Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Looking for the Good

This morning my delightful wife let me go back to bed for a little bit. As I was settling in, I heard a familiar thump on the front windows in the living room.  It sounded like a bird had mistaken our windows for a pathway to shelter.

"Honey" Came the voice of my other half from the living room.

So I headed out into the cold and looked around.  Sure enough, I found a little bird lying on it's side under our car in the driveway. I scooped it out by the feet.  Limp, floppy head and wings, no muscle tension.  It was dead.  I felt a little bad for it, as I do for all birds that die, as I am a bird kind of guy.  But fortunately it was garbage day, and I could hear the trucks coming up the hill.  Our garbage is sent to a central facility where it is burned to make electricity for the government buildings downtown.  So I figured I'd let the poor creature be cremated instead of tossing it into the woods to be eaten by scavengers.

I was about three feet from the trash can when something happened.  I can't even say what it was exactly.  A small twitch of the leg I was holding perhaps.  A shift in the wing that had just enough energy to get to my fingers.  I don't know.  But I held it up in front of my eyes again because of some slight movement, and I questioned my initial diagnosis of death.  It still hung limply in my fingers, but I saw a tiny flutter in its eyelid.  So I turned it upright very gently and cupped it in my hand.

Instead of the head flopping over limply as I expected, it opened its eyes halfway and settled into a little ball of hurt bird.

"Ah, crap." I thought to myself as I turned and started walking back into the house. There was nothing I could do but make it comfortable. I didn't know if it would live or die, but I couldn't just leave it in the cold, rainy day to suffer.

When I was in high school, I raised wild mallard ducks and Canada geese as a Konrad Lorenz type experiment on imprinting.  As my little ducklings grew, I helped them learn to swim, and eventually helped them fly by running down the long hill in our backyard, flapping my arms wildly as they followed along copying me.  They were extremely excited the first time they actually took to the sky, and would fly circles around our house quacking loudly before coming back to roost.  They all flew away and joined up with the flocks heading south that fall.

Anyway, during the raising of them, I noticed one day that one of them couldn't walk anymore.  When it tried, it looked like it had just played a rough game of dizzy izzy, and eventually it just sat there quacking at the others as they swam around and plucked at things on the lawn.  I took my sick bird to the nature center to see if they could help.  Along with learning that raising wild birds was pretty much illegal, I learned that sometimes when ducks are splashing around in hyper mode in the water during bath time, they might hit their heads on rocks or other ducks, etc. This impact can stun them.  So I took my duck home to watch it, and sure enough, within an hour or so he was back on his feet, flapping around and behaving like the rest of the flock.

So, with the help of my wonderful wife, we crafted a little basket cage for this little brown bird and I set it next to my bed to observe it while I napped.  There were two very good reasons to keep it near me in the bedroom.  First, the dogs were VERY interested in the little critter, and I didn't think it needed the stress of giant predator looking things while it was resting.  Second, my little Sweet Pea was also VERY interested in it.  And while I was hoping it was just stunned and would recover, I thought that she didn't need the stress of watching the bird die if that was what was going to happen.

I couldn't drift off to sleep very well, as every time I closed my eyes I would say a little prayer for the bird resting on my nightstand, and as I got drowsy my eyes would open a little to see if it was still breathing.

So, as I am a sucker for injured critters, I naturally became very attached very quickly to this little guy.  I knew if I woke up and it was dead that I was headed for a downer of a day.  It was a very pretty little bird.  About the size of a Robin, brown back and head with a white chest that had brown speckles on it.  The tail was reddish tinted, and the beak was more pointy than thick.  I didn't know what it was.  But I eventually drifted off, asking Tunkashilia to help my little winged relative, either by getting it up and around, or ending its suffering quickly.

I awoke to a flutter of wings and looked over to the little cage we had built.  There was my little ward, standing up, looking around with darting head movements like a bird should, and trying to squeeze through the little squares in the basket covering it! 

"Well hello!" I said. And I swear that bird stopped fluttering around and just stared at me for about thirty seconds.

So I got out of bed and took the cage out to show the girls.  My daughter was as excited as I that it was still alive, and I suggested that she come outside with me to let it go.  So we headed out to the back porch, opened up the makeshift cage, and I gently lifted it out.  I was hoping that it was well enough to really fly again.  I was pretty confident after observing it for a minute or two in the bedroom that it was strong enough, but there was only one way to find out.

With another quick prayer of thanks, I opened my hand.  My little friend flew away and up the hill into the trees! I'm certain that it preferred the trees to the cage, even though it's cold and icy rain outside, and warm and dry in our bedroom.

I cannot describe why I am so giddy about the outcome of this little adventure.  I did nothing except bring it into a warm, dry space.  But for some reason, my day got immensely brighter because of watching a little bird fly from my hands into the trees.  I realized just before I sat down to write that even when life is (metaphorically or literally) cold and rainy, if you look for the good, even a little bit can go a really long way.  My life right now is hectic, but wonderfully so.  But this little bit of good made my day so much better!

I've been focusing more on looking for the good these days.  Good memories from years gone by.  Good events happening in the day. And my soul is much happier because of it.  Go find your good.  You won't be disappointed!

Oh, and although I inexplicably failed to take pictures of the little bird, I am quite confident it was a Hermit Thrush, based mostly on the red tail.   It's always a happy day when a bird flies free.

More Later

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