mother’s Day!!

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