At the foot of Phoenix Lake there is a small parking lot where people park their cars and walk the last quarter mile to the top of the hill where a great view of the Lake awaits.
As I approached the first parked car I heard a rat-tat, rat-a-tat pecking sound, different from the sound woodpeckers make when tapping on trees for food. I see a small bird, a sage sparrow, perched on the rim of the exterior mirror of the parked automobile. He is angrily, aggressively attacking with his male beak the image of himself. He obviously is angry and confused that the bird he’s assaulting does not retreat, fly away. It responds with equal aggression. A standoff.
After a few seconds the sparrow would stop, not move or leave the mirror, staring at the bird that has so angered him. Like I’ve been beating the hell out of you. How much more can you take? He resumes his attack but the damn bird in the mirror takes all these blows without a flinch or screech.
The sparrow finally gives up and flies away. Probably hoping his opponent will not follow.
Back home I google and learn many birds, particularly in mating season, feel territorial and will attack a competitor who might jeopardize his relationship with his mate, or the bird he wants for his mate, or that a rival might possibly invade his nest. Seems the intelligence of these small sage sparrows, while not as well developed as some species, such as crows, nonetheless recognize their relatives by sight. Which is some sign of intelligence which I suppose comes from being with their parents and offspring because no one approaches the bird with a mirror in hand and says, “Look at this, Sparrow, this is what you look like, who you are.”
It got me thinking of how we humans utilize mirrors.
To impress others. To make sure we look as much like someone should in his occupation. In the old days of corporate office attire before I left for work I’d look in the mirror to check the knot in my necktie, be sure the collar stays were unnoticeable, and how the jacket fits around the shoulders, something once done but always checked. When I was in military school I’d take a look at the similar features, knowing inspection of my dress by my seniors was the way each day began.
To the vain I believe they look in mirrors to remind themselves how handsome or pretty they believe they are.
They may of course compare themselves only to how they look when they stagger out of bed in the morning before the work required for the mirror to give positive feedback. If there is a rival who the vain person feels is maybe more attractive, better dressed, it’s the mirror that’s lying. I knew a woman who was ballet-dance thin and asked how she in middle age maintained her svelte figure. “I look in the mirror every day and see signs of fat. The mirror obeys my wish to be deceived. Then I don’t eat much.”
For most men who shave the mirror is a necessity. I say most because I have mastered shaving by seeing only my eyes in the mirror. This total focus provides scant visibility of the rest of my face, virtually eliminating any sight of the corrugated lines in my forehead, the bloated bags beneath my eyes, and the flab flesh of my cheeks, all of which are revealed as the shaving cream is removed. But bot if you keep your eyes locked in to your eyes on the mirror.
Is this vanity? I don’t think so since since I’m mostly a recluse. I have no reason to look better to acquire a new friend or a woman. I just find looking at my face distressing since it looks like someone I’ve never known. That younger go-getter who looked presentable in the morning after a night of howling at the moon
Fleshy, grizzled, and appalling now. So why suffer by looking at something this unappealing. If I were the bird and saw myself in the mirror thinking it was a another bird, friend or foe, I’d be off in full flight in an instant.
A final thought putting appearance and vanity aside. Would a different bird of the same sparrow species try to make nice, make love to the bird it sees in the window? Pecking with a woo and open wings? Thinking let’s try friendship or a little sex.
Now that’s something to think about.