For the Birds Radio Program: Birds and Housework

Original Air Date: Oct. 21, 1988

Laura finds herself jealous of birds when she’s washing dishes or doing laundry.

Duration: 3′35″


(Recording of a Common Loon)

Since the beginning of time people have been jealous of birds. Watching an eagle circling higher and higher on a thermal, wings outstretched, primaries fingering the wind, who can help but dream of human flight? People bound to the Northland may yearn to explore other lands as they watch a flock of geese winging to faraway places. The natural genuineness of birds–free from the artificial, plastic world of humans–is especially alluring in this age of steroid Olympians and politicians laminated by media advisors and spin doctors.

I must admit that my own jealousy of birds is aroused by more mundane things. I most wish I could be a bird when I’m confronted by a sinkful of dirty dishes or a pile of laundry.

Dirty dishes and birds don’t go together. Even in Disney movies, where birds wear clothes, carry money, and lug suitcases on trips, they simply don’t use dishes–well, except Donald Duck when he eats with Mickey Mouse. The only time you see birds cleaning dishes is in the movie Snow White, where they cheerfully help Snow White clean up the dwarfs’ mess and actually seem to enjoy it—probably from the sheer novelty of the experience. In real life only pet birds eat off dishes, and they don’t have to clean up after themselves. If a wild bird’s home gets too messy, it either moves out or just ignores the mess, which is easier for a bird to do than a person since birds are blessed with an utter lack of ability to smell.

Disney birds occasionally do laundry, too—usually assisted by little mice or woodland creatures that join them in singing happy songs. They never go from room to room collecting piles of dirty clothes enormous enough to squelch the song out of a chickadee. They never spend their days lugging dirty clothes down to the basement and then lugging the clean ones back up to fold. And they never iron—although I must admit that I don’t, either—I can’t even find my own personal iron, which I abandoned when I discovered that I was pushing around an extremely hot piece of metal that outweighed a Red-tailed Hawk. I searched through the Penney’s Christmas Catalog to find out how much an 80’s style iron weighs—it took some doing because there isn’t any iron listed in the index. Irons are now apparently called steam valets and weigh less than a raven.

Birds not only don’t have to do laundry and ironing–they also don’t have any trouble deciding what to wear every day. Chickadees look exactly right for every occasion. Loons change their outfits twice a year. They wear ostentatious checks and fancy collars in summer, making their fashion statement in the land of understated Scandinavians, and then change into dull gray garb for the tourist season on the east coast, where they probably figure they’ll have a smaller chance of being mugged if they downplay fashion. When loons travel they don’t have to worry about checking their luggage, and they also don’t have to worry about matching their clothes to the occasion–their fashion designer managed to combine the finest wet suit, down-filled long underwear, overcoat, and sunsuit all into one neat and inexpensive ensemble. Yep, no matter how you look at it, there’s a lot to be said for being a bird.

(Recording of a Common Loon)

This is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds..”