Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Take these broken wings

The first time a blackbird flew down to eat out of my hand at Burnaby Lake, my hair stood on end (figuratively speaking). From the time I was a little girl, I longed to have a bird light on my hand, and  I even used to stalk them, wondering why they always flew away.  A mean neighbor kid said I could catch a bird if I put salt on its tail, and I literally went tromping around with a salt shaker in my hand for the longest time. I also took home baby birds I found on the ground, which I now realize was a mistake: in many cases the parent birds are still feeding them. I've seen nearly-full-grown crows screaming after their parents, still wanting a handout. The birds I took home nearly always died, or were so close to being adults that they just flew away on their own.

But birds.

I lost my beloved Paco a couple of years ago, and it still hurts. How it hurts. The bond between bird and human isn't understood unless you have it. Most people say it's "only a bird". Now that we know more about the intelligence of ravens and crows, attitudes are changing. Paco was a sweetheart, a violet-blue lovebird who at only a few weeks old was highly sociable and smart. Then, only a few weeks in, I found her dead in her cage.

Losing Paco led indirectly to gaining Bentley, but our attachment to Bentley was amplified, I am sure, by the loss of Paco. Bentley, too, came from a difficult background. No one quite knows the extent of the trauma, but I am sure he would have died had someone not rescued him in time. Covered with dog bites and nearly emaciated, he was found wandering around Surrey, the toughest neighborhood in the lower mainland. He had no tattoo, no chip, nothing to identify him, but he clearly wasn't feral. Once he recovered he turned out to be a wonderful pet. His loyalty and protectiveness towards us is a palpable thing. He is simply dear.

But these, my wild birds, I still have. It was a delight when the first bird of spring descended. Over the winter we kept hearing the delightful ker-squeege of their song high in the bushes, but no birds ever came down. The ones I saw up there looked immature. Even now they are still a little shy of full adulthood, their feathers a bit mottled with juvenile camouflage. The big, lusty males of last summer must be off nesting somewhere.

These are a comfort to me, because to be honest, I have lost so much over the past several years that I can't begin to count the blows. I am sort of afraid of totting it all up. Some of it was stuff or people I had to walk away from, because it or they had become suffocating. Some was simply taken from me. Life is about loss, no matter what our shallow, striving, materialistic culture might think (if you can attribute thinking to it at all).

You don't try to get it back, and there are no compensations. Not really. You just keep going, and going, into the unknown.

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