Monday, July 9, 2012

Why I couldn't sleep

On Sunday afternoon around 4 PM I was upstairs looking for something when I heard a loud bang, and realized that a bird had hit the window. Gingerly I opened the balcony door a crack, in case I was met with a disoriented bird trying to dart inside. Instead I saw a young robin on its back, its feet up in the classic pose of death. As I opened the door it turned its head towards me and opened its beak wide, once, then again, but no sound came out, and after flexing its body it lay still. I closed the door softly, hoping it would right itself and recover, as I've seen many birds do, and after a few moments I opened the door again. This time it didn't move, but I put on leather gloves and got a clean plastic waste paper basket, figuring that an unconscious bird waking up inside a container it would remain calmer during the short trip down the stairs and out the front door to freedom. I stood over it, talking to it, half expecting a sudden burst of movement, but it moved not a muscle. Gently I picked it up by the feet and slid my other gloved hand under its body.

I have disposed of dead birds before, but always much after the fact, quickly flinging the dried up little things into the bushes. This bird was surprisingly heavy, and limp like a rag doll, its little head slumping to the side as I placed it in the container. After bringing it out the front door I took it in both hands and went down the path that leads to a little duck pond. It was still warm and showed no outward sign of injury, its yam colored breast marked with juvenile speckles. Not a dried up little thing at all but a creature that had been throbbing with life just a few short minutes ago.  I chose a spot under some bushes and laid it in a little depression on the ground. Its body draped limply in the depression, as if the little birdie was fast asleep, except that sleeping birds don't lie comatose on the ground.  I said goodbye and walked back to the house.

It bothered me for the rest of the day.  The heave of its body I now realize was the moment of death. I have never watched a person or an animal die, but I will never forget the way it opened its beak, as if to say: it hurts! It hurts!

Later on the balcony I examined the window and found the tiniest smudge of gray down stuck to the glass. The window was caked with dust, and around the smudge I took my finger and drew an outline of a hawk, not because I thought it would help but because I felt it was my fault that the poor bird flew into the window. If I had put a hawk sticker on the window this would never have happened, and I would not be remembering so vividly a bird experiencing its final moments in unmistakeable pain and surprise and terror.

This morning, rather than stew over how many more bodies would be waiting for me this evening, I got out the windex and paints and brushes, and did three windows before leaving for work.

1 comment:

  1. Hey Diane, It's not your fault. Robins are not suppose to be in Fairbanks.