January has been a busy month for storytelling– dusting off old stories, rehearsing new ones, attending to related business correspondence. Last week I was pressed for time, polishing a story for its public debut, when I heard a little thump. I peeked through the French doors onto the deck. A tiny olive gray creature, scarcely bigger than a hummingbird, lay stunned and shivering where it fell after flying into the glass.
It was a male Golden-crowned Kinglet, with a bright orange and gold crown. They favor coniferous forest; this one was likely nesting in the grove of cedar, hemlock, and Douglas Fir in our backyard. Kinglets are monogamous, and raise two broods each season. As soon as the first nestlings can fly, Mama Bird lays another batch. While she protects the new eggs, Papa feeds up to ten fledglings until they can take care of themselves. Good Daddy!
Perhaps the little bird was an adolescent, driving too fast on his first solo flight, or maybe he was an exhausted frantic father trying to feed his hungry brood. Birds are delicate, and often die of stress. Not wanting to frighten it, I didn’t open the door, but I kept watch through the glass for neighborhood cats and hungry crows. What would happen, I wondered, to the fledglings if their Papa died? How might his mate manage as a single parent when the next brood hatched?
As The Bard said, all the world is a stage. Everywhere tiny dramas–life and death performances–are played out. Most will never be witnessed or even imagined, completely lost in the big picture. Or worse, they will be observed by cold and uncaring eyes.
On my deck, in city streets, in our wealthy country, and all over the world, baby birds are not the only creatures who slip between the cracks, with no voice, and no champion to speak out for them or watch over them.
I turned for an instant to check the clock. When I looked again, the little bird was gone. My eyes stung with tears of relief. Someone looking through the glass onto my deck would see only a few bird droppings, but to me it’s a reminder that life can get messy. Not everyone has a safety net. Not every story has a happy ending. Sometimes we can only look helplessly through the glass at the world’s suffering. But sometimes it falls within our power to change the world, one tiny story at a time.
Something to think about.
Click here for more interpretations of the Weekly Travel Theme: Glass
All words and images c2013 Naomi Baltuck