For weeks I’ve been in a battle with nature, and a part of me is ashamed to report that I’ve won. When I moved in the fall I was delighted to see that my new home has its share of redbirds, which are particularly meaningful visitors. I’ve courted more by installing their favored feeder, and every morning I tromp outside regardless of rain, bitter cold, or even deep snow and refill it with their preferred black oil sunflower seeds.

I was especially pleased when a female redbird began exploring the front porch and hoped that she’d build a nest. I thought one of the four high corners would be perfect with their 90-degree molding that offers a flat surface several inches wide and an equal distance of protection under the roof. Mama bird was not in agreement. She persisted in choosing the open, cone-shaped base of the wrought iron light fixture. After a couple of days I remembered that the electrician had removed a decaying bird’s nest from that space when he repaired the light, so presumably she was trying to return to the same location.

For a few days we went back and forth about the nest. Mama would start building one in the light fixture, and I’d carefully move the pieces to a front corner. I even put some bird seed and water up there as enticement. One evening I noticed her again pecking at the fixture, and I went out to talk with her. She was startled and flew away, of course, but she perched on a nearby branch. I softly extolled the benefit of the corner and begged her to choose that spot. I explained that my house is a good distance from the streetlight, and I’m uncomfortable without the security of the light shining on the front porch and into the yard. I told her that it wouldn’t be safe for her nest and body if I turned on the light, so couldn’t she just go with the equally protected corner? She wasn’t convinced, and she soon put more material for her nest in the base of the fixture.

In response, I stuffed newspaper into the space. When she shredded that, I added a cover of multiple sheets of aluminum foil that enclosed the open lower area. That held for a couple of weeks, although I saw her often pecking at the barrier. Finally, she broke through. I heard chirping and wings flapping, and I opened the front door and found her trapped in the fixture’s bottom cone, unable to find her way out. I got the ladder, removed the unsuccessful barrier, and gently shooed her to the opening. As a last resort, I wrapped the entire bottom of the light fixture in overlapping strips of painter’s tape. So far, that’s held despite her multiple attempts to get past the obstruction.

I understand that I’m the bad one in this story – the human who is thwarting nature and this poor bird’s very good choice of nest location. Her persistence, though, has much to teach. She identified a spot she likely had used in the past, and she was relentless in trying to make the great set-up (for her needs, at least) work again. Although I haven’t seen evidence of a nest close by, I choose to believe that mama found a suitable substitute location. Surely, a bird that persistent and determined forged a Plan B.

I, too, have learned in recent years how important it is to adjust to a Plan B, and I doubt that I’m the rare one who’s navigated something different than they expected. Sometimes when you’re pursuing even a very good and natural and healthy thing, it just doesn’t work out, often for reasons beyond your control. If after repeatedly trying your best without success, there comes a time to stop and regroup – to identify a Plan B.

An animal story with a more definitive ending involves Roger the labrador retriever in Taiwan, who flunked out of police dog training because he was too playful and too interested in people. His handlers, though, realized that his intelligence and personality made him perfectly suited for a search and rescue dog. Roger was one of the canines deployed to search for people buried in the rubble of Taiwan’s recent 7.4 magnitude earthquake, and he located the body of a young woman who was killed. Roger’s story has captured hearts, largely because of his backstory as a canine detective failure. While I admit wishing that Roger had become a therapy or service dog – something happier than a search and rescue canine – his  Plan B brought great comfort to those who had lost their loved one. In other missions, Roger has created a happier ending by finding survivors and stranded people.

Pivoting to a Plan B sometimes happens when someone or something thwarts your hoped-for outcome the way I did for the mama bird. Other times, like in Ralph’s case, helpful people step in to facilitate a B pathway, and I hope that’s the case for you. Either way, Plan B can be a different kind of positive trajectory. I trust that by now mama is raising baby redbirds, and Ralph is finding those who are lost or hurt, which allows for their safe rescue.

Plan B isn’t necessarily a terrible switch. Embrace the different path and you’ll likely find positive surprises on an unexpected road that can still lead to joy. Keep moving and trust that God is always present in every part of the journey.

Marnie C. Ferree