It was a month ago, before I went to Chicago, that we saw the bird.
It was hanging around our office park, a strange place for that sort of bird: tall, pale gray, long-legged and long-billed – some kind of wader, out of place among the short grass and shrubbery. There was something not right about it, the way it paced around, looking into the shaded glass windows of the office building.
Spouse and I saw it while taking a walk at lunch.
“Look at that bird.”
“I think it’s a heron,” I said. “I wonder what it’s doing up here.”
“Someone in my office said they saw it Friday, too,” he said. “I wonder what it eats.”
“Frogs maybe? I hope it’s not sick.” I suspected it might be. There was something stuck to its face, some kind of rubbish. It didn’t look right.
“The way it’s pacing around I’d be worried if I thought birds got rabies.”
“Yeah, something’s not right.”
The next day, we walked at lunch again, and the bird was gone. I waited for Spouse to say something about it, but he didn’t, and neither did I. If he had asked, I would have said, “I guess it must have flown away.”
But the rest of the story was that later that afternoon, in my cube in the center of the enormous building where there are no windows, I overheard a couple of co-workers talking. One of them also works in the corner of the building where the bird had been hanging around. They had gotten a close look at it; it appeared to be injured and they had called the Game Warden.
So the Game Warden had come out, and determined that it was an immature heron with a shattered bill – an irreparable injury that would eventually be fatal. (The stuff I saw hanging from its face was probably… attached. And as for what it was eating? Almost certainly it couldn’t.) So the decision was taken to end its misery. They tried to catch it, to euthanize it, but it flew the other way, my co-worker said, and the Game Warden shot it, to put it down.
I wanted to write about the bird then, to tell its story. A beautiful creature, so wild and close, broken beyond repair. Was it looking for help? or just hungry and confused and in pain? I will never know.
Hail, pilgrim, and farewell. May your beautiful wild spirit soar, free from the hunger and pain and fear trapped in this world.
When I got into the office this week there was an email that one of my colleagues would be late because he was working an accident with fatality. This particular colleague is a government accountant by day and also serves on his township’s volunteer fire department. I can no longer find the article on the local paper’s webpage, but it had few details beyond a photo of the wreckage, a single vehicle twisted from impact and burnt to an unrecognizable ashen grey, and the terse note that its single occupant had died on the scene and it was not yet determined whether the deceased had been a man or a woman.
(The driver, a 23-year-old man, was later identified through dental records. It was that kind of fire.)
I was surprised to see my colleague make it in to work that day at all. It was an ugly fire.
Friday was my last day in that office, and I made a point of thanking my colleague for being one of the people who run towards emergencies. It is a thing that needs doing, and not everyone can do it. And there is a cost to the doing of it that deserves to be acknowledged – not necessarily waved around and made the focus of attention, but just quietly acknowledged.
May there be peace this night for those who run towards emergencies.
Spouse got home from the grocery store this afternoon and was putting away groceries while I hung laundry on the rack in the back sun room.
“Oh [censored], there’s a dead squirrel in the pool.”
I looked out the window. “That wasn’t there a while ago. It hasn’t been in there long.”
“Guess I’m going down there to fish it out.” And down he went.
Fishing out drowned wildlife is one of the hazards of the in-ground pool that came with our house. It’s the world’s largest, most expensive and most inefficient mouse (and vole, and frog, and toad) trap.
“It’s not a squirrel, it’s a chipmunk…” my resident expert declared, skimming it out of the water with the net we use for removing leaves and other floating things. “And I don’t think it’s dead yet. No, it’s still moving. What else can I do?”
I watched from the back stair landing as he rolled the soaked critter out of the net into the grass under the bird feeder. “I think you should put it on the pavement, where it’s warm. It’s probably hypothermic.”
Spouse rolled the chipmunk back into the net and redeposited it onto the dark green pool mat that was baking in the sun. And there it lay. “What else can I do, you know?”
“Leave it alone and wait, it’ll either wander off or die and if it dies at least it won’t die cold and soaking.”
So he came back inside and kept checking out the window to see if it had moved yet. Eventually he went back down into the yard to check on it, and it took one look at him and scrambled off into the shrubbery.
Yes, the guy I married has a seldom-articulated soft spot for animals, especially small furry ones. It’s one of his many endearing qualities.
And that is why I don’t need to tell him exactly what happened to the heron. I don’t know… I imagine it must have flown away.