Twapt! The sound both startled and sickened me. Having lived in this amazing house with so many windows for the last eleven years, I knew that distinct sound well. It wasn’t a sound of happiness. An examination of the kitchen windows confirmed my suspicions. One of the tallest windows had a lingering fuzzy feather stuck to it which was framed by smear marks. And lying, dazed, on the ice-cold flagstone outside was a small female red bird. Damn.
Observing an animal wrestle with pain is bathing in the cruelties of nature. It’s raw and unbridled. As a problem solver or nature sympathizer, it’s tough, too, because what the heck do you do? On one hand, you appreciate the glory of nature, of natural selection, of the unfolding of harsh life unfiltered. On the other hand, you think you can and want to make a difference and question what the most useful action might be. But in reality, this is life. This magnificent, beautiful red bird is probably going to die. Right here, right now with me as a witness. Damn.
I watched from inside my warm home, a compassionate voyeur. The bird was breathing heavy. Its tail feathers dipped and rose with each deep breath. Think about that. When’s the last time you saw a bird breathe heavily? I did today, something I’ve never seen before. Its feathers were ruffled and its left wing was askew. The wounded bird kept leaning to the right, like it was dizzy. Well, of course it was dizzy. The poor dear just flew head-first into a window. Damn.
Austin today is cold, really cold. Today the high was damn cold and the night damn, damn cold so I worried. Finally, after some thought, I decided to act. If I can help I just must. I put on my coat, went outside into the freezing cold and approached the bird. Without hesitation I reached out and grabbed it. Just as I did, its mate, another pretty red bird, erupted out of a near bush, circled me chirping and then flew away. But the bird in my hand didn’t even fight. It was docile and warm in my hand. I carried it over to the covered porch where I thought it might be at least somewhat protected from the icy wind. I set it down right up against the wall of my porch. While it stood on its feet, it didn’t really respond otherwise.
After setting the beautiful bird down, I watched from inside. It continued to sway, again with its left wing splayed out like it was broken. It didn’t really hop about or even actually move. It just sat there, dazed, maybe half unconscious, occasionally trying to right itself. It was sad. I was sad.
Hours passed and I went back on with my day, occasionally checking on the feathered friend. It hadn’t moved. Finally, real life for me intervened. My care for the hapless bird didn’t wane but I had to leave. Knowing that the weather was only going to get worse, I cleared out one of the dog’s kennels, lined it with paper and set it up on the bar far out of reach of snooping puppy snouts. Then, back outside into the cold I went to retrieve the hurt bird.
As I approached the wounded fowl, I saw the damage. Her right eye was gone and, where it once was, blood oozed. It gave me pause. But I was on a rescue mission and must not be distracted. I bent down to pick up the bird, like I did hours ago but this time the bird surprised me by jumping out of my reach. Oh that’s a good sign, I thought. Despite the newly missing eye, it was quite spry. I couldn’t catch it. I grabbed. It hopped. I thrust. It jumped and flew. It was gone.
Imagine for a minute you are cruising along with your mate, with not a care in the world. Suddenly, without warning, TWAPT! You are knocked nearly unconscious and can barely stand. As the stars circling your head fade you realize that what used to be isn’t what is anymore… That your life has been irrevocably altered. It’s like a bomb has gone off… or maybe you smashed into a plate glass window. And now half of what you used to have is gone. Everything has changed.
I watched that bird for probably a full hour as it tried to stand up straight. Fly? Heck, it could barely stand up. I was certain that it was going to die. But, after it took some time to get its feet steadied, in the end it flew off, even with one eye destroyed and no doubt still hurting badly. Humbling. Inspiring.