Now this might not look like a National Park or anything. But I drove into this parking lot in Guilderland, NY the other day, parked, and sat there thinking about nothing in particular for a minute. And in sixty seconds flat I had observed three gray squirrels, a flock of starlings, and a mockingbird.
I’m no great birder, but I’m sure it was a mockingbird—big gray bird, long graceful tail, and a white flash under the wings as it flew into the bushes. Mockingbirds increasingly winter here in New York State, and they love thickets and scrub and berries. They’re pretty quiet in winter, but I hope the mockingbird flies my way again in spring, when their beautiful singing is the reason for the old saying that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.
This snarl of weeds and scrub may not look lovely, but it has potential. True, there’s filth and litter and invasive weeds like oriental bittersweet and garlic mustard.
But there are also several native plants–wild grape vines, pokeweed, and a majestic cottonwood. In the tangle of vines and shrubs, a passing mockingbird can hide out, or spend the night, and maybe find a few dried poke berries or wild grapes.
By the way, in case you’re wondering about my passion for parking lots, I assure you I don’t spend so much of my time lurking in them by choice. But between an elderly parent and a teenage son, I’m the proud driver of Mom’s Taxi, and I spend many hours waiting in the parking lots of dentists, doctors, physical therapists, and loitering outside the high school gymnasium. So I’ve had plenty of time to ponder the possibilities of these little weedy scraps of nature.
And it occurs to me—what if we cherished such places? What if we nurtured them, cared for them, cleared them of invasive species? What if this little speck of forest was lovingly tended and turned into a mini-bird sanctuary? A monarch butterfly rest stop, a squirrel haven? What if there were thousands of them, all across the United States?