Light Notes

A serendipitous bluebird gives wings to a grieving heart

Handmade bluebird houses stand by the driveway leading to Nancy Ewert's late parents' farmhouse on a gravel drive in Elysian, Minn.
Handmade bluebird houses stand by the driveway leading to Nancy Ewert's late parents' farmhouse on a gravel drive in Elysian, Minn.

Grief fluttered about like a wisp of blue; a sadness that often appeared without notice. And even though the promise of summer always gave wings to the woman’s heart, happiness eluded her ... until a serendipitous moment.

Some might call this moment a “wink” from God, while others will label it as only a coincidence. But for Nancy Ewert, the incident that happened on her late parents’ Minnesota farm during the spring of last year felt heaven-sent.

“My brother, Jeff, was coming down the driveway heading home and I was pulling in,” Nancy said as she recalled their pickup trucks meeting side-by-side. “We rolled our windows down and we were visiting, and this bluebird was sitting on Jeff’s truck mirror on the passenger side. Then it would fly over to the window and peck, then it’d go sit on the mirror and then fly back to the window and peck again.

"It kept it up for about five minutes.”

The bluebird couldn’t help but remind Nancy of her sweet mom, Lucy, who had died just shy of a year earlier. Memories were fresh, how the spirited 91-year-old had loved the brightly colored, feathered visitors that might arrive on their acreage in Elysian as early as March and begin nesting in May and June.

Old abandoned barns on farmland had once provided a spot for the tiny birds to squeeze through, their nests safe from larger birds. But with the changing landscape, Lucy had wanted to ensure the puffs of blue had a place to call home. So, she placed a row of her grandson’s handmade birdhouses where the main road met their long gravel drive.

“They’re primitive, out of wood with the one hole in them, and they’re regulation size,” Nancy said, explaining how there’s a specific way to build a bluebird house. “When she’d walk down to get the mail with the dogs, she’d go over there and clean them out when the birds were gone for season.”

Whether it was a stray dog that needed a place to call home or a bluebird, Nancy’s mom had a heart for animals. It wasn’t unusual to spy a displaced pup trailing behind her, or a bluebird building its nest once the cold winter was past.

But to have a very persistent bluebird pecking on the truck window that day was definitely out of the ordinary. As the brother and sister sat in their pickups talking about the determined baby bird, Jeff said something totally unexpected.

“It’s been following me around all day long.”

Nancy’s heart paused a beat.

Suddenly, she could vividly picture the days when their mom would tag along with Jeff when he showed up to help take care of the heavier chores. The times she’d carry his lunch out to the forest where he was tapping the maple trees for syrup. Mom's attentiveness throughout the hours of his visit.

“I told him, ‘That’s probably mom!’ but Jeff didn’t see as much into it as I did,” said Nancy, chuckling at how she often teased him about being their mom’s favorite of the four siblings. “I said, ‘Are you kidding? She’d follow you around all the time.’ ”

Certainly, the little bird had been practically on Jeff’s shoulder all day, ever since he’d arrived at the big white farmhouse. And yes, Nancy’s “baby” brother had walked all over their expansive acreage and the bluebird hadn’t let him out of its sight.

Without missing a beat in their debate, Jeff said, “I really think you’re over-thinking this.”

Even so, there was the little bird now perched on his side mirror, determined to get Jeff’s attention. Also, the distance from the house to the main road was over an eighth of a mile and the bluebird had flown after him as he drove all the way down the gravel drive.

“ … that I happened to be there to witness it is truly serendipity,” said Nancy, who had just happened to stop by.

Whether it was merely a coincidence or a “wink” from above, one thing is certain: For this daughter who misses her mom ever so much, it was the bluebird of happiness.

Lucy Note: Serendipity brought Nancy Ewert and I together when she happened to read Light Notes in the Minnesota Mankato Free Press Sunday newspaper. That was months ago when we first connected, but now while writing her story, a bluebird began visiting my backyard feeder in Kennewick. It is the first time in my 40 years of living in our home to see a bluebird in the Tri-Cities area.



If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact Lucy Luginbill (509) 551-2191 or lluginbill@tricityherald.com
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