Thursday, May 19, 2011

Re-posted: Bird Emergency

A few days ago, a Catbird got itself stuck inside the tool shed at the Arboretum.  This structure is rather ornate for a tool shed and looks more like a Victorian concession stand.  (Around 2pm I'm always hoping there will be ice cream.)  That being said, it has four round windows at the top.  On that day, even though the door stood wide open, the little bird was convinced that the only escape was through the tiny sealed window.  He was getting more and more agitated as he flapped his wings, running into the window and then the wall again and again.  He would stop, but he would not look around and then he would start again, violently flapping his wings and jumping and smashing his beak into the glass. 
Tool Shed Friendship Garden US National Arboretum

Now, at this point I could write about the similarities between us and this bird. I could point out that sometimes, we are so fixed on having things go the way we envision them, so sure that things are the way we believe them to be, that we are unable to look around and see the huge, gaping, welcoming way out or way in or path or whatever metaphor works for you...  But, I'm not going to make that comparison. Today, the story continues...

I try tweeting to the bird in a Catbird like sound. I keep hoping its mate or its mom will sound an alarm to help it get its bearings. I whistle, I close the door and open it again so that it will see the light. I even talk to it. Nothing works.  (Catbirds are native to North America, they should understand English!)

My boss was off that day and Ed, who always helps me out of a pickle, was gone too.  So, I enlisted help from the ladies in Visitor services. By the time we returned I couldn't see the bird in the window from the front of the shed. I felt a moment of hope as I walked around the side, only to find that in its panic, the bird threw itself to the ground and was panting and struggling on its side in a heap. I could hardly look as I imagined that its wings were broken, its dreams of soaring through the Oak trees dashed. Its death or at least paralysis seemed imminent. But, as Nancy and Lindsay came around the side of the building, somehow the little bird hopped to its feet!

It stood still on the floor for a few minutes.  And then when we leaned in to help, it flew to a nearby tree where he sat for the rest of the day.  (I checked on him of course.)  Coincidentally, a few days later a similar occurrence happened at the ballet.  Ms. Donna rescued the little Catbird, this time a younger one, just beginning to fledge.  So exhausted was he from his adventure inside the ballet school, that before she could place him back down on the earth, he fell asleep in her hands.

These miraculous creatures, develop in an egg---needing nothing but the right amount of heat to go from mush to what can only be called a wildly creative, inspiring invention of nature---with a tiny, delicate, complicated, bone structure, and an instinctual, yet novice handle on aerodynamics, they somehow do what none of us can do-- fly! They take the leap, most of the time before they seem ready. Even once they mature, sometimes they fall, sometimes they hit a wall and drop to the ground-- All appears lost.  They look broken, sometimes they appear dead. But what they really are is stunned.  They need a minute, sometimes an hour to regroup.   Intrinsically, they know this. They don't fly off in a panic, they wait it out, they let the process happen, they heal and move on. Suddenly, alive again, they go back to the business of flying.

And so, with that being said, it hardly seems necessary to put into words what each one of us can learn from the birds.

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