On a recent March afternoon, when the seemingly relentless winter took a brief respite, I was sitting at my computer by the window, grateful to finally see the sun. A brilliant red male cardinal began tapping on the window and peering into the dining room. It seemed like he was trying to get my attention, flying back and fort swiftly between the windows in the sliding patio door and the window near where I was seated. I’d seen the fellow before, in fact most every day this winter as he and his mate, and other smaller birds took advantage of the generous cornucopia of birdseed my husband provided for them on our deck.
Looking over at the bird feeder I discovered it was empty, and being the kind of mother I am, I thought the cardinal must be hungry. I felt a bit surprised that he would know enough to signal me to fill the feeder, but that seemed the only possible explanation. I mentioned this to my husband and he said we were about out of birdseed but he found some and put it inside the feeder and around its edges as well.
In a few minutes the cardinal was back, but he paid no attention to the feeder. He went straight for the window, and looking directly inside he resumed pecking and waving his wings. Native Americans speak of animals as totems, teachers, who provide wisdom or what they call “medicine” to us humans if we only carefully observe their behavior. Frustrated by trying to figure out his message I Googled, “why is a cardinal pecking at my window?” An entire stream of comments was uncovered dealing with this exact situation. In 2009 someone wrote, “I have a bird feeder outside a large window facing south. This one particular cardinal keeps peeking into my house.” It turns out this is a common problem caused by the fact that cardinals are quite territorial. In the reflection of himself in the window he perceives another bird and he is trying to frighten him off by this intimidating behavior.
So what is the wisdom to take from this cardinal’s behavior? What medicine does he offer for our life and times? Again a visit to the web produced some suggestions – “True to the fire of his color, the crimson cardinal has got some major spunk. He will aggressively defend his territory, and fight attackers with ferocity. Indeed, they have been known to fight ghost males (their reflections) in mirrors for hours on end.” http://www.whats-your-sign.com/animal-symbolism-cardinal.html
Perhaps the message for us humans in all this is that, though courage and tenacity are important virtues, we must be careful that the attacker we are fending off isn’t just part of ourselves. As that famous comic strip wise man Pogo once said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”