A year ago Saturday my mom went into the hospital. She never came home again. This year, my dad got married on Saturday. I suppose it was a better way to spend the day than the way we spent it last year. But…yeah. Anyway, my brother and his daughter came to visit for the wedding so there were many photo op events — the wedding, the reception, dinner at my house, a picnic and inner-tubing at Kelly Park, the Science Museum, that kind of thing … but that’s not what I want to write about.
On Monday morning, I was sitting on the patio when suddenly, “thunk.” A little dark blob whizzed across my line of sight, and hit the ground. The dog immediately investigated and her level of curiosity and excitement was so high that after a minute, I followed suit, despite thinking it was a big bug. It wasn’t. It was a bird. Maybe a baby, maybe not. It had hit the spinning fan and it was sprawled on the ground, clearly hurt, its wings a mess, its feet curled oddly, but still breathing, still in distress.
What do you do with a hurt bird? I had no idea. It was the damn baby rabbits all over again. I picked it up and set it on the side of the grill, so that it was away from the dog. I watched it lying on its side, struggling to breathe, its heart beating fast, its eyes closing and going from dark beads to cloudy white orbs. The feathers were so soft, but I didn’t touch it after I set it down, just talked to it and grieved as it died. I couldn’t bear to bury it right away, so I took the dog for her walk and did my morning chores and then I went back out on the patio to deal with the body. I didn’t look at it — didn’t want to see it — until I’d found the trowel. I figured I’d bury it next to the two baby rabbit bodies — my little garden is turning into quite the cemetery. But when I finally came back to it, it was in a different position. Eyes closed, it was huddled small, but on its feet, and as I watched, I could see its heartbeat.
Great. So it was going to take a long time to die. Lovely. Just what I needed. But I bent over it and its eyelids fluttered and then closed again, so it was clearly not ready to be buried.
I went back into the house and found a little bowl and brought out some water and put it next to the bird and then we went off to the park and did our inner-tubing and our picnicking and the whole time, I kept wishing that I’d added some sugar to the water. I’d brought out some millet, too, but it was only after we were on our way that I realized that the shape of its beak meant that it was a nectar drinking bird, not a seed eater.
We drove home, and I came into the house and I dreaded looking out onto the porch. I knew there’d be a little brown shape huddled on the grill and I knew that I would feel helpless and indecisive and miserable, not knowing how to help it. But no. No shape. I went out with such trepidation — had it fallen off? Had it tried to fly and landed on the hard ground? Why hadn’t I put it someplace soft? But I went out and looked all around and it was gone. Just gone.
It lived. It must have. It must have recovered, and then flown away.
It was such a surprise. Such a delight. A little miracle. For the rest of the day, I could be happy knowing that the bird was out there somewhere, maybe bruised, maybe sore, but at the very least able to fly.
Then two days later, I was driving home from the vet — $160 poorer but with a dog that I could stop worrying about — when the car in front of me hit a baby sandhill crane. HIT IT. The car saw it, slowed, and then fucking drove into the bird and drove away. The bird crumpled to the ground, but it was still alive. It was struggling to move, spasmodic twitches of its wings and legs.
I was on Dodd Road, which is a crappy road. Two people died in just about that spot ten days ago. There’s a curve and no place to easily stop on the right. The car next to me — a minivan — pulled over into the turn lane, but I couldn’t. Plus, I had the dog in the car. So I drove home, crying all the way. I’d never seen anything so callous and cruel. The person who hit it — they saw it. They slowed way down. And then they kept going. Who does that? What kind of sick person sees a two foot tall baby in the road and then just decides to run it over? (That’s a picture swiped from wikipedia. Sandhill cranes are a protected species, only 5000 left in the wild according to wikipedia, and if I’d been smart enough to get the license plate of the car, the driver could have been fined.)
The moment I got home, I called the vet and asked if I went back and the bird was still alive, if I could bring it to them. She told me to call Birds of Prey, a bird rescue place in Maitland, so I found their phone number, grabbed a sheet to wrap the bird in, and headed back out.
It was gone. Totally gone. But two adult sandhills and a baby stood in the grass on the side of the road.
I don’t know whether the person in the minivan took the bird somewhere but if he or she did, it must have been alive. Or maybe that baby by the side of the road was the same baby and the car had knocked it over but not hurt it. But either way, I drove home with at least hope that the second bird of the week would survive.
Can I call it a weird week? Two birds that I thought were dead, not dead. It’s . . . nice. Also a very odd set of coincidences. One bird is just a nice small miracle. Two? Feels like a sign, except I’m not at all sure of what.