A Cardinal In A Fig Tree

I was counting the figs on our fig tree, the other day, when I spotted a northern cardinal sitting in a tiny nest. The fig tree is only three years old and just a little taller than me, so I was surprised that the bird should choose such a low spot. The plumage of the female cardinal (in contrast to the bright-scarlet male) is a soft fawny-apricot, and they have a rather handsome orange beak. Occasionally, Mike and I will take a cautious peek at the one in our fig tree: sometimes all you can see is the scarlet tip of her tail; other times she is gone and we might see her in the loquat tree, at the bottom of the garden, being fed tidbits by her male. The eggs, by the way, are white with blue and brown spots.

Our own little bird had her last day at middle school last week and it was, so I heard, quite an emotional time for one and all. Happily, Mattie’s new high school, which will commence in late August, is only a little further away so I am sure that she, like many of the ex-middle schoolers, will pop in from time to time to see their favourite former teachers. Mattie’s last band concert was in fact the very evening I arrived back from a recent stay in Worthing to see my parents and Mattie, Mike and I had to make a quick dash from Austin airport to be there to watch marvellous Mr Rios, the band director, conduct the 8th grade musicians for the last time.

I seemed to have timed the weather right for my trip to the UK: Mike said it rained the whole time I was away. In Worthing, in contrast, it had rained up until my visit but didn’t begin to rain again until the day of my departure. It was lovely to see my parents, especially my mother, who had been poorly, but she was already making a good recovery around the time I arrived home. I also was pleased to see my parents living so cosily in their new flat, which is located closed to the town centre, beach, a charming old bowls club and excellent local shops. Inbetween outings to places like Chichester and Littlehampton (as well as a two-day sojourn I made to Lewes, staying with my sister, Molly, and family) I enjoyed many an invigorating walk along Worthing’s windswept shingle seafront, which is dotted with tiny villages, seaside cafes and beach huts.

There were three different types of cuisine that I hoped to enjoy whilst back home: roast lamb, fish & chips and a curry. I devoured a very delicious lamb roast at a lovely little pub near the village of Storrington which I visited with my parents (in fact, we went there twice). The excellent fish & chips we consumed at a local seaside café – the weather was so warm that day that we could eat around a table on the beach and the fish was particularly fresh; I have fond memories of washing it down with a glass of chilled sauvignon blanc. Although there is an excellent Indian restaurant near my parents’ flat, we didn’t have time, in the end, to fit in a curry. Indeed, my stay was all too short and it was with great sadness that I said goodbye to my parents, outside their flat early in the morning, the taxi driver waiting. I had to smile to myself, during my flight, when the British Airways air steward came and asked me which lunch selection I would like and I ate, what turned out to be, a surprisingly good chicken tikka masala.

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