Wednesday, May 11, 2005

A small red blessing

Last night, as I was getting ready to leave to have dinner with Todd at the Riverside Grill, I heard a loud thwack! from our dining room. It's a far too familiar sound. The little birds outside get spooked, fly away as fast as they can, and run into one of our big windows. As I turned to look, I saw something flutter to the deck.

I went to the window, hopeful that the bird would only be stunned, as usual. But my heart sank as I saw a brilliantly colored male purple finch on its back, neck twisted, eyes closed, panting, with its legs jerking spasmodically.

It especially pained me because this spring we had a huge flock of purple finches, unusually large. Their song filled the trees in the mornings and throughout the day. But when I left in April for a week, the feeders weren't being filled, and they moved on. Now we only see a few.

I'm very attached to this particular kind of bird for several reasons. One is their beautiful, trilling song. I love to wake up to it. Another is the bright color that they add at our feeders, especially beautiful next to the brilliant yellow of the goldfinches. But, perhaps most of all, I love these little birds because when I lived in New York City, they were just about the only songbirds I ever saw. In NYC, pigeons are a common sight. Songbirds are not. But, as luck would have it, across the street from my apartment on 13th Street the buildings were covered in ivy, and the purple finches nested there and sang their hearts out. I would keep seed on my windowsill to lure them so I could hear them sing even more loudly. It was balm to an animal-lover's soul in a largely animal-free landscape.

My windows were over the entry to the building, and the super finally figured out it was me making that litter on the sidewalk and asked me to stop. So I did. Mostly. :o)

As I was getting ready to leave to meet Todd, I kept returning to the window to see if the little bird had died yet. It looked as if there was blood seeping from his head, and I just wanted him not to suffer. I prayed fervently, "Lord, just let him die quickly!" If I had known a humane way to ease him out of this life, short of twisting his little neck to break it, I would have. But I was fresh out of fairy dust.

By the time I left for dinner, his legs had stopped jerking but he was still panting. I was so sad. During dinner the thought would return and I would close my eyes in pain. Todd asked me once if I was feeling OK, but it wasn't me, it was just the sadness about that poor little bird. I asked him if he would take care of getting rid of the little body so I wouldn't have to see it again when we got home.

So, we got home, and I went straight to the laundry room while Todd went upstairs. Soon he called out, "Your bird recovered!"

"What, he's not there?"

"Nope, I don't see anything."

"Then somebody got him!"

"It's too early for predators."

"Do you see blood? I saw blood near his head!"

"Nope, I don't see anything."

I dashed up the stairs to see for myself. I still didn't believe it. That little bird looked to be very badly hurt.

Sure enough, a clean back deck! Nothing! Either the "blood" that I saw was his feathers fanned out around his head, or it was one of the maple buds that are scattered everywhere right now.

I thought to myself, "The Lord answered my prayer. Not the words that I said, but He loves me so much, He answered the prayer of my heart, that the little bird would be OK. "

If I had done the humane thing, I would have been wrong.

Makes me think of Theresa Schiavo.

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