As told by Maureen
In the base of the ancient, sprawling Mock Orange bush that grows by my front porch lives an energetic little Pip named Eliza Madeline. Whenever I see her she seems to be practicing handsprings or cartwheels or some other tumbling maneuver. Given her love of exercise, her house is the perfect design for her, as it is a series of twelve connected rooms that wind around the center trunk, like a covered staircase.
The top room has a little balcony which is very near the twiggy nest of the Catbird family. Each summer the elder birds return to raise a new brood, and they enlist the help of Eliza Madeline to teach the youngsters their beginning exercises.
Just yesterday as I passed by I heard a cheery giggle. I parted the branches and peered into the darkened interior, and there was Eliza swinging from one branch to the next in a smooth, graceful sweep. On nearby branches perched the half-grown Catbirds. There was much flurry of wings as each one tried to imitate Eliza's floating movement. The littlest one almost succeeded, but then seemed to get flustered as he struggled to regain his balance on top of the limb.
Eliza swung over beside him, hugged him around the neck, and encouraged him to try it again. This time, though he still flapped in a less than graceful manner, he made it to the next limb. I clapped softly, which caught Eliza's attention. She climbed out to the end of the branch, balanced herself carefully, then flipped into an arching somersault and landed on the ground near my feet.
We chatted for a bit about how very soon the three little birds would be soaring off into spaces where neither she nor I could ever go. "Ah", said Eliza Madeline with a twinkle of her eye, "That is the nature and the purpose of teaching." And, with that, she ran off across the yard, doing cartwheels as she went.
1995, 2006 by Maureen Carlson