What Falls From the Sky in Summer and Fall.

This is what Bibs has to put up with at this time of year:

Our kitchen patio is shaded by a Japanese Dogwood tree and in the Fall, this tree unloads its berries with a vengeance:

So far, I haven’t had one plop into my morning cup of tea, but at this rate of bombardment I think it’s inevitable. We have to sweep the patio twice a day to clear a path through the mast, and to stay ahead of the rate of rot (these berries are very squishy, and on a warm day they ferment quickly).

If Bibs and I were foragers, we’d make wine out of this stuff. But we don’t, because there’s a rather good wine shop a short walk away and I need the exercise.

I wrote about the Japanese Dogwood in my book Gardens of Awe and Folly . . .

. . . because of an ancient horticultural connection between the northeastern United States and the Land of the Rising Sun and you know me, I likes a good horticultural yarn. (See: page 90 on why the woods of Long Island are no different in make-up, mood, and spirit than any forest on Honshu).

For pre-historical reasons, we here in the northeast states of America share a surprising number of plant species with Japan, one of them being the Dogwood tree. Our native American Dogwood trees have cute little berries. . .

. . . so their seeds can serve as food, to be eaten and pooped out distributed by smallish birds such as this Cedar Wax Wing:

Photo credit: The Audubon Society

On the other side of the world, after millions of years of evolving in their own way in Japan, the Dogwood tree’s seeds come packaged inside fat, juicy morsels of fruit . . .

Photo credit: T. Abe Lloyd

. . . the better to serve as food for its poopers seed distributors, which is not a bird but a mammal, which we know as the incredibly cute Snow Monkey:

Photo credit: Baltimore Sun

The thing is, the Dogwood tree got to Japan a couple of hundred million years ago, but the Snow Monkey only arrived from Korea about  half a million years ago. That’s how smart nature is.

Ah, nature, the passing of the eons and the passing of the seasons. I am writing this on the Hebrew New Year, the Rosh ha Shena, first day of 5778. Also, today is the Last Day of Summer 2017.

How I Spent My Summer

For longtime Dear Readers, it is not news that I adore Blue Jays.

Blue Jay in my backyard.

For Blue Jays, Summer on Long Island means Feather Molting Time, which to me means Blue Jay Feather Harvesting Time. I am all about Blue Jay feathers. I can’t tell you how happy it makes me when I find a Blue Jay feather. It’s like a miracle. Collecting Blue Jay feathers is what you call an “obsession” with me.

Please note tail feathers. It’s important to the story below.

Last Summer (in the wretched 2016) I had one request of the universe: Let me find 50 Blue Jay feathers. This Summer (of the same politically wretched 2017) was very different. This Summer I was all, like, Whatever. I decided to let the universe send me whatever Blue Jay feathers it felt like throwing my way. (The same rule applied: I only collected the Blue Jay feathers that I found on my own acre of Earth. That is, in my front or back yards.)

It was an experiment: Do our thoughts and intentions really manifest in the physical world?

For all of Summer 2016 I made it a point to be very active in my Blue Jay feather harvesting, and I kept a tally of each time and place where my intention of finding 50 Blue Jay feathers was made manifest.

In an average year, I find 9 Blue Jay feathers. By the end of the Summer of 2016 I had found 30 Blue Jay feathers.

Maybe the following photographs will show you why finding a Blue Jay feather is something magical.

Nature, as you’ve probably noticed, is mostly green. So it’s a jolt to peer into the weeds and see something electric blue:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Look closely at this photo of clover:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!

Here’s an instance when I was about to put the seat cushion onto my Adirondack chair . . .

. . . and the universe offered me a Blue Jay feather!

I don’t know how I was able to perceive anything out of the ordinary in this patch of grass. . .

. . .but there it was! A little Blue Jay feather!

Yes, I made it a ritual to walk slowly across the property, eyes focused on the earth . . .

. . . or else I would never have seen this Blue Jay feather!

Out on the edge of the back yard, near a baby Spruce tree that we planted as a seed . . .

. . . some kindly bird let me a Blue Jay feather!

Sometimes, it seemed as if the universe was delivering Blue Jay feathers to me personally, like this one on the kitchen patio:

Blue Jay feather!

You don’t have to look very hard when it’s right in front of your eyes in the driveway:

A Blue Jay feather!

This one was ridiculously easy. Top Cat and I were having breakfast on the kitchen patio and I got up to fetch more toast, and voila! A Blue Jay feather!

I help it up against Top Cat’s denim shirt. This is a true blue Blue Jay feather!

That one, above, is also a center tail feather, which is my favorite of all Blue Jay feathers, so I kept hoping I’d find another one. Well, what do you know: in the same place where I had already found a tail feather  (first photo above). . .

I found another center tail feather! Blue Jay feather strikes twice!

Lastly, this is my favorite Blue Jay feather find of the Summer. It was, once again, on my driveway:

The camera can’t show how, to a brain attuned to the heart-stopping wonderfulness of the hues of a Blue Jay feather, this little thing glowed like a big, fat, full Blue Moon:

It’s a Blue Jay feather!!

I hope you’re not sick of Blue Jay feathers yet. Because I have to announce the results of my laissez-faire Summer of 2017 Bue Jay feather Harvest;

And here it is:

So, it was a pretty goodyear even though I had disengaged myself from “the process”. But, it’s less than half what I got in the 30-feather Summer of 2016, when I was mindful.

Thank you, Universe. I can tell that You always want me to be happy, but you appreciate it a teeny bit more when I met you halfway.


And that’s what Top Cat and I wish for you all, Dear Readers, as we toast the New Year:

Let the Universe Give You Its Gifts.


22 Comments, RSS

  1. I always love your blue jay feather posts. I’ve only found two in my life (and I look for them). Maybe there aren’t as many of them where I am — who knows.

    We just planted four red twig dogwood at the lake to help build a barrier between us and the ugly house/driveway (helipad-sized)/septic hill next door. That and two spruces. I don’t know if they’re the berrying kind but I hope so. Great sense of happiness to actually plant trees instead of moan about the ones (like every single one) they cut down next door.

    Happy hunting!

    • Vivian

      A tip for finding Blue Jay feathers is to make your hunting grounds very Blue Jay friendly, which in my case means putting out bowls of dry cat food every morning. The food is for my visiting cat, Dennis, from ext door, but the Blue Jays love kitty kibble as much as Dennis does.

  2. What an amazing collection of blue feathers. Now I am going to be watching for them too. I love blue flowers too. Blue in nature just seems to surprise our senses. Now I have the dogwood trees, but mine really don’t drop a bunch of them like yours. Hummm? Now I must go in the morning and see if it has berries. I know it does sometimes. Right now my tea plants are blooming and will soon have a crop of seeds. Natures gifts are so wonderful.

    • Vivian

      TEA PLANTS?? Real tea?? You’re growing real tea in your garden? OMG, that sounds like the most wonderful thing, to harvest a cup of tea from your own back yard.

      And yes, finding the color blue in nature is a thrill. Although I have to confess that I never want to see a blue rose. I like roses in their current shades of warm colors, so I hope no one will ever win that multi-million dollar prize and engineer a blue rose.

  3. Kirra

    The blue jay truly has fabulous feathers! I love your blue jay feather collecting stories and this one is no exception. We don’t really find feathers like that here in Australia but we do have lots of amazing colourful birds. At the moment it’s spring so the magpies are breeding and therefore dive-bombing humans to protect their young from us threatening things, it’s funny but then also scary when one whooshes past your head.

    Nice message to let the universe give you what it can, sometimes the chilled out approach is good (I’m trying to be more chilled but it can be hard). Good luck with the berry clearing!

    • Vivian

      I find that a nicely chilled glass of white wine helps me chill. Also, it helps if you let go of the desire and hope that people will stop being stupid.

  4. Casey

    Yes, Bibs looks very perturbed by all the racket coming from those dogwood berries (Not).

    I also love your blue jay feather posts. This is the first time you’ve taken us out to the hunting grounds and it was strangely hypnotic, seeking all those feathers in the clover and on the asphalt. And that’s a pretty good haul for 2017 for its being a laissez-faire year. The universe is kind but have we figured out if thoughts make things appear?

    • Vivian

      No, I can’t say definitely that thinking makes stuff “be”, but acting as if that were true is not a bad way to conduct oneself in the world. You know?

    • Vivian

      You have made me one happy book maker today, Angela. Thank you. I’m glad to know that I put something out into the world that found its soul mate.

  5. You’ve almost got yourself a whole bird, there!

    I used to pick up blue jay feathers when I lived in the states, too. I remember we had one on our bookcase in New Jersey for months and months.

    • Vivian

      That’s my goal, to one day re-construct my own Blue Jay. I’ll call him “Jay” and he can keep my heirloom (Grandma’s 1940s) stuffed owl company.

    • Vivian

      Vicki: there is an article in today’s New York Times about a Japanese artist who paints polka dots that I will be sending you later this morning. It made me think of you.

  6. You’ve a kind of sisterhood-of-bluejay-feather-finders.

    With only one or (hopefully) two bluejays in the greenbelt skirting the overpopulated highlands where I live, finding a bluejay feather is delightful. When I hear the distinctive bluejay call, I send feather-releasing thoughts to the universe. (Come on, baby. You are in the neighborhood. Drop a few. Pretty please.)

    • Vivian

      When I am in active universe-creating mode, I make the same exact request of the birds in my yard. BTW, you are probably describing the scolding “caw” of the Blue Jay that they use to warn each other of Blue Jay eaters, but between themselves, Blue Jays have a beautiful trilling call that is very delicate and musical. They like to hang out in the Japanese dogwood tree and talk to each other, so that’s how I know.

  7. Bunny

    It’s not always necessary to request gifts from the universe, but like my mom told me on numerous occasions, it can’t hurt. Nature has an uncanny ability to give- I planted a dozen teeny tiny tomato plants in may, and here I sit, late September in ny and still enjoy a juicy ripe treat on an almost daily basis. But ask and you shall receive.
    As we head into the fall season, we shall ask for a mild winter, and look forward to the days getting longer on the other side of winter. But for now we must enjoy this beautiful Indian summer in New York, as we tickle record high temperatures for the first few fall days.
    Ain’t life grand?

  8. Becky

    After following your blog for the first time, I began to look in earnest for blue jay feathers. We have a lot here that constantly scold each other…..or maybe that’s for the humans that disturb them. Anyway I did find a few, and was so excited.

  9. Lily

    Your post reminds me of the wildlife artist Sallie Millleton’s work. In her artwork collection “The Magical Realm of Sallie Middleton” , she hid a blue jay feather in almost every painting. 🙂 Amazing artwork!
    Also, thank you for mentioning the Silent Traveler series a while back! I am reading the The Silent Traveler in Boston right now and thoroughly enjoy it.

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