Song on Simcoe

“It must have been a bird choir such as this that first inspired humans to play together in symphonies.”

October 22, 2014

I love to hear birds sing and watch them celebrate their lives and life in general. In September, when I was house sitting in Olympia, WA, the homeowners did not have any domestic pets. I missed not having the company of animals in the house.

There was a beautiful flower garden in the back yard with bird feeders, including one for hummingbirds, in the back yard where dozens of birds congregated to feed, sing and flutter over to the bird bath to cold themselves in the sunny heat of early fall. My heart was uplifted when I gazed on them each morning. They looked so joyous that it was pleasure for me to top up those feeders with bird seed, stored in the garage, each night.

One day, I saw a bird on its back close to the huge picture window in which he had bumped into. I resisted touching the already petrified creature and sent reiki energy to it by moving my hand as if tracing a spiral above it. Still, it did not look good for the little one.

When I checked back, a few minutes later, the bird had turned upright. There was hope.

Yet later, peeking out through the door, I saw the revived bird was gone. Such a miracle.

The following story is about a woman who loved birds and yearned for them to around her. She lived on Simcoe St. just a couple of blocks north of Vimy Ridge Park and Portage Ave. in downtown Winnipeg where my son and I lived for over a decade.

Reading between the lines, you can tell she had to stop feeding the birds because by doing so she had inadvertently attracted hawks and other larger birds who preyed on the birds who sang like ‘sitting ducks’ on the branches of the trees in her yard. Her cats, also, were potential predators of the small birds. A reminder to us all that we need to be careful about how we interact with the natural world.

Still, this does not take away from the face that bird song always pumps joy into my heart and those of many, many others. Maybe even more especially in the cold winter climate of Winnipeg.

Read the story:

West Central Streets
February 1996
Song on Simcoe
by Tanya Lester

The first time I noticed them, I was hurrying down Simcoe Street to catch a bus on Portage. The temperature was well below zero but something in the song of that bird chorus made me realize spring could return and that even in the most harsh part of winter, there is hope and beauty.

The birds numbered well over two dozen. They were perched on a tree in a neighbour’s back yard. It must have been a bird choir such as this that first inspired humans to play together in symphonies.

Since then I have enjoyed their music hundreds of times. Often I would stop for a moment and thank them for the joy they were giving me. Or I would point them out to my boy. But this January I noticed that they weren’t around anymore so I went to visit the woman who owns the house to ask why.

Christine (as she wanted to be called) has lived in the two-story grey stuccoed house on Simcoe since 1973. From Yigoslavia, she made Paris her home before coming to Winnipeg where she worked in a sewing factory until her retirement.

When I entered her house on a warm January evening, she was trying to keep track of her three cats. One I could see was not yet fully grown. It was a stray, Christine said, and she had rescued it from a neighbour’s yard where a dog lived. She called the Winnipeg Humane Society and they had come to pick it up. But that night she was so worried about the kitten’s fate that she couldn’t sleep. Next day she called WHS and asked them to return the animal to her.

With a cup of red wine in front of me on the kitchen table, I asked Christine about the birds. It was obvious from the bread and birdseed in her house that she was still feeding them. So where were the birds?

The hawks were killing the pigeons, sparrows and blue jays, she said. When she could, she stood on her back porch and clanged the end of a shovel against a piece of wood to scare the predators away. And when the crows — which she calls her friends — are around, they tease the hawks away from the other birds. But she still finds dead and injured birds all over her yard.

Christine feels badly for the birds because they cannot speak and defend themselves but when she phones Natural Resources to complain about the hawks, she gets an answering machine…

In the meantime, I know Christine and I are not the only people on Simcoe who miss the bird chorus. “In the summer there’s green grass, green trees, flowers and no birds,” Christine said. “Winnipeg is like a cemetery. Where are the birds?”
To read the first posts in this blog, please go to
Facebook. LinkedIn. Twitter. Google.
Confessions of a Tea Leaf Reader by Tanya Lester can be purchased from the author or by going to the title and author name — to read the first few pages and buy it– at
Tanya Lester’s other books are Friends I Never Knew, Dreams & Trickstersand Women Rights/Writes.


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