I am allergic to bee and wasp stings, so when I realized that wasps were building a large nest beneath the porch roof right above my front door, I naturally felt concerned. Every time the door opened, there was a high chance that a wasp would fly in – and then I would have to deal with it. I lived alone and was new to this community, so didn’t yet have any brave helpers to call upon to remove any interloping hymenoptera, let alone the whole dangerous nest.
When a wasp came into the cottage, I felt both scared and relieved to have noticed it before I inadvertently touched or grabbed it along with whatever it was sitting on. I would carefully capture the beastie against a windowpane with a drinking glass and a piece of paper, take it outside, and release it in a nearby wild field. But that nest? That was beyond me. If I messed with their nest in this warm weather season when wasps don’t sleep that deeply, there’s no way I could’ve gotten out of being stung. So I was stuck, and the nest’s presence there felt like a time bomb.
One day, something amazing happened.
I was inside, thinking about this dilemma – what to do; how long it would be before I wind up taking a trip to the ER; whether or not I should compromise my deeply held ethics by just using some bug killing spray like most Americans would without batting an eyelash.
At that moment, I heard a giant clanging sound outside. Clang, clang! Bang! What on earth was going on out there? I looked out the window, and noticed my porch wind chimes swinging wildly – but there was no wind. I went to the door for a closer look.
As I watched, I saw the source. A Steller’s Jay was swooping down under my porch roof, repeatedly, his wings hitting the wind chimes as he swooped and dived. Why was this happening? I went closer yet to investigate.
What happened next, I would never have believed had I not seen it with my own eyes. That jaybird swooped down one more time, then hovered, fluttering, beneath my porch roof, and snapped off the entire wasp nest with his beak. He then flew off with it to that same field where I had been releasing each individual wasp and threw the nest down in the grass over there.
I don’t know why he did that. Perhaps it was in order to eat the larvae later. But why go to the trouble of moving the nest for that, thereby riling up the entire swarm of adult wasps?
All I know is that this bird’s act served as an incredible kindness to me. He took the wasp nest far enough away where it would do me no harm. In one clean swoop, my worries were over for another full year.
A month or so, some afternoon guests (humans) and I were sitting together in lawn chairs in the back. They were admiring the many birds who came to my feeders and small open water source. But when a jay came among the songbirds, they expressed disapproval. “Jays are such nasty birds,” one opined. “Always thieving, and their voices are so loud and unpleasant. I wouldn’t let them feed here. If I were you, I’d chase them away.” I just laughed and told them I saw things a bit differently from that. Those jays can have anything they want from me, forever.
I have no idea about this bird’s gender, but decided to go with the pronoun “he” in this story to offer a bit of concessional balance to its main point of view that bucks current societal norms.
I enjoyed writing this love letter to a member of the avian family Corvidae, which includes crows, ravens, jackdaws, magpies and others along with jays. Thanks to my students in Transpersonal Service Learning at Naropa University for inspiring me to finally write it down by sharing their own wonderful stories of awakening through bird encounters.
Photo credit: Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri) photographed mid-flight, from http://www.telegraph.co.uk