And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
It’s been a dead birds couple of weeks. For some reason, we are finding little dead birds scattered on our sidewalk. They’re the little bitty ones – sparrows? And they are always lying there neatly, wings tucked to their sides, as if they landed and just fell over.
A friend told me that the fall berries birds are eating have fermented, causing birds to get drunk and act crazy. Crash into each other in midair. Fly into things. Sit in the middle of the road despite traffic. We have one of these berry bushes behind our building. The birds have been raucous lately.
If you know me well, you know that I am terrified of birds. If they fly anywhere close to me, I scream and duck. I trace this fear back to a few sources. First, I saw Hitchcock’s The Birds when I was eight years old. Enough said. Next, there were nasty birds – mockingbirds, I believe my mother said – that attacked my father while he was mowing the lawn. I remember watching out the window as my dad mowed with a metal colander on his head, and behind him, my mother, wearing my brother’s toy army helmet, marched backwards with a broom, prepared to swipe at any bird that swooped. And they did.
And finally, at a time when I was apparently not yet afraid of birds, I carefully carried home a dead robin, wanting to give it a funeral. When I showed it to my mother, she screamed and knocked it out of my hands. “That’s filthy!” she yelled. “It’s full of bugs and parasites and maggots.” What followed was a hot-water hand-washing that seemed to last forever. And it has, in my mind. I don’t know what happened to the dead bird. I never dared to look.
So now, dead birds on my sidewalk. My husband took care of a few. But then he somehow always found himself in too much of a hurry. So with my skin crawling, I pulled on a pair of garden gloves, got a big plastic bag and lots of paper towels, and I picked them up. I felt bad about putting them in the dumpster. But we don’t have a yard – there’s no place for a burial. I did whisper, “I’m sorry,” as I let them go.
So today, I was pleased that there were no dead birds when I took my dog, Ursula, outside for her first trip. But as we headed into the city parking lot, I saw one of these little birds sitting on the pavement. Just sitting. “Shoo,” I said as I grew closer. It didn’t.
Hours later, the bird was still there. Upright. In the middle of a parking lot, it was sitting in doomsday. Someone was bound to pull in and hit it.
I have a hard enough time picking up dead birds. Now I had to pick up a live one? Ew ew ew.
But it was just sitting there. So vulnerable.
I put the gardening gloves on again. Then I stood in front of the bird. “Hey,” I said, braced in case it suddenly took flight, right into my hair. “Hey, are you okay?”
Nothing. Though it looked up at me. “You can’t stay here.” I pondered how to approach it. From the front? The back? Wait and let someone else do it?
I chose to approach the back.
I can’t tell you how freaked out I was. I mean, I was going to touch a BIRD.
I wrapped my gloved fingers around the little body and lifted. I tried not to think about bugs and parasites and maggots. He was so light, if I didn’t see his head poking out of my fingers, I would have thought I was holding air. I marched him down the street at arm’s length, across a parking lot, and to the river, where there was a nice grassy spot. There was a bush with berries. There was water. And it was quiet. I placed him just beneath the bush.
“Here you go,” I said. “It’s safer here. It’s quiet. It’s a better place…for what’s happening to you.”
When I got home, I threw the garden gloves into the wash. Hot, hot water.
But I felt pretty good. I did a good deed. I recognize the bird will likely not survive – he wasn’t acting the way a healthy bird acts. But I have to think that if death is inevitable, dying next to a river, on bright green grass, under a bush filled with red berries, is preferable to a paved parking lot where a car could come along at any minute.
Rest in peace, little bird. I’m glad I could help.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.