She was a
mix of the golden yellow of a sunflower and the light green of an early
spring, She was fiercely alive on that morning, not shy as she perched
on top of the gallon sized hummingbird feeder
“Oh! Just a bird!” You might have said as I began to tell the
tale. “I thought you were going to talk about a beautiful girl.” But I
I was telling the story of a beautiful
girl. One all dressed in feathers. The female Oriel who came to the
feeder now and then sometimes accompanied by her more flamboyant
consort, the black hooded and in-your-face yellow bodied male.
She was more tentative then. Careful and
watchful usually, but that day, she was bold and she came back several
times that morning.
That afternoon it was obvious that there
was something very wrong. Her beak slightly open, she stayed at the
feeder for longer and longer minutes and she had begun to pant, her
body rocking back and forth with the effort.
As the day wore on she returned again and
again and finally settled on the shelf of the feeder, panting more
rapidly now, her beak opened wider.
By late afternoon she could hardly stand,
her eyes were slits, her breast rested on the shelf, she could hardly
hold herself up.
I had seen this in birds a few times in
the past, usually it was the result of their having flown into a
window, thinking they were headed for clear air. Most of the time they
were only stunned for a time and once they recovered from the shock
they were able to fly off again.
But there were a few who hit too hard, and
after a time, a time of this panting and confusion, they would lose
their balance and fall to one side, eyes closed, breath stopped.
I hadn’t heard any impact that morning.
Perhaps this was some infection, a virus of some kind….there was no way
to tell, but she wasn’t getting stronger, she wasn’t recovering. Dusk
was getting near and now she could no longer hold her head up.
She rested her beak on the shelf, That’s when I knew I had to
intervene. I knew there was no saving her, I had to end her suffering.
I got out the b.b. gun and went to her. I
talked to her awhile. Told her how sorry I was that whatever had
happened had happened. I told her I loved her beauty and as I slowly
brought the gun up to her head she closed her eyes and I fired. She was
a flurry of yellow as she pitched backwards off the feeder and fell to
the ground. In one last stretch, as her sprit left her body, she spread
out her tail and wings and took a final flight….a breathtaking display
of her beauty…..and she was gone….gone out of my life and into my soul.
I put her under a tree to the north of the
house, the direction I had seen her fly to on so many mornings. I
thanked her for her beauty and her presence in my life. For all the
mornings when she, in her understated grace blessed my day.
I still look for her. A glance now and
then at the feeder where the hummingbirds have returned…..they stayed
away while she was dying there.
The male showed up today, going about his life as I go about mine.
Yes, “Just a bird.” A beautiful, elegant, wonderful bird. I’ll never forget her.
Now that my
self-imposed news blackout is over and I am back to perusing the Times,
NPR, PBS and books (no, I don’t do “social media” thank god) I find
that the short, two month, hiatus really helped me put things into a
kind of perspective. What that “perspective” entails will be subject
matter for another time.
Over the past year I’ve been through a
truckload of them on topics ranging far and wide and mostly
non-fiction; bios, WWII and Civil War exams, chasing about for concepts
of God, my daughter Winter’s two murder mysteries (very good stuff) but
just last night a sudden blessing. It was like discovering, by
happenstance, a comfortable chair that suddenly feels familiar, or
being touched by a song forgotten and now remembered, a deep relaxation
takes over, a breath exhaled, I felt I had come home.
I can’t name all the writers who can take
me to this place, a few spring to mind, Doig, Elroy Bode, Deloris Kerns
Goodwin….William Least Heat-Moon. It was this latter creator, singing a
prose song that spoke to my soul that brought my own desire to write
awake again. This happened the other night when I finished just ten
pages of his, Here, There, Elsewhere. This is a collection of some of
his published pieces and, as he states in the intro., some that didn’t
get published as written. In other words, this is Mr. Heat-Moon
unvarnished (almost)……and it’s wonderful reading.
Here’s what he says about the “whys” of
this book, “Setting these stories forth again has allowed me to restore
elements one editor or another deemed too challenging for the audience
he perceived. My mind is an ordinary organ and thereby useful to
judge contemporary capacities; if I can follow along, then so can
thousands of others, including those who. Unlike me, don’t repeatedly
have to look up the meaning of algorithm or the spelling of rabbit and
sheriff to see where the double consonants belong……..the annual sales
of dictionaries and atlases probably indicates the existence of readers
who own and sometimes use them, people who believe the jolliest part of
knowledge is its discovery.”
Discovering Least-Heat is certainly jolly
for me, so I’m launching into Here, There, Elsewhere with anticipation
and relief. This is certainly the most
absurd president our country has had in my lifetime, and probably in
our history. I don’t think we will have to wait long for the historical
verdict on that. I doubt he will last four, let alone the “eight” he
claimed as his future a few days ago. What a travesty! At any rate,
I’ll do whatever I can, as I know many are beginning to do, to lessen
the impact of his presence in our lives and shorten his tenure. (Begins
with prayer of course.) And I know, from past experience, that I and we
will not only survive this nonsense, we will rise above it all and
become even more than we have been to date. We need these challenges to
grow together and we will use them to do just that.