© 2008, Karl Meyer                            

This wren uses the stairs

The wren visits on the dreariest of winter days, and it uses the stairs.  I like the wren.  It visited today.  It prefers afternoon visits.  That’s fine with me.  It prefers days that are rainy, and gloomy, and somewhat out of synch.  That’s great too.  And it uses the stairs—did I already say that?  The wren hops down the stairs.  It’s a very orderly wren.  You don’t often think of wrens as house guests, good or bad, but this one is exceptional.  It visits and hops down the deck stairs, inches from my window–on dreary days.  It is quite cheerful.  I like this wren.

You might figure, from its manners and suburban setting, that it is a House wren.  It is not.  It’s a tidy Carolina wren.  It hops down the stairs one at a time, and looks sideways and askance in the window as it passes.  As a wren, it could easily take the steps two at a time—with all the attendant clatter.  My wren does not do this.  It is very polite and quiet as wrens go.  Very southern, I think.

My Carolina wren is a bird of generous character.  Its visits are spontaneous; they are good will offerings of a high order.  This is not a wren here for a hand-out, or a hand-up.  I’ve made no wren offerings to entice it—no suet hung, or seed hors d’oeuvres set out for wren entertainment on the patio. 

This wren has been winter’s great surprise: a whimsical guest on days when rain and fog press hard on dirty piles of snow.  It arrives in the afternoon, and takes the stairs one at a time.

There is no obvious reason for this tidy, visiting wren.  Winters of late have been warm, but this one’s had a wintry bite.  Not a whit of hospitality has been offered wrens this winter.  December drifts, driving rains, wild temperature swings—hardly wren-friendly weather.  This winter did not say, “May I take your wren hat, your muffler?”  Yet, curve-billed, quizzical, a Carolina wren visits, hopping politely from stair to stair.  I like the wren.

It could go south, this guest, to safer and warmer wren quarters.  But this wren does not.  At peril to life and limb it stays nearby for raw, rainy days, then comes to the stairs and looks in on me as it hops.  In turn I offer surprise–understated of course; a modest turn of the mouth, a raised eyebrow.  There are no false or ungraceful moves.  I keep my comportment natural, and don’t jump up to put on the kettle.  Truth be told, I don’t know much wren protocol.  So I keep it simple.  If it were a House wren I might offer cookies; a Winter or Cactus wren?–maybe dried fruit, or chips and guacamole. 

But this is a Carolina wren, one that hops past the window on gloomy, wintry days.  It takes the steps quietly, one at a time, and always uses the back entrance.  This wren is just the wren you’d want.  After you’ve whined about the weather, called your friends, slogged down coffee, and despaired of light ever returning to the landscape—a wren calls, unannounced.  Its timing is always perfect; it never stays too long.  It hops into view, politely.  It nods its wren head; and glances at you with its bead-black eye, then continues down the steps, cheerily, one at a time.

Winters can be vexing, and seemingly unending.  Brilliant days are matched by others that are punishingly-dark.  But one afternoon—one somber and dulling afternoon, a tiny, feathered comet may burst through the fog and begin bouncing down the steps.  It will acknowledge you with a nod, and a glint from its fiery black eye.  And–politely, you will smile.