Grandma Speaks Through Blue Jays


In the shortening days of Cape Cod October, the only birds I hear are blue jays and crows. Their screeching adds to the depressing prospect of approaching winter. But the calls of the jays also brings me back to summer days at my grandmother’s house.

Grandma lived in New York City—not in the clogged streets of Manhattan, but at the very southernmost tip of the borough of Staten Island. It was so rural in those days that we called it "the country.” 

As a kid who counted his age in single digits, I spent entire days playing in her back yard and the surrounding woods.

It was there that my company was blue jays, and their distinctive vocalizations are ingrained in me to this day.

Cape Cod is a flyway for multitudes of migrating birds, and the skies are full of their song during summer months. But with the change of seasons, they depart at the same time, as if a switch had been turned off. The voices of the blue jays, though, remain loud and clear. 

It’s at this time of year, too, that I think about the sea turtles that are foraging in Cape Cod Bay.

Each summer, scores of plate-sized turtles visit the bay—Loggerheads, Greens and Ridleys. They make their way north from the Caribbean for summer feeding here.

As autumn sets in, many linger too long, misled by the shallow bay’s still-warm comfort. Oblivious to coming winter and falling water temperatures, they miss their chance to swim for the open ocean—and safe passage south. As temperatures plummet in December, paralysis overcomes the turtles and they fall victim to numbing “cold stun.” Most die.



Her songbirds of summer are gone.

All of them, of a sudden. And she, too.

Cracking blue jays soldier on,

shivering sentries of brisk October.

Turtles, too, linger, silent in a chambre sea,

nibbling before certain descent to stunning cold.

Nibble now, dears, and soon sink to deeper silence.

Leaving only the blue jays to give her voice.



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