And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.
So I was attacked by another bird this week. Another red-winged blackbird. A friend obligingly sent me a link to an article about these birds, with the very appropriate headline, “Red-winged blackbirds: Nature’s A-holes”. I wholeheartedly agree.
I was deliberately taking a walk away from Waukesha’s Riverwalk, where I was attacked two weeks ago. That attack was fast and furious – the bird approached from behind, dove against my right ear, and left. The Riverwalk is well-known for RWB attacks this time of year. People who run/walk/skate there wear helmets until mid-July, when the babies leave the nests.
So I switched to walking downtown, and through a few open areas in city parks that were nowhere near trees. On Friday, I hung up with a client and I had an hour and a half before the next. So I ran down the stairs, out the garage door, crossed my parking lot, crossed Walgreens parking lot, and headed down the little drive that connects Walgreens with one of our major roads. Very, very urban. Very city. And on the corner, far away from water, was one lone little tree. As I passed, I heard the RWB call and then saw him fly out from the little tree and perch on the street sign.
There was no escape.
I moved to the furthest side of the street and walked faster, but to no avail. He gave out an ungodly shriek and attacked my head. In a minute, I was in my worst nightmare. He was in my hair. I felt claws and beak. He kept shrieking. I shrieked too and swatted and then tried to duck and run at the same time. I lost my balance and went flat out and hard on the pavement.
The wind was knocked out of me and I couldn’t move. Still, the bird kept attacking. I finally got up to my hands and knees, crawled just a bit, and was starting to stand when I realized my phone fell out of my pocket and I had to backtrack to get it.
Cue the horror music. More bird attack.
I finally made it around the corner. My palms, elbows and knees were torn up and already starting to bruise. My knees and ankles and wrists ached. My back and stomach muscles clenched. I had to call Michael to help me home, even though home was only a few hundred feet away, because my legs were shaking so badly, I didn’t think I would make it.
The end result? I was always afraid of birds. Now I’m terrified to be where they are. I tried to take Ursula out to do her business, saw an RWB fly from tree to tree near her favorite spot, and had to drag her back in, pottyless. I couldn’t take the garbage out to the dumpster. When I drive, I’m in a convertible, but at stop signs and stoplights, I hunker down low and watch the trees. My fear has spread to all birds, not just the RWBs. I’ve put a fake owl on my deck and hung balloons with holographic predator eyes that are supposed to scare birds away.
This is not good.
But then I was looking through some photographs of my previous trips to the Oregon coast, my favorite place in the world. And I found a photo of a pelican. A big, brown pelican.
On my visit to the coast in 2010, I was walking the beach one late afternoon. I was almost back to the house when I heard an odd whirring sound, and then…WHUMP! On the sand in front of me, a pelican fell out of the sky. And I mean fell. He didn’t land. He came straight down and walloped into the sand. If I’d been two feet further on, he would have landed on me.
We looked at each other. His eyes did not look angry or threatening. He just looked tired. I waited with him for a bit, but he didn’t move. My cell didn’t work at the house, but I ran inside and used the landline to leave a message at the aquarium in Newport – they did animal rescues. When I went back outside, kids had surrounded the pelican and they were poking him with sticks and tossing stones at him. He didn’t move. I yelled and chased the kids off. The pelican’s eyes were sad.
I sat down close by and stayed with him until it grew dark. Then I said goodnight and went inside. I hoped by morning, he would be gone, taking wing and flying away.
He was gone in the morning, but he didn’t fly.
When I went out to him, he hadn’t moved from his spot. But he was stretched out in flight formation. His wings were at full span and I was amazed by their width. His feet were straight back and turned sole-side up, as if his legs blew behind him as he soared. His eyes were closed. He didn’t look unhappy. But I wept.
I stayed in vigil with him until the aquarium guys showed up. They identified the pelican and marveled that he was not from the Oregon coast – he must have been blown off his migration course by a hurricane near Florida. They took him away. I smoothed out the sand where he’d been, pretending I was putting his soul to rest. I hoped he was flying beyond the sky.
Looking at that photo, I remembered the warmth I felt for that big heavy bird that fell from the sky, and nearly hurt me, but didn’t. I remembered the admiration, the sympathy, my need to protect him.
I can’t hate all birds. I can’t judge all birds on the basis of these two RWB’s, especially that last one that really, really hurt me. I’ve discovered that falling at (almost) 60 isn’t the same as falling at 50 or 40. But I shouldn’t hate all birds. That’s just wrong.
Isn’t it interesting that this realization comes at a time when we are being encouraged to realize that looters are not the same as peaceful protestors.
And at the same time that we’re being encouraged to realize that while there are definitely bad cops, not all cops are bad.
There are bad people. But not all people are bad.
There are birds.
I might just take a deep breath. And go out for a walk.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.