Bernadette The Brave

I’ll never forget the day I met her. Not long before I’d put up bird feeders for the first time, something I fell into after busting the blue jays snatching peanuts I’d set out for squirrels. How had I never noticed these loud and stunning blue birds?

Like an addict, I was hooked. A few days in I was buying feeders, bags of seeds and more peanuts than any sane person should. The birds around here were super stoked about the new fast food joint.

I was outside when she hopped on the fence and I noticed her immediately. She had such a presence about her. I sat motionless, so as not to scare her, and watched from my back steps. That’s when I realized something was different. It was hard to see without my camera (I didn’t even own one yet!), but her beak looked strange and she kept fumbling seeds out of it when attempting to crack them.

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I caught on quickly and began cracking them for her, then smashing them, then blending them in the Kitchen Aid. Basically, I stopped just short of regurgitation. I placed them on the fence with her looking on from a distance.

Over the months, that distance became less and less. Eventually, she waited so close I could’ve reached out and touched her had I tried. Her meals were extravagant – live worms and blended seeds of every variety. All I had to do was open the door and yell, “BEEEEEEEE BEEEEEEE” and I would hear her little cheep cheep cheep from far away. It would get closer and closer and then she’d hop out onto the fence in her usual spot.

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Over time she became a different bird. She put on much needed weight and her feathers began to shine –just like her eyes. And, oh what eyes she had. They told a story and had more soul behind them than most people I pass in a week.

She could sing her heart out and did so often.

Slowly, she introduced me to her main man, Beau. He’s such a character with his little head tilt, and incredibly handsome with those exquisite red feathers. He took what felt like an eternity to come around but he, too, finally came to trust me. He even began including me on date nights. Stopping by for a worm, he’d dangle and flip it around in his beak until she showed up. The willpower it must have taken not to eat the worm that was already in his mouth! But, he never did. He always waited to feed it to her.

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No matter how consistent our routine had become or how much time she spent in my yard, I never forgot that she was wild, and that I had absolutely no control over any of it. I could, and often did, guard her from Hawks, but once she left my yard she was on her own again. I both loved and hated this. I loved it, because she so deeply deserved to be wild and free with as little human help as possible. I hated it, because I’d fallen so deeply in love with her that she’d become a part of my family. The fact that I couldn’t keep her safe 100% of the time was a scary and tough pill to swallow.

I also knew that there would come a day when she did not return. This gnawed at me and I was constantly pushing it out of my mind.

And then one day she did not return.

I hate that I didn’t know her last visit with me was her last. Although, I guess that would have made it impossibly hard.

* * *

Here’s what I know:

She and Beau were doing the typical courting dance.

She left, but in the weeks after Beau continued to show up, grabbing worms and seeds by the beak-ful and flying away with them.

A couple of months later, a cardinal fledgling and an adult male began showing up to eat. I have no confirmation that the adult is Beau, but he’s trusted me from day one and seems to know exactly where to wait for the his worms. I’ve never seen an adult female cardinal with them, although I think I heard what sounded like one a couple of times.

At present, the fledgling is growing up, and now an obvious female! She shows up every day a million times a day, and I can hear her getting closer and closer and closer, just like Bernadette did! She was quick to trust me and is so adorably curious.

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The “is-it-Beau?” male cardinal still comes to grab a bite, too.

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* * *

As you know, this has been somewhat of a difficult year for me — with the divorce and figuring out life as a single mom.

Bernadette was with me in the months after my divorce, my little slice of heaven and my feathered therapist. Someone once told me that I’d been there for her when she needed me, and now it was her turn to do the same for me.

I fell quickly into a relationship (imagine that!) and began traveling on my own a lot. I was smiling again. And, it was during this time that Bernadette left. However much I hate that she left, she did so at a time that I was strong enough to be okay.

Inevitably, the honeymoon period of the rebound crashed. Sorting through that, I took more trips and avoided wondering what had become of her. Nevertheless, I still called out her name every time I stepped outside. And, I still do to this day.

Yesterday, my illustrator sent me the first page of her book. This was my sign that it was time to stop avoiding.

I’ve received countless messages asking about Bernadette these last few months. And, I’ve avoided them. Because not avoiding them meant that I had to admit to all of you, and to myself, that she really was gone. And, I didn’t want to disappoint either of us.

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When I sat down to finish writing this, I allowed myself to finally feel how much I miss her. By the end, I was sobbing all over my laptop, both happy and sad tears.

I’ll probably never know the ending of B’s beautiful story. She was with me for close to two years. Two years in which she was loved fiercely by so many. Two years that she inspired everyone who knew of her. She had an amazing life, and I won the lottery when she picked me to be a part of it.

The new little girl in my life reminds me so much of her it’s scary. The dreamer in me wants to believe that she is Bernadette’s little girl. Or, maybe even Bernadette herself in a brand new body – a body that’s healthy and strong, like her spirit always was.

I know the odds of either of these are slim, but I don’t care. She showed me that anything is possible and taught me to believe in the unbelievable. So, because of her and for her, that’s what I’ll continue to do.

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As I was finishing this up, baby girl cardinal stopped by for a bite.

Edited to add: Without Bernadette, I would never have fallen in love with photography — a passion that’s offered me therapy and peace, and opened doors I never knew existed.

93 thoughts on “Bernadette The Brave

  1. This is so truly inspiring and beautiful, it gives me both tears and smiles and my heart both hurts and rejoices for you as you have against all odds found your way to begin a new day and I just know our feathers friends are forever better because of how much you love them. <3 Thank You so much for sharing with us.

  2. Allison, I treasure you & your writing about our little miracle, Bernadette, who brought so many of us together. She is an example of how life goes on in the most wonderours way when it’s time. I am one of your fans who could not go to sleep until I checked on B’s day. Thank you & I wish you all the blessings you deserve. … from Chicago.

  3. Allison, GOD picked you and Bernadette for each other. Thank you for sharing her with us. We all miss her terribly. And yes, life does go on and you have been blessed with the presence of her daughter and sweet Beau. Thank you for giving us all hope in this weary old world. ♥

  4. Allison…words cannot describe the ache that is in my heart… I’m sitting here crying my eyes out for you… For Your love of B and for the joy that our feathered friends bring us (that so many often take for granted). Cardinals are my treasured Songbird… the meaning they have in my life endless. Please know how meaningful and cherished your time and story are to many of us. Will wait for the anticipated release of your book. Blessing your way dear friend.

  5. I have followed your story and I feel your sorrow. BIG HUG to you. Bernadette was an inspiration to us all. She will always hold a special place in your heart and her memories will stay with you forever.

  6. Oh, Allison. This is beautiful. I have followed you for so many years…and I remember when you found Bernadette. I have followed your story – and hers – and it has been so uplifting for me…even if I have shed lots of tears! I have had a rough year with losing my sister-in-law to suicide and my grandma to cancer…and both you and Bernadette’s story of strength and moving forward have really inspired and kept me going. Thank you, thank you, thank you for being so brave and telling your story. Please keep going. I love your writing and your spirit, and wish you so much love, peace and happiness. XOXO

  7. I have missed your updates about Bernadette and Beau. I didn’t have the heart to ask why they weren’t here anymore. I hoped that all was well, just busy and not enough time to keep us updated. It sounds like She was nesting and Beau was taking her food for her and the baby. I believe the fledgling is their Baby. Thanks for sharing their story and Thanks for loving them. And maybe just maybe she’ll return after a long hiatus, she is a miracle bird after all.

  8. I too, fell in love with Bernadette. I’ve also become more in tune with birds and squirrels now that I’m semi-retired. They take you away to another place and help you to forget your troubles.
    I love this story so much. Tears are streaming. Can’t wait for the book!

  9. This is simply an amazing story from beginning to continuing. It is life in all its wonder,awe,marvel, joy and sorrow, and back again to the wonder of new beginnings.

  10. Thank you for sharing this wonderful, personal glimpse of your life with us. We will always love Bernadette and her special story. I am so thankful she had you to give her such a wonderful life. I am praying that you find true happiness in yours.

  11. Allsion – it amazes me how invested I was in Bernadette. I looked forward to your photos and updates. I’m so glad she was there for you when you needed her most, and she was lucky to have found you as well. Thank you for sharing your special friend with us.

  12. Oh Allison, this is beautiful! Thank you for sharing it with all of us. Thank you for sharing B’s journey and a little piece of yours. I believe that is Bernadette and Beau’s little girl. And she knows you are safe and loving. I sure can’t wait to get my hands on a few copies of that book. I hope you’ll give us an opportunity to get one signed from you. I feel like you are a neighbor and I love that!

  13. Dear Allison, over the months, I’ve often wondered about Bernadette. Didn’t want to ask, in case it turned out to be too painful for you to speak of. I so appreciate your follow-up. I’m drying my eyes now after reading yours sweet Bernadette epilogue.You did make a difference in her life and vice versa and that’s what matters most. So happy that you have a new baby girl Cardinal in your life now. I also want to believe that she’s Bernadette’s daughter – in God all things are possible! Thank you for letting us know!I wish you the best! Peace, Deb Parks

  14. Oh Allison!!! I can barely see to type this through my tear’s of sadness and happiness for you and B!!!! Just show’s just how special nature is and what it can do for the soul and mind and even heart!!!!!!!!!!!! Your a lucky lady and a special lady….even the bird’s can “see and feel”that….Beautifully written and the art work is spectacular too…thank’s!!!

  15. Well, now that I’m crying…. I am sure that baby girl is B’s. Maybe she’s keeping her distance so her baby can bond with you. Wherever she is, you are with her just like she will always be with you.

  16. Allison-this is truly an amazing story! Brings me to tears but also brings me joy knowing and reading ans seeing her pictures and videos. Especially at a time you both needed and helped each other! I believe the baby girl is hers. Truly and she is with you and all of us in spirit and hearts! We could never forget Beautiful Bernadette The Brave!!

  17. Please let us know when and where your book is available. I am a therapist and I have appreciated your sharing your journey of healing with us all. Thank you giving us closure on Bernadette.

  18. While I’ve been anxiously waiting I’ve also been dreading your update…..sometimes not knowing the complete truth is a gift because it allows you to continue to dream. B was a gift to you as you were to her. I believe our faith leads us to where we need to be. The fact that Beau came back and baby girl appears to keep the story and dream alive. Continue the journey with baby girl……she has been placed in your life for a reason…..

    Please let us know how to purchase the book when it’s done!

  19. I followed Bernadette’s story, love all the photos. I miss her too and I am so glad she gave you the courage to find yourself and the interest in photography. I wish you will, look forward to the book! ! I want to know all about Bernadette and her sweet girl who comes to visit. You know it is her wee one.

  20. I am also going through some tough times. This story gives me a ray of sunshine, (.As I type this with tears on the screen of my iPad ). Thank you.

  21. I am going to be the eternal optimist and believe that Bernadette will return someday. Again, maybe she has ALREADY returned in this new immature female cardinal. Thank you so much for sharing her story and your own with us. When is your book due out? Is it targeted for a certain age group? I love your bird dialogues and the catchy names you select for your bird characters in the Birds of Texas page.

    • Love it. 🙂

      I wrote the book without dumbing it down. I wanted it to be something children and adults enjoyed. I hope I accomplished that. Not sure about due date. I will figure that out and tell you as soon as I know.

      Thank you! xo

  22. Wow, Allison. I lived that two years in that blog… I miss her too. And that IS her little girl – and Beau is telling you so! <3 That was awesome…

  23. Much like baby bear Hope, we come to care for a wild creature and learn the lessons of letting go. Free means free, and your love was freeing to her, allowing her to survive outside a rescue facility. The blessings were mutual and beautiful. Thanks for sharing her with us.

  24. ugh. snot bubble tears. i like to believe that B is you. and maybe this new one is, too. the new incarnation. the one with a spirit that’s healthy and strong like, well, like we knew it was..

  25. You are an amazing person and your love towards B and the photos you took will always remain in your heart. I am sure she felt you were strong enough to go venture to find someone else who needed there heart filled with B’s joy and love. Continue doing what you are doing and move forward. Don’t let negative things ruin your life and outlook. Keep on keeping on. I have always wanted to do children books as I am a graphic designer plus I have experienced many issues in my life, I think you are keeping B alive in everyones heart! Thank you for being you.

  26. I have followed your story of Bernadette and loved your pictures and was sad when she no longer came. I love that you put the story together with the pictures and videos. I feel that God puts animals/birds in our life at the times that we need them to help us go through our trials and sorrows. I wish that B had a happier ending, but like we all know it is a big and cruel world outside of your yard. She was free, wild and trusted you. What a privilege you had to know and love her. And yes, your story brought tears to my eyes too.

  27. I have often wondered what was happening with Bernadette, but didn’t want to ask…Just like I wanted to read this sweet post, but then again, I didn’t. I am such a baby…I don’t want to hear bad news! But this was beautifully written, and she was sent to you at a time when you really needed her…and you were so good for her too. Thank you for sharing this sweet story. And I am going to believe that that is Bernadette’s and Beau’s little girl!

  28. i really enjoyed this article and all your amazing photos. Birds have been a passion of mine sense birth…. i look forward to more of your writings and amazing photos.

  29. I’ve only been following Bernadette’s story for about 10 months. I’ve looked forward to reading about Bernadette & Beau everyday! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story with us!

  30. I love B and you. The reasoning behind my birdwatching and bird feeding mirrors yours exactly. I can’t wait for the book. I wish you your feathered friends all the happiness your hands and heart can hold.

  31. Thank you so much for sharing Bernadette with us. I always looked for updates on her and have told many friends about her, and how you took care of her.
    “…love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

    (Kabil Gibran)

  32. This is so touching, and, amazingly comforting! Thank you for sharing this, Allison. Her handicap gave you strength; and, now you have an angel watching over you. You chose the perfect name for her: Bernadette. Blessings.

  33. Allison ~ As others have so eloquently said before me, thank you SO MUCH for sharing Bernadette’s story, as well as your own. The strength and optimism reflected by both of you are inspiring and humbling. When I find myself stressing over ridiculous things, your posts sooth and calm me, making me realize what is truly important ~ LOVE and the courage to be who you are. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I,too, look forward to your book, and to sharing it with others. Much love and peace to you ♡

  34. I like so many others followed Bernadette’s story with love and admiration. Thank you for sharing her extraordinary life. I believe the male and female are Beau and Bernadette’s daughter. They would not be so unafraid otherwise. Love and best wishes for your future!

  35. This was so beautiful and touched my heart so deeply. Thank you for sharing your journey with so much courage, love, and grace… You are Allison the brave.

  36. Sobbing, with joy ,sorrow and understanding…blessing to you and thank you for sharing B’s journey with us. Who would have thought such a small creature would be such an inspiration to so many.

  37. I truly believe this little bird named B was your angel. She came to you in your darkest hours to watch over you. In return you watched over her. She beat the odds and so did you. It may have been her time to go but she knew it was ok because you were ok. Now, she has entrusted you to look after her baby as you looked after her.

  38. Thank you so much Allison for sharing your life with Bernadette with us. I followed your story and looked forward to seeing your posts everyday. So amazing was your care and love for Bernadette and I believe she cared for and loved you also. God has a way of healing while there’s hurt in our lives. I’m glad you had that time together and hope her offspring will bring you as much joy Please keeps us posted as I always look forward to hearing about your birds. Your writing is awesome and keeps me coming back for more! Thank you Allison, your therapy is our therapy. Well it’s mine anyway❤️✌️

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