Sunday, March 9, 2008

life's balance

The curious thing is life’s precarious balance; on one side there’s a “here one minute gone the next” frailty and on the other, a “never say die” will to live, call it stubborn tenacity.

A tufted titmouse flew into a window at Ijams Nature Center. Kimberly brought it to my attention. Many of the glass panes have reflective tape that warns skittery birds to stay clear. Yet, this little Paridae chose to fly in the direction of a window with no such alert. The slate gray passerine crashed, betrayed by the reflection of blue sky. It didn’t hit hard, a glancing blow, but still it flopped to the ground stunned. Stooping down, I picked it up and held the trembling sprite in my hand. Dazed, it twitched, blinking its obsidian eyes, shaking its fluffy gray head. The dizzy creature gasped. Its last breath? If so, at least it wasn’t alone. One foot was outstretched, trembling, useless. Its warm feathered body felt weightless–a puff, a whisper, a wisp of sinew that held a tiny beating heart.

The concept of what it was had gone missing, after all: what truly is titmouse? Only a titmouse knows for sure and its little brain seemed too fuzzy to recall. I held the faintest of lives by a gossamer thread. Sometimes, all it takes is holding the bird; the warmth of your hand prevents it from going into shock. I knew it could live or die, one way or the other, at any second; I’ve seen both outcomes from such crashes but which would it be? Usually, mercifully, death comes quickly. The scale tottered back and forth, until finally, it tipped. Tenacity won and the stunned tufted-one hopped up and flew away. The grim reaper had come to the door, but the bell went unanswered.


Anonymous said...

Oh, having experienced this same thing several times, this story was really touching. Wonderful that it had a happy ending! - Patty

Stephen Lyn Bales said...

Yes, Patty. A happy ending. A yellow-billed cuckoo once flew into a window at the nature center. It was a surprise to see a bird that prefers the high canopy of the forest to be so low down. It hit hard and fell to the ground. I watched it twitch and take its last breath. You really never forget such things.