The intruder


By Rosa Duvenhage

If one’s home is where your heart is, I have many homes. Pieces of my heart are all over the world. A large part belongs to the Western Transvaal with its cosmos lands, thunderstorms and the delights of my mother’s kitchen.

A piece lies in the streets of Pretoria where jacaranda blossoms bloom exuberantly and it feels like the summer of being young goes on forever.

Then there is the Bosveld with its red soil and sun bugs, the Karoo with its stars and the endless rock pools of our beautiful coastline.

In this season of my life, I have found another place where my heart is happy. It’s a very special piece of land between two dunes. Here the ferocious sea wind misses us, but on a stormy night you can still hear the waves roaring in the distance. We have wonderful neighbors, the kind who send over food and pick up your laundry when it unexpectedly starts raining. A big furry cat that comes to lie down and bask in the sun on our porch and a granadilla plant that bursts at the seams in winter and summer.

In the Lane, as we refer to our home, there is tranquility, love and peace, until one morning.

My husband and I rushed to the back door at the same time to see what was going on. On the wall sits a fluffy, spotted bird that screams as if its life depends on it. He threw his head back and complained and whined until a Wagtail hurriedly approached with a bug in her mouth and fed the chick. The Kwikkie has barely turned her tail before the bird starts screaming blue murder again. Within seconds, another Kwikkie arrives and the same scenario plays out in front of us.

The bird screamed so loudly that the neighbor also came to see what was going on. She is an ornithologist and tells us that the little screamer is a Diederickie.

What happened here is that the Cuckoo bird family likes to lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. The intruder bird waits until a brooder leaves the nest, then kicks out the eggs and lays her eggs in the unattended nest. When the bird returns to the nest, she continues to brood blissfully, unaware that they are not her eggs.

For the next few weeks there is no peace in the Avenue. The Diederikkie screams from sunrise to sunset and the poor Wagtails run down their stick legs to try to keep up his magic. Out of frustration and pity for the Kwikkies, we devise plans and even encourage the cat to relieve us of the whining and complaining. In spite of everything, the chick grows at the speed of white light and within a few days it is twice as big as the wagtails. He is later so big and strong that he flies after the Swifts while screaming for food.

While the visiting cat and I sit on the porch and complain together about the Laan’s peace being a thing of the past, it strikes me how easily one can step into the trap of raising chicks that don’t belong to you.

A person’s best quality can sometimes also be your worst one and many times a person with good intentions ends up in a situation that you are not up to.

Just for a moment you allow your mind to wander, just once you ignore the red lights in the back of your head. Just for today, you are going to break your own rules, push your own boundaries and leave your little one unattended for a moment. That’s when the invading bird comes to lay its egg.

The problem with these types of intruders is that you don’t notice them until you have bought into the responsibility and emotional baggage that hatches with the chick.

This chick looks like your problem, sounds like your problem and screams so loud you’ll do anything to shut the situation up. It becomes your focus, it steals your peace and it doubles in size by the day until it flies after you and controls your life.

Fortunately, nothing ever stays the same for too long and one day we stare in amazement at the two Wagtails pecking around calmly on the grass as if the most deafening deafness has struck them. The Diederikkie screams and flaps its wings and tries its best to get their attention, but the Kwikkies ignore him as if he never existed.

We celebrate and wonder over and over how it happened? Maybe it’s nature’s way?
Maybe a good friend came over and said: Do you realize this chick that dominates your life is not yours? Perhaps the Kwikkies reached breaking point and together until the early hours of the morning on their knees devised a plan to defeat the intruder. Perhaps one of them came to the end of their pride and went looking for help. Maybe the Kwikkie crossed his stick-foot and said up to here and no further.

Whatever it is that the Kwikkies have done, it has changed their situation and the way they calmly peck around on the grass, in the middle of the chaos, reminds me of the English proverb that says: “Don’t cling to a mistake just because you spent a long time making it“.

Life is a lesson in humility. Just when you think you have life under control, the rules change.

I have a friend who often says: “Not my circus, not my monkeys,” but from this Quicksand saga that has been playing out around our house lately, I realized that one does not always recognize the monkeys in one’s own circus.

One needs an avenue. People who do life with you. What you can trust with your heart and your secrets. Someone who gives you shoes and loads you in the car for coffee when they know you need sea air and sunshine. Someone who makes you laugh, who loves your weird kids and doesn’t mind your messy kitchen.

Someone who is your first call when your life changes in an instant and who is the last one to go home when the dust settles. Someone who watches out for intruders. Which knows your heart well enough to help you home when your compass no longer makes sense. What do you know short of cosmos and rock pools. Sun bugs, Karoo stars and woodland dust. Someone who reminds you of a season of jacaranda blossoms and gives you hope that the summer of being young will last forever.