For the birds

I took part in a wonderful celebration of birds tonight—five writers sharing their poems and prose about birds. Called “For the Birds: A Flock of Writers Read about All Things Avian,” the reading was organized by Ellen Orleans as part of “Bird Shift,” an exhibit on birds commissioned by the EcoArts Connections and held at the CU Museum of Natural History. We gathered in a large circle at the museum, munched cookies and sipped tea, and were inspired by other bird-watchers and bird lovers. Here is the piece I read.


August 2011

I caught sight of it before my dog did—a fledgling robin struggling in the grass. As we approached, the robin shuffled hastily across the sidewalk, dragging a wing. Uh-oh, I thought. Not good.

I dropped Bodhi’s leash and bent over the robin. My hands remembered how to pluck a bird gently from the ground, palms firm but loose around the middle to calm and protect fragile wings.

The robin stretched out its beak and clamped down on my finger. Its best effort barely hurt. I extracted my finger and hugged the fluffy body carefully to my chest, then tucked my open shirt around its head to dampen sights and sounds. With my other hand I picked up the leash and headed home.

After packing the robin in a shoebox, I drove to Greenwood Wildlife Center, where the young woman behind the desk took a brief look inside the box then handed it off to someone from the back. “Intensive care,” she called after the retreating box.

Hummingbird nest soft with down on the inside and woven with paint chip decorations on the outside, all held together with spiderweb threads.

The bustle at Greenwood was familiar from the several years I spent volunteering at a wildlife clinic in the Bay Area. The faces were familiar too. Wildlife rehabbers have calm, matter-of-fact faces. Like the farmers of my childhood, these faces have watched birth—and death—many times over.

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