baltimore oriole

One Oriole, One Eye, One Life


I was very excited this past Sunday when a Baltimore Oriole visited our bird feeder! Katherine and I had tried in vain the past two springs to lure the beautiful birds with their bright orange plumage to our urban backyard feeder. We did everything by the book to make our feathered friends feel welcome; we placed half-sliced, juicy oranges in the center of the orange colored feeder, and placed purplish jelly and miniscule worms as tempting side dishes. We baited the feeder with great expectations and the we waited . . .and waited . . . and waited some more. No luck! May would blossom too quickly into June, and before long we had crossed over the summer solstice with not a single sighting of one of my favorite birds!

It was a different story when we lived on the lake. I loved the sharp, slurred, whistling song of the orioles as they sat way up high in our big maple trees. We would often see bright flashes of color as the acrobatic birds flew over to our neighbor’s bird feeder. Inspired, Katherine and I bought an oriole feeder, carefully followed the instructions, and bingo; the birds graced our feeder several times a day.

The first few up-close sightings were electric, supercharged by a mixture of excitement and accomplishment. However, like most things in life, the rare and the new quickly became the everyday and the expected. I still loved seeing the orioles, but it was a different kind of love, one watered down by complacency. Back then I believed that there would always be another spring, and that there would always be more orioles.

That was how it was before I was diagnosed with cancer, before the radiation treatment that would ultimately destroy my left eye. I had two great eyes back then, but in a way I couldn’t really see. I didn’t take the time to look at the orioles then because time was on my side —— or so I thought.

Sunday I looked out of the window with my remaining eye at the backyard feeder that Katherine and I had just hung from a pole in the center of our backyard. As if on cue, a male oriole came in for a landing. I called out to Katherine and she joined me as we watched the oriole feed on the orange. I lingered at the window, watching with amazement as the oriole was joined by a brilliantly colored red cardinal with a long tail.

I see things differently now as a cancer survivor. Yes, my left eye is gone for good, but my right eye has never been better.  Cancer removed the cataract of complacency that had clouded my vision for too many years.

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