Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Where the Wild Birds Go

Some who follow me, and they should probably know better than to do that by now, will know that for the last year I have been tending a bird feeder and watching birds... it has kept me somewhat sane when I would rather be working more often, earning a wage and paying bills.

My friend, fellow writer, and correspondent David Coyote earlier in the year sent me these photos.

I was intrigued by both the small bird and David's amazing hand. I asked him what the story is behind the photos.

When as a boy I delivered newspapers there was a an old man along the route who lived in a very very tiny house near 6-mile creek. He was a frugal man and lived simply. He had boards stacked up all around his yard against trees. Boards that he pulled up out of the creek. Often as I came up to hand him his newspaper he would be standing at the street beside an hawthorn tree and he would feed nuthatches out of his hand. He would make little noises and they would hop about and chatter at him. I was always amazed at this alignment of an individual with the delicate order of the bird world.

David kindly responded to my inquiry. Here is the story in his own words:

The bird is a common sparrow. As we did most mornings, Pamela and I had been sitting outside at the table, having our coffee and watching the birds. Not more than a few days earlier I'd said, "I wonder where birds go to die? I never see dead birds lying around - and there are so many birds - one might expect to see a dead one now and then." Pamela agreed. "Maybe they have a bird graveyard, like elephants, a place to go when they're dying." That's the last we spoke of it - until this particular morning.

The sparrow flew over to the table, and then to my hand. It sat there quietly - I didn't move. Pamela got up quietly and got the camera. She took a couple of pictures. I moved my hand closer to the bowl of water, thinking that perhaps the bird was thirsty or wanted a bath - the bird didn't fly away. Pamela and I looked at each other, questions behind our eyes.

"I think the bird is dying," I said. I turned my hand slowly and the bird got into my palm. It simply lay down and left it's body as I held it - as we watched.

"It's dead?" she asked - and then began to cry. I held her hand and told her that the bird came to the safest place - and to be glad that we were chosen to be with it at its passing.

I buried the sparrow in the garden.

PS: Now, there's an herb garden growing at the sparrow's grave.