Yesterday I found myself in the right place at the right time to assist a trapped bird. Digory and I had just enjoyed an evening walk on the beach, and I was savoring the luxurious length of the day and the perfect (to me) temperature in the low 70s. Just plain feeling full and content in a basic kind of way.
As we walked past a currently unoccupied summer house, I heard an erratic rustling sound--I first thought squirrel or chipmunk in old leaves and undergrowth, but the sound wasn't coming from the direction of the trees. It was coming from the house. I looked at the house, though I couldn't imagine how that sound could be coming from the house itself (and I guess I didn't want to think of possible sources for the sound).
A bird, I think it was a pine warbler, was struggling to flap its way through a cellar window with chicken wire on the inside. It would flap desperately, then grab onto the wire with its feet, rest briefly, then try again. Its wings never fully rested between escape attempts. The bird seemed to be exhausting itself.
"Buddy," I said to Digory, "I might just be able to help this bird. You stay here." I told Diggie to sit and stay, dropped his leash, and headed through the open cellar door. Think creepy, dank, old smelling New England cellar.
I was surprised to discover that the bird and the window were in a distinct room, to my left after I entered the cellar. Through another door I went into a small room stuffed full of junk. I didn't take the time for even a casual inventory. I headed for the window.
"OK," I spoke aloud, as calmly as I could, hoping to convey trust and compassion to the struggling bird. "Here goes."
All I could think to do was to cup my hands as gently as possible around the bird, wings and all--trying to time my embrace with a moment of less wing movement--and ever so slightly close my hands. I didn't want to startle the bird into more panic and more struggle, nor cause it to fight against me and possibly hurt itself. It took a couple of tries to get it right.
Soon enough I was holding the bird, cupping it gently around body and wings, allowing its head and beak to rest free of my fingers. I moved as quickly and carefully as I could, hoping the bird wouldn't try to escape when I was still in the house. He or she was a perfect passenger--no struggle.
One step out the door and I held up my hands and let her go. She flew off without a pause.
Having spent many years thinking of myself as a trapped bird, I took all the more pleasure in aiding this bird's escape. And Digory was still waiting patiently for me when my task was complete. This letting go was unambiguously celebratory.
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