Adam Madison, The Triplicate

Even the birds do it.

Volunteer, that is.

Two little black birds recently made their nest cradled between two outdoor motion lights at my house. In due time, mama and papa produced two tiny ones who spent most of their day weakly cheeping for food or staring sleepily down at me when I'd come to check on them. Mom minded the family while dad would slide into his best dive-bombing technique every time I'd stick my nose out the door.

The other day it was time for the offspring to try their wings, something they appeared not at all interested in. I missed church that day, mesmerized by the unfolding action outside my kitchen window.

First the parents somehow got the kids down on my front walk, where they stood uncertainly on their tiny legs, wavering back and forth. Mom stood by while dad flew briskly back and forth, flapping his wings

in front of them. Nothing happened. Demonstration failed.

Finally, dad flew off. Suddenly there was a bird fly-in on my front lawn. Some 10-12 adults sat down arranging themselves to surround the babies in case they got into trouble trying to fly. Again, nothing happened.

Then an adult made a flying end run directly at the kids. Startled, one baby tried to jump out of the way and its wings carried it up a few inches to a brick planter wall. It sat there looking around and down at its feet as if to say, "How did this happen?" Another end run at the remaining kid, and it joined its sibling. The two looked at each other and down at the bricks.

Meanwhile, the adults took off, leaving them alone. I don't think they could reason that their wings were meant to fly with when vigorously flapped. But it took them about 15 minutes to figure out how to fly up to the kitchen window sill, where they sat peering in at me for a short time. Then they vanished, and I went outside to check on them. Both had made the leap from my window sill up to the nest, about two feet or so higher on the wall.

Today I heard the soft-cheeping once more as I stepped off the front porch. The kids were perched on the roof. As I watched, the bravest one flew off to a nearby tree. The parents were gone. The saying, "It takes a village to raise a child," comes strongly to mind here. Clearly, a few close friends and relatives had come over to help safeguard the kids from any dangers and for moral support while mom and dad had forced their brood into becoming self-reliant.

It's a small world. The system called Life is wondrous to behold, no matter which form it takes.

Ann Terrill Garlick is a veteran, award-winning journalist and a native Californian. She spent nearly 23 years as one of the editors at the Orange County Register.