Humility is having a proper respect for oneself … It is liberation from rivalry, from the compulsion to measure (oneself) against other people. Timothy Radcliffe, OP
I have a certain fascination with birds. In my last column I recounted an experience I’d had with a group of magpies. As it turns out, the avian world is apparently not done with me yet. I’d gone into the garage to take care of some business when I noticed a robin flapping away against a window at the back of the garage.
Normally we keep our garage doors closed, but I had left one bay open as I was going in and out and, apparently, a robin decided to come check out our digs. Unfortunately she had gotten up against the window and couldn’t quite figure out why she couldn’t get to the tree on the other side – a paneful situation.
She flapped and flapped against the window but made no progress, and that’s when I had noticed her. Always having delusions of being the reincarnation of St. Francis of Assisi, I spoke gently to my feathered friend and, using the simplest words I could find, I implored her to turn around and look for the big, wide-open garage door behind her.
“There! There,” I said in perfectly plain English – well enunciated and clearly articulated. “That’s the way out. Fly, little bird; fly!”
But she wouldn’t listen. Could she really be that dumb, I wondered to myself, but I knew better. The fact is that birds do not speak (or understand) English at all well. Alas and alack, I do not speak Bird, let alone Robin (after all, I ain’t Batman)!
I tried to open the unscreened window to let the bird out, but one of the levers keeping it locked in place was out of my reach, so I couldn’t crank it open. I looked around for something I could use to maneuver her away from the window and to the outdoors, but the shovels, picks, and home gardening implements looked like they would do far more harm than good; I needed another option.
That’s when it occurred to me. I just needed to capture the little aviator and carry her to freedom! Worrying I might come down with avian flu or pick up mites that would do me grievous bodily harm, I donned a pair of hardy work gloves that I was sure would offer me some semblance of protection should the red-chested thrush decide to start pecking or, heaven forbid, call for reinforcements ala Alfred Hitchcock’s THE BIRDS.
Surprisingly, the robin continued to flap against the window, but she could gain no altitude (let alone passage to the great outdoors); that made it relatively easy for me to wrap my gloved hands around her as gently as possible and walk with her to the exit. As soon as I got her there, I pointed her in the right direction and released her. I don’t think I hurt her at all as she shot out of my hands at warp speed and was last seen leaving a vapor trail across the valley.
I’m trying to recall whether or not I have ever had a bird in hand, but I don’t think I have. This was a new experience for me and proved true the old adage; a bird in the hand is better than two in the bush – but only if one’s goal is to walk around all day with an angry, frustrated bird.
It was exciting being able to catch the robin – to discover I still have some semblance of speed and agility as my years advance – but it was even more pleasing to let her go to return home to her nest, her kith, her kin, where she may live out the remains of her life seeking worms, fleeing from predators, and telling tales amongst her feathered friends of her captivity and escape from some old geezer in his fowl den.
The pane was real; the cause of the robin’s consternation was clear, which is why she couldn’t see it – but I could. It wasn’t until she was wrapped in scary, yet caring hands that she came to gain her freedom. That’s our story, isn’t it?
God, it turns out, is in heaven, the universe continues to expand, and life goes on in this, our valley.