Today, I’m not going to tell you anything new about my books or what’s going on in my writing world. What I want to tell you now is something that happened to me this week.
On Wednesday afternoon, my son came home, quite excited, and showed my husband and me what he’d found. In his hands, he held a baby blackbird. That wee little something was only about two inches tall and scared as heck.
I don’t like birds.
He’d found the poor thing under a tree in front of our house. Apparently, it hadn’t moved or chirped. There are lots of cats in our neighborhood—I have two myself—and to my son it was clear that the bird wouldn’t survive another couple of hours if he’d left it under that tree to fend for its own.
My husband likes animals, but he doesn’t like to interfere with the circle of life, so he would have liked my son to put the bird back under that tree.
Well, I’m a little different. I’m like my son (or he’s like me) – I just can’t look away when animals are suffering; it doesn’t matter if I like them or not. So I decided the bird was going to stay. I took it to my writing room, the only place where I can lock the door, and researched for information on how to nurse a baby bird. Well, it didn’t sound too difficult, just very time-consuming. I was ready to do whatever was necessary.
On Thursday, I tried to feed it with gruel (that’s what the local vet told me to give it) and guess what, my husband even went out and caught some insects for the little fella, too.
Feeding the bird was a hard job. Sometimes it would open its beak but I didn’t get the food in. Other times the gruel landed in its mouth but came out again. Well, I’m not a bird; I had to learn how to do it right.
In the evening, I finally got the hang of it. Whenever I put the bird into the nest I built up on a shelf for it (so it would feel like back in the tree, you know) and grabbed the bowl with the food, I only had to whistle once and the baby bird opened its beak, chirping loudly. If I took too long to get something prepared to stuff down its throat, it used to get impatient and fluttered on my head, which made me jump out of my skin the first time. And all the following times, too.
The little bird started to grow on me.
The baby blackbird was allowed to run around on the floor or sit on furniture. Yes, there was a lot of acute cleaning to do, but I didn’t mind. Sometimes I took the bird out into the garden so it could learn to fly. It wasn’t able to start off from the ground, but it took off from my hand and glided down, flapping its wings fast. That was good training.
On Friday, it finally started picking ants and other little things from the grass. I released a deep breath, because it looked like the bird was over the hump. If it knew how to find food, it had a chance to survive outside.
By this time, the little thing and I had grown so close, that it followed me everywhere. I only had to lower my hand and it jumped right onto it. The bird liked to be carried around. I guess I’d become “the mother bird” so I also figured it was time to give the nestling a name. After all, I was going to keep it until it was ready to fend for itself. And who could know, maybe one day it would come back and sing me a song …
I loved this little bird.
However, the name giving troubled me. There should be the letter I in it was all I knew, so I tried all kinds of names that I could think of. Minnie, Winnie, Micki, Phillie, Lili, Twinki, Tink. But nothing really fit. I gave up in the evening and decided to try again today. We’d bought a little cage to put it in at night, so it wouldn’t wander around in the dark and get caught behind the radiator or something. It inspected the cage with interest and some excitement, but when I turned off the light, it happily settled down to rest. I was sure, in only a few more days, my little foundling would become a fine lady bird and fly out through my window.
But when I walked into my writing room this morning, there was no happy bird greeting me like the days before. In fact, the bird looked unnaturally exhausted. I took it out of the cage and put it on the floor, as always. It didn’t run around, curious as it used to be. Instead it fell asleep wherever I put it. And while sleeping it chirped once every few seconds.
Something was off.
I sat it in the crook of my elbow, its favorite place to be, and let it sleep there for a while. But after some time, the bird started to tip over. It quickly straightened again, but it kept falling to the side. And the chirping stopped.
This was when I figured out that it wasn’t just an exhaustion the bird was suffering from. It was going to die.
My heart was already aching.
I don’t know what I did wrong. Maybe I fed it too much or with the wrong food, or it drank too little. What if I touched it too often and it got ill somehow? Or maybe it just couldn’t stomach being in the cage over night or it could be the training was too hard. I really don’t know. But whatever I did wrong, I’m sorry about it.
The little bird’s death struggle went on for a few hours, where during the last hour I held it in my hands the entire time. Sometimes I would whistle softly or just speak to it so it knew I was there, and it opened its eyes again. In the end the little bird’s breaths slowed and set out for seconds at a stretch. It fought to come back time and time again. Death throes are terrible to watch. But all I could do was hold it and talk to it and pray that it would be over soon. And cry.
And well, crying is what I did a lot today. I buried the baby bird under a tree in front of our house and put some daisies on the grave. Even now, as I’m writing this, I can’t stop the tears from streaming down. I know it’s silly, because I only had this animal for three days and then I’m grown up and all and should know better. But still.
Just little bird is the name I gave it in the end, because it’s the only name I ever really called it. In a strange way, I’m thankful that my son brought me the foundling. It’s been a special few days. Since the little bird never learned to fly, I hope an angel carried it to paradise where it now can sit in a tree and happily chirp all day…
I miss my little bird.