Thursday, February 7, 2013
Hitting the Glass
I hear the thunk from two rooms away and my heart jumps to my throat. “This window here,” Mary calls from the bathtub. “He hit pretty hard.” I worry that it was too hard.
Sitting here, high on the ridge with lots of birdfeeders and lots of glass, window-rattling collisions are not uncommon. They’re mostly glancing blows, but occasionally the contact is solid and we fear the worst. In this new year I have surrendered a winter-tarnished goldfinch and a dipped-in-grape-juice house finch to their final nests, carrying them gently to the top of our ridge where they're forever surrounded by blue sky, placing their humbled husks in the depression left by a fallen oak. Back to the roots.
I seldom return dry-eyed.
The past few days we’ve been host to a swarm of pine siskins (my naturalist friend calls them an eruptive species; the term, perfect) and the envelope around the thistle feeders has been an air-traffic controller’s vision of hell. It was only a matter of time before bird met glass, at pace, and I’d be walking around outside, once again. Checking the ground.
“This window here. He hit pretty hard.”
Sure enough, under the large bathroom window, a small, unkempt wad of feathers lies in the leaves, blending into the woodland floor, but visible, nonetheless, for its awkward angles. With a sigh, I resign myself to another solemn procession up the ridge, but then feel the slightest of movements as I pick up the crumpled bundle. There's a flicker of life in the eyes, but no comprehension. Maybe there's hope.
I place the small siskin on the back woodpile, on some freshly split pieces so that I can see it easily from my desk, its tiny brown body more evident on the fresh, yellow grain than on more weathered wood, and leave it alone to recover, if it will. An hour later it's still there. Two hours, unmoved. With a heavy heart, I step outside once again and prepare for the somber climb.
It’s just a bird, you might say. Why the funk?
It’s not just the creature, you see, though there’s that too, but also the thought of being young and vibrant, riding the winds, gliding, soaring, to be dropped to the earth in the blink of an eye, by the unseen, the unexpected, the unfathomable. That strikes a little too close to home. That stabs a little too deep. For I’ve hit the glass in the past, a glancing blow, and survived. But there are those I have loved who have not. They've returned to the roots much too soon.
I reach for the bird, to carry it to its final rest, only to have it spring to life and take wing as my hand draws near.
And my heart takes wing with it.