Today when I came home to South Coast I happened to stop in at the Far Inn. When I passed by the front door I looked at my feet and there was a tiny brown songbird sitting very still on the deck. I have seen this before. The birds think the Far Inn windows are open sky and sometimes they crash into them. We usually keep some stickers on the window or post a piece of paper so there is a visual cue for them. Someone must have taken them down. They probably didn’t realize the birds sometimes do that. I’ll probably tape something back up there.
But, this particular little bird was sitting very still, his feathers puffed up to protect him from the chill and the wind. I bent down and picked him up gently and cradled him in my hands. I told him I wanted to help him. Little bird. I sat on the bench and held him close to my chest to give him some of my warmth. He slowly closed his eyes and I thought he must be sleeping because he feels safe. Then I thought, oh no, maybe he’s dying and he just can’t keep his eyes open any longer. I didn’t want him to die. But I wanted to be with him if he did. He was still breathing quite steadily, his tiny chest moving in and out.
I needed help. I heard some guys down at the pool. They were moving some machine, doing maintenance. I brought the tiny bird to them and asked what I should do. They said, set him down somewhere out of the way and go wash your hands. They were just being practical. The tiny birds can break their little necks sometimes on the window. I’ve seen one that died that way. But I knew this tiny bird had not broken his neck. I sat with him in the sun by the pool for a few minutes.
I decided to take him home with me. I am working the overnight shift tonight, so I need to take a nap, and I can’t sit outside all day in the cold and wind with this tiny bird. We would both be more comfortable in my room. So I walked with him to The Boneyard. Before I stood up I pushed my index finger up toward his chest and he wrapped his tiny claws around my finger and I walked with him all the way thinking about how I felt like Snow White. This tiny bird sitting on my finger, and then I remembered he was stunned and couldn’t escape me if he wanted. But, I hoped he appreciated that I loved him and was trying to help. I hoped he was happy I came along and picked him up.
When I got to my room I sat with him outside on the deck. I tried to let him off my hand onto the wooden rail, but he preferred to stay wrapped around my finger. I had to pick him up and put him down on the rail. He started to close his eyes again. He let me pet him softly. I trailed my fingertips down his head, between his wings and down his tail feathers. I was trying to help him integrate his trauma and reawaken his body’s instincts. I lightly stroked the tips of his flight feathers, singing to him about his wings. I was still worried.
A lady from the office was home around the corner. And she has two cute little wooden birdhouses sitting outside her door, so I thought to ask her for advice. She said she only knew about hummingbirds, but that she heard someone in the office once say she had saved a bird by putting him in a dark box with something to keep it warm. The tiny bird needed warmth and darkness, and that sounded right. I went back to my room and opened my desk drawer. I pulled out the few contents and stuffed it with some fabric and made a kind of nest. I picked up the tiny bird and placed him gently in the middle, tucking him in and closing the drawer almost all the way. Leaving room for air and a small crack of light. I let him rest for a while.
When I opened the draw again, the tiny bird was turning his head right and left, he was certainly happier. I picked him up and he started to wriggle a little, like he was looking for his freedom. I felt happy about that. I was scared he would take off before I ushered him out the door. I didn’t want him to be flying around my room, so I rushed for the door and took him outside and tried to set him on the wooden rail, but he clung to my finger again.
I asked him, if I throw you in the air, will you fly? And he didn’t really respond. I didn’t know if he would fly or fall and hurt himself all over again. I was scared, so I moved my finger up and down a little bit and he started ruffling his wings, but he refused to fly. I felt like he could do it if he only remembered how. I decided to toss him just a little bit and stand close by to catch him if he didn’t take off. I tossed him and he spread his tiny wings and landed a few feet away. And then he started hopping up and down the railing. I followed behind him as he hop, hop, hopped. I wanted him to fly. I tried to give him a little push, but this time he didn’t want to cling to my finger, he just started hopping in the opposite direction and we hopped back to my front door.
I picked him up off the rail, thinking maybe it was too far off the ground and he wasn’t confident enough to try it yet. I moved him down to the floor of the deck and sat his frail little legs down so his claws were curled over the edge, so he could feel his freedom to jump from the perch. He just sat there. He didn’t fly. He looked back and forth, turned his little head to look at me. I sang him a song about how he was the sweetest little bird in the whole world and how he was so good at flying. He didn’t fly. So I bent down and moved my hands gently underneath his belly, I just gave him the slightest little lift with the edge of my fingers and he spread his wings, jumped off the edge of the porch, swooped low down across the gravel driveway, curved left and flew away into the trees.
He was a very good little bird. Now I miss him.