Bob Groeneveld has been sharing his Odd Thoughts with Langley readers for the past four decades, give or take a few weeks.

Odd Thoughts: Shopping for humanity in a Langley garden

Nest-building birds in the garden show unmistakable similarities to mall-shopping couples

By Bob Groeneveld


Sometimes people act like animals.

And we’re not surprised, because… well… sometimes people act like animals.

But what about when you see animals acting like people?

I don’t mean chimps or apes who are close relatives anyway… and for some people, closer than others.

The other day, Donna and the pups and I were sitting under the shade of our curly willow, communing with as much nature as we’ve been able to build into our modest lot.

Everything is late this year. Between February’s last-ditch winter surge killing or setting back many of our established plants and my return to a desk these past weeks for a temporary assignment, the garden hasn’t yet got as much attention as it deserves.

Some of it is growing gangbusters, albeit in recovery mode, but the vegetable plot is still mostly bare dirt.

To us, it’s a dark brown canvass waiting to be painted with rows of seeds, and with transplants that are being nurtured in the greenhouse.

To the birds we have welcomed as guests in our domain, the garden is a department store provisioned with many of their favourite buggy foods… which is why we feed them seeds and suet through the winter months, to ensure they feel welcome when gardening weather and bugs arrive together.

But it’s not just food that they find in our garden department store.

Today, a finch couple dropped by with an apparent interest in the home outfitting department.

At least, Mama Finch seemed interested in the home improvement section.

Papa Finch appeared to be there because… well, I guess Mama Finch told him to put on a clean shirt and tie and “let’s go shopping for stuff to line our nest.”

Mama Finch checked out the wares. She bounced around from one clump to another, checking under and around clods of dirt, occasionally seeing something that caught her interest… and then moving on to the blue-light special in the next aisle.

Throughout it all, Papa Finch sat hunch-shouldered, watching disinterestedly from the mall bench… actually the little wire fence I put up to stop Pippin from pooping in the rhubarb, but the birds and an occasional dragonfly like to hang out on it.

Mama Finch picked up a piece of weathered straw, hopped around with it, wiggled it a bit, testing it for durability… and then dropped it, going instead for a small stick which she carried around for a bit. But after a while, it too, was discarded.

There was a bit of leaf matter that seemed to catch her fancy for a minute or so… but no. Maybe it was the wrong colour.

Occasionally, Papa Finch seemed to make an effort not to look bored.

For a while, Mama Finch seemed quite taken with a bit of dried grass she’d found near the dragon’s blood… but eventually, she put it back approximately where she’d found it.

And then she left the store.

Without buying anything.

I think Papa Finch looked relieved.

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