Tuesday, April 23, 2002

Today, I sat in my dentist’s chair for a couple of hours while he “fit me in” to make an adjustment on a bridge. But that’s not my point. My point is that all of the chairs in his rooms face a perennial garden that includes a birdbath and eight bird feeders. The large trees behind the garden are hosts to various birdhouses. So, while you sit there waiting and waiting, you can watch a colorful wildlife pageant, and you can even do so through a pair of binoculars that you find on the windowsill, along with a bird watching book.

Having grown up in a large city, I have always thought that all pigeons are gray and dirty. Today, I discovered that some have the most stunning iridescent green and purple markings, and their pewter hued feathers actually shine in sunlight. As the pigeons came and went on some sort of agreed-upon schedule, blue jays darted among the branches, and an elegant male cardinal shared the platform of a feeder with a insatiable squirrel, while a lone chipmunk and another squirrel danced around each other and the birdseed falling below. I identified a nuthatch and a downy woodpecker, and just as I was sure that the chubby robin -- who seemed to be watching me watching him -- was going to hop up and tap on the glass, I had to turn my attention to the reason why I was sitting in that chair in the first place. The bridge still isn’t right, and it’s going to take several visits, I’m sure, to fix it to my satisfaction. In the meanwhile, the garden will grow lush, and I will learn more about birds and the peaceful coexistence of the various species that mingle and mix in my thoughtful dentist’s perennial garden.

Today, the news on my local TV station reported on a local twenty-something father who shook his 2 month old daughter to death; a local thirty-something mother who purposely drowned her 4-year-old son and wanted to drown her 5-year old but he got away; and a track coach at a local high school accused of having sex with a 16 year old male student (who might not be the only kid he sodomized). And that’s just within a 30 mile radius of where I live.

We humans are supposed to be the most intelligent species on this planet. I guess intelligence has nothing to do with compassion, empathy, consideration, or love. And, looking at what’s going on in the Middle East, it certainly doesn’t seem to have much to do with respect, tolerance, cooperation, and patience either. We could learn a lot from observing life in my dentist’s perennial garden.