In Her Memory; A True Story
My gaze fell upon a sparrow with tiny fledglings that at this moment were trying their wings under the patient guidance of the mother.
A quiet, warm afternoon, I was sipping coffee in the small patio with multi-colored flowers in kaleidoscopic array under the radiant sun. My gaze fell upon a sparrow with tiny fledglings that at this moment were trying their wings under the patient guidance of the mother. One was full of excitement, exploring new corners, fluttering the wings in spurts, allowing higher and higher attempts to fly. The other watched its sibling while she flapped her wings, jumping and jumping but nothing happened. Flapping and jumping, flapping and jumping, going nowhere.
The unfortunate little bird watched her sibling as he flew higher and higher and was gone. By then I became more and more curious as to see how nature might resolve this problem. The mother hovered, probably encouraging the little one to find the strength. A few hops and flaps further but no advance. Nearby was a small basin which, when desired, became a pond. Unfortunately, the hopping bird fell into the dry pond, and I became even more interested with this new challenge. How to get out, how will the mother bird solve this, how will nature lend a hand?
A couple of hours passed and I attended to more chores, always keeping an eye on the little bird. I saw there was no solution and a light drizzle fell. I began to worry. As the drizzle increased the little bird drew into the corner of the dry pond, put its little head to one side and closed her eyes. She knew this was it. I was aware that I would frighten her but I went into the basin and as she tried to flutter away, I cupped her into my hands, feeling the pounding, tiny heartbeat. Close by, in the raised flowerbed, I found a cluster of broad-leafed philodendrons that would protect her from the rain and I deposited her. End of story, I thought.
But no, the next day my house-helper said that the little bird had found its way through the flowerbed to a vine and there she settled, below the nest high above it. There she remained, and I believe the parents fed her. I decided she had a birth defect that affected her wings and she would never fly. We constructed a ramp from the raised flowerbed to the patio floor so she could walk up and down to gather insects and seeds. End of story, I thought, and I went down to the coast for a few days to work. When I returned the little bird was gone. I feared the cat got her — there were many predators — or her parents abandoned her and she died from hunger. The gardener insisted the little bird had not died. But she was gone. End of story, I thought.
A few days later, again as I was sitting on a quiet afternoon, a little sparrow flew down into the dry pond and flew up into the tree above it. I teased myself thinking how easy to conclude that the little bird had come back and was telling me that she had learned to fly. Impossible to think she would return or even know me.
Another few days later I sat in my chair by the window, reading, and something hit the window from the outside. I went out, and to my amazement it seemed to be the same little bird. Another day, I was positioned on the sofa near another window, talking to a friend. Outside the window, perched on a delicate limb of a tree was the little sparrow, calling for attention. I knew it was not my imagination. I had a little friend here.
The little bird settled in the pomegranate tree in the patio. She came and went; I provided crumbs and water when needed. We began to “chat” together. Her conversation was by way of shaking her head up and down, poking with her beak into the feathers of her chest and under the wings and flapping them. I wish I knew all the things she was telling me. But we chatted away, sometimes she perched in the tree, sometimes up on the roof or the chimney. I never could find a right name for her; nothing was appropriate. She was just “Lil Bird.” I found that I could call her when she was gone, and perhaps in 10, 15 or 20 minutes she would reappear.
She selected a mate and he joined the household. He was very timid and remained at a distance. Finally, a tiny nest appeared in the pomegranate tree and then a nestling. All went well until one morning there was a great clamor in the patio with shrieks of bird calls. We found the nestling had managed to get down and hide in the begonias where the gardener, unwittingly, hosed the bird along with the other flowers. We got that under control, the bird dried and all was fine, but he never shared the beauty of the patio and finally he took off.
Years went by. The pair eventually settled in a more secure place where gardeners did not have hoses. Yet they frequently visited and we all three chatted together. There were always and crumbs and water if desired. Other birds, robins and doves, arrived to share the wealth. Apparently they tolerated each other, turning it into a club with restricted membership.
Recently, the pair returned to the pomegranate tree and I was elated to have them back. But as the days passed, I could see the little bird was not well. She had less energy and her body seemed differently. As she became weaker she came down from the tree and lived on the ground under the begonias. A couple of days passed and, one late afternoon, I could see she was gravely ill. I called the vet and said he would have to see her, but the little bird and I had never touched, she never came to my hand although we stood closely.
On the last day, in a gray, dismal evening in a light drizzle, I sat on the step on the patio. The little bird came out of the begonias and I talked to her. She just listened, so sick. I conversed as I always did, she quietly watching me with her suffering eyes full of understanding. The drizzle turned into a soft rain and she went back under the begonias. During the night she died.
We buried her under my special white rose, one in full bloom. Yesterday I saw the rose drooped over and dropped her white petals onto her burial.
Her mate comes by almost every day and chats with me, just as she did, raising his head up and down, digging into his chest feathers and under the wings. We talk and then he flies back home alone.
REVUE article by Marion Popenoe de Hatch.