Monday, February 01, 2010

The Varied Thrush

Last spring I found a varied thrush dead on my doorstep. He had flown into my west-facing front window, near the front door. I'd just gotten up and walked out to the living area to feed the animals breakfast when I saw the beautiful black and orange, nine and a half-inch body crumpled on the cement. I kept the bird for days on some boughs I'd cut from the Christmas tree and then left on the woodpile near my entry. They were still green in spring, evergreens being so resilient in our damp air. And I just couldn't bear to discard the carcass. The bird's markings were stunning, with slender orange tracings over dark masked eyes and both patches and bars on the black wings, an orange breast with a band of black across it under the orange throat. To find any being dead stops me where I stand. It's a wound to the heart. That it is beautiful is incidental but impossible not to notice.

Yesterday morning it happened again. Again a varied thrush, again a male with those amazing colors. That it was a songbird made the ache of loss more palpable. Did I hear it singing as I planted bulbs the other day, or when I let the dog out in the early morning hours? That killing window matches one on the dining room's opposite wall, so you can see through to the back yard and the trees. But I have put two large decals on each window in the house to discourage these accidents. I did it after finding the dead thrush last year. Apparently this is not enough. A friend suggested I could hang a net up near the window to catch errant fliers. I'll look into that.

This time there was a nickel sized pool of the reddest blood next to the narrow, black, closed beak. It broke my heart to pick the bird up and put it in the garage. First I put it in the trash can, then took it out again. It was a living thing just hours before, after all. A living thing which flew and sang. How could I just discard it? I have buried birds since finding one when I was a child, but today I didn't have it in me. I scrubbed the blood off the concrete. Not true. I left a faint ring of blood as remembrance. But then I faced the fact that the song, the spirit if you will, was no longer in the bird. And I went to the garage, wrapped the body in newspaper and nestled it down inside the garbage can.

I know it's a small thing in this big world. It's not as though my child has cancer or I have a suffering hard life or any number of things which haunt or challenge so many people. But it was a lovely bird. Who knows how many hearts it lifted with its song?

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