Thursday, June 2, 2011

a bird in the hand

the summer we moved here to the rim 10 years ago my father-in-law and I fenced in part of the side yard off the deck leading from a 3-season porch in order to let the dogs roam free. as a part of that, we put in a dogflap on the original screen door, and when that flap eroded after the 1st winter, we just left the hole open, and when the door itself started falling apart, I replaced it with a heavy wooden windowed door which, because it isn't the right height and won't sit right on the jamb, remains ajar about 6 inches, wide enough to let the dogs through and held to in the wind by a bungee cord.

naturally the gap doesn't let in only the dogs but an assortment of insects and flies and, about 1ce a day in the summer, birds. this is a common phenomenon here. when the dog flap was covered birds were always hopping in under the material and soon we'd see a whispy, fluttering shape darting from 1 side of the porch to the other, the dark movement brilliant against the white paint of the inside of the porch and the multiple windows that let in the afternoon sun.

generally my wife calls me to let the bird out. I am the official bird-letter-outer since I've got the patience for it. my 1st act is to open the door wide and herd the intruder toward it so he or she will make a dash for freedom. but birds are not apparently very good at seeing the difference between an open and closed door and continue to smash themselves against the brightness of the windows instead.

after a few minutes, worried that they'll hurt themselves by braining their noggins against the glass or snapping their own necks or exhausting themselves in vain until they suffer a heart attack, I'll catch the bird and release it. this isn't as difficult as it might sound. again, it's a patience game. I follow the bird from window to window to corner to floor, walking slowly and lightly, cooing reassurances all the while. the tone and words aren't really intended to affect the bird, who probably thinks it's all threats and bluster anyway, but reassure me that I can do it.

sometimes this takes 10 or 15 minutes. I have the time. when the bird is against the window or on the floor or in a corner I cup my hands around it gently, muttering all the while, and grip it as tightly and as loosely as possible. the feeling of bird-heart against my palms is indescribable. it is like holding a beating heart must feel. sometimes the bird pecks against my hand, sometimes drawing blood, and that's okay. don't go gently, I tell it in my head, if you think this is the end fight it. life should fight.

I step to the open door and fling my hands open and the bird flies like a shot into the trees and beyond. if birds have the equivalent of religion I like to think of myself as somewhere in it, not a savior but a boddhisattva. I've caught and held dozens, maybe a hundred or more birds like this, even hummingbirds which feel like holding a tiny buzzing cell phone. then I close the door and wash my hands.

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