This ferocious mother has confiscated our front stoop, and laid two cerulean blue orbs in that little nest. She’s such a doting mother, I had to lurk awkwardly in the shadows for days, it seemed, before she flew off to a worm buffet and gave me a chance to see just what was going on under that voluptuous bird butt. I feel a strong sense of responsibility for her and her unborn babies, reminiscent of those feelings I had for Chester Chesterton, the baby robin I rescued from the erstwhile grasps of my preschool class many moons ago.
Rewind to a sunny spring day; recess. The Greenwood Academy preschool class of 2009, fueled by chicken nuggets and carrot sticks, and feeling the effects of their diluted apple juice, were on the prowl, looking for Trouble in all the right places. They found her by the jungle gym, a young, fresh bird, all legs with no where to go but up. Up, however, was not happening to this down-and-out-of-the-nest-chick. The preschool class manhandled her, staining her reputation so even her mother wouldn’t take her back to the fold. Scorned by all she loved, stamped with the scarlet letter upon her crimson breast, she came home with me. The class knew the castaway as Chester, because I was not allowed to use the word “breast” when referring to the color of her ample, every more vibrant, bosom, but I knew her as a symbol of hope and tenacity. For weeks, I fed her every 2 hours, biking her to school in a little cage and keeping her in the utility closet (her proneness to Salmonella made her an unwelcome addition to my little classroom) but I brought her out for illicit show and tells and, the adopted mascot and subject of every piece of artwork produced by my diligent students, she thrived. She traveled cross country from Montana to Chicago on the backseat of my car, feeling the warm prairie winds of South Dakota in her head feathers, and tiptoeing along the shores of Lake Michigan, trying to fit in with the seagulls. But little Chester, before she could fly much farther than the length of a staircase, contracted the bird flu and one day stopped coming to school with me. The children know that her mother came back for her and they flew away together, but I know that, up hyalite canyon, there is a little stone under a big old pine tree. At a time in my life when I needed it more than anything, Chester had rekindled a spark of hope for my future. Her death, along with contraction of a severe intestinal bacteria from a goat-farm-field-trip, and several other extenuating circumstances, fueled me to end a dark, terrible chapter of my life, put down that tragic, poorly written, book, and pick up a new novel; a tale of romance and adventure on the high seas that is meandering its way toward a very happy, although someone blurry, ending in the far off future.
Bird tidbit #2
I got to snap this photo, along with pictures of a great horned owl named Bu and a peregrine falcon named Amelia Earhart, while doing a write-up for a local magazine on the Montana Raptor Rescue, an amazing non-profit that fosters and rehabs birds of prey. I feel so privileged that I got to meet this awesome eagle, a 4 year old female named 99. Interesting that, on Independence Day, a day where we celebrate the freedom that we insist is our patriotic right, this beautiful bird, a symbol of that freedom, has been so affected by the humans around her that she will live out her days in a cage.
While on the subject of ornithology, I am making a freedom cream pie for the 4th, using eggs from our chickens with yolks so golden that the vanilla filling is reminiscent of a Sting song. This one’s for you, 99.