Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | January 20, 2013

Through the Looking Glass

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

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Responses

  1. Beautiful words for a world we take for granted so often, our world of nature . Yet the thought of how we treat our fellow human beings and how we let them slip through the cracks is quite devastating to me..but as my hubs says I am a bleeding heart and would have a houseful of strangers if he would let me…and I guess I would at that.

  2. What beautiful photos of his regal plumage! Maybe he’s common to you, but I’ve never seen one. The nature center where I volunteer has all kinds of window stickers for cutting down on bird crashes. They are made of clear plastic, so they’re not too noticeable to us, but they’re thick and visible to birds. If you haven’t got any, it might be something to invest in….for all the bird generations to come!

    • Hi Scilla,
      Since moving to the Pacific Northwest, I have missed Cardinals and Eastern Blue Jays most of all. But I love birdwatching out my back window, and can identify many species that I don’t remember seeing back east–like Stellar Jays and Golden-crowned Kinglets. I saw my first Pileated Woodpecker in the apple tree just outside my bedroom window.

      I have found a website that sells window stickers that are supposed to be invisible to humans, but visible to birds, and have some on order!

      • Well done on the stickers! Imitating the Cardinal’s mating call was my dad’s way of whistling to get our attention. I used it on my kids, too, but they didn’t “get it” until we moved from So Cal back to Illinois.

      • I remember my mom trying to teach us to imitate a Cardinal–it is a very distinct call. As a Girl Scout leader, when I had to gather the troop, I kept it simple. I’d caw like a crow, and suddenly be surrounded by a “murder” of little cawing Girl Scouts. I don’t know why that amused me so much, but it did!

      • Hysterical! 😀

  3. True words, Naomi. I’m glad your bird survived (I found one yesterday who did not, sadly). But your observation that things are going to be difficult for many is so very true.

    • Dear Elyse,
      Thank you for visiting, and sharing your thoughts. Thinking about your little bird.

  4. Oh, beautiful lesson! . . . and I LOVE a happy ending!

    • Dear Mary,
      I am so glad that at least this little fellow had a happy ending, and because of that, so did his mate and babies. It reminds me of the African folk tale, “All Things Are Connected.” We truly are, and one sad story can start a chain of sorrow that affects so many! But we were lucky this time. I so appreciate your visit, and generous comments.

  5. Thanks for the happy ending…this time around. 🙂

    • Yes, sometimes that’s all we can hope for, a happy ending this time around. I appreciate your stopping by and sharing your thoughts.

  6. One dear, sweet blessing!

    • Thank you, Mary. Wishing you lots of happy endings, big and small.

  7. Beautiful from start to finish but I be you knew I would love this post
    XO
    I have a house full of windows no curtains and a few accidents happen but now they are so spoiled they throw themselves at the glass for MORE FOOD poor babies 😦

    Eunice

    • Dear Eunice,
      Thank you so much. I saw a movie of a robin throwing itself against a house window again and again. In this case it was fighting off a rival in its territory, not realizing that it was only a reflection of himself.

      • 🙂 Yes I have mirrors in the yard and in the trees for them to talk pretty too 🙂

      • 🙂

  8. Is The Thinker wondering why no girl has kissed him? ;o)

  9. That was terrific Naomi. 🙂

    • Thank you, Meredith. So nice to hear form you. I hope you are well.

  10. Touching and wondrous. Here in the U.P. it has been slowing steadily for more than 24 hours. No darling kinglets in my yard!

    • Dear Lee,
      I do envy you all that snow! We have been having a cold snap, which for us means the thirties, and frost on the grass. Next week back to rain. Are you cross country skiing? Are you getting any official Snow Days, or is that business as usual?

      So good to hear from you. I’ll be talking to you soon.

  11. He’s absolutely beautiful, Naomi! I’m so glad he survived 😀

    • Thank you, Dianne. I was so afraid he wouldn’t–I had a female Golden-crowned Kinglet who flew into the window several years ago, and she didn’t make it. It’s good to know that, somewhere out there in that huge grove of trees, someone’s Daddy is coming home.

  12. Thank you for keeping an eye on this sweet little bird. So colorful! I’m glad you shared him with us, and for your tender heart.

    • Dear Patti,
      Thank you for your very generous thoughts.

  13. How extraordinary that this bird chose your window to run into Naomi. The intersections of our lives. And the message you received….how extraordinary. Thank you.

    • Hi Beverly!
      I know a storyteller when I hear one. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and your unique perspective. How are you doing? Wishing you well!

  14. Just what I needed….thanks for sharing this today, Naomi ♥ Beautiful pics, too!

    • Thank you, Paula, for your visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts. It’s always good to hear from you.

  15. This was great to read. Thanks for the lesson.

    • Thank you for visiting, and taking the time to share your thoughts, Chantel.

  16. What a beautiful story, Naomi. And love the photos too. The last sentence is so touching.

  17. Well said. This time, though, it seems that the accident did have a happy ending.

  18. Well done for keeping an eye on the little fellow. My parents have big windows at the front and back of their house and birds fly into them all the time because they think they can just fly right through the house. You can tell when they’ve been there because their feathers leave interesting imprints on the glass.

    • I have heard about that–in fact, that might be what is happening here, as the French doors are opposite the big living room windows. I have stickers on order to ward off birds, although the sticker on the kitchen window didn’t keep a Varied Thrush from flying into it and stunning itself, poor thing. Thank you so much for visiting, and taking the time to comment.

  19. I love your integrated imagery of words and pictures.

    Shakti

    • Thank you so much. I have always just told my stories alive in a performance setting, or written them in books using just printed words, but blogging has offered me a new way of telling stories, using both words and photographic images, and I have enjoyed it very much.

  20. Beautiful post.

    • Thank you, Footsy! Hey, I heard you are in the midst of a huge blizzard over there. Are you okay? I hope you are staying warm and cozy!

  21. Lovely, as always. And life can change at a moment’s notice; a neighbor died this week, totally unexpectedly.

    • Hi Laura,
      Thank you for your kind words, as always. So sorry about your neighbor. It is shocking. Maybe because I lost my dad suddenly when I was eight, I don’t take anything for granted. The neighbors probably think we’re silly, but when someone in our family pulls out of our driveway or heads off for a walk, we always look back and wave, because we know someone will be standing at the front window sending us off with a wave and a blown kiss. It’s not ‘just in case’, but ‘just because.’

      • Wow, Naomi. I love how your family honors your father’s memory by that simple gesture of waving to each other. Too often we forget to share affection and let our loved ones know we’ll miss them when they’re gone, even if it’s only for a trip around the block. Thank you for sharing your story.

      • Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Laura. It’s funny how loaded our lives are with backstories. Most of them are buried deep within the heart and only find their way to the surface through these little rituals, traditions, and, yes, quirks.

  22. perfect bodyline that bird – no weight watchers idea, just being himself …

  23. I hope it was a young bird’s first risky solo flight and he will recover soon – as often seen at my own window …
    +
    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?

    • Hi Frizz,
      Thank you for stopping by, and sharing your thoughts.

  24. Those small moments are often the most wondrous. I’m glad he is okay.

    • You’re right about that. It’s good to celebrate every little victory–they aren’t so small to the survivors, and their kin. I really appreciate your visit, and your taking the time to share your thoughts.

      PS I really like the new look on your blog. I had fun visiting there yesterday.

  25. Beautiful post, Naomi, which has caused me to shed a tear this morning.

    • Thank you so much for your kind words! That means a lot to me.

  26. Thanks for the great post, Naomi. Good message, beautifully written.

    • Thank you, Pat. Are you settling back in? It sounds like you got out just in time–my sister in Michigan says it has been snowing for 24 hours straight, and that it was zero degrees the day before yesterday, and the temp had gone up to 4 degrees yesterday. What a different world you are in right now!

      • We have a hard time remembering what it is like. Today it felt cold – lower 70’s. 🙂 We flew back on Jan. 2 so we have settled nicely into our winter routine. What I am loving are all the photo-taking opportunities.

      • Everything is relative, isn’t it? I hope to be seeing the fruits of your labors in your blog soon!

  27. We’ve found a few stunned birds resting under our windows over the years, and I remember silently encouraging them back into the air on the other side of the glass. I like your analogy about the many beings falling between the cracks, and can only hope they will receive as much encouragement and support as we give to our wounded feathered friends. Your post and photographs were beautiful!

    Elisa

    • Thank you so much for stoping by and sharing your thoughts, Elise. I always appreciate hearing your perspective.

  28. The cold eyes of the gnome, watching over life and death in the garden.

  29. Thanks for stopping by! There’s nothing like looking at someone’s reading list to realize you have much more in common with someone than you thought! Love your blog!

  30. Whew I’m glad the little guy is okay. And yes, the gnome looks so uncaring. What a wonderful reminder since it turned out well. You never know what will happen. Enjoy the now.

    • I never realized until that day how scary-looking that little gnome was! Thank you for visiting, and for sharing your thoughts!

  31. Golly, what a handsome fellow. Glad to hear he was able to leave on his own steam. Sounds like the visit happened quickly. At least you have proof your imagination wasn’t playing with you: the calling card. Ha ha.

    My, you take wonderful photos, Naomi!

    • Calling card? Oh, my, yes, that’s one way to put it! I thought about washing it away, but have actually left it there as a little reminder, because these things are such fleeting occurrences that sometimes it helps to have a visual reminder. But that’s the beauty of photography. Thanks so much for stopping by, Tess,

  32. Lovely story Naomi. A poignant reminder that stories are always there for the taking–good and bad–if we have the courage to look. But like the birds, the levels of stress we carry limits how much we can shoulder. Some can take more than others, but in the end we all need to chose the stories we can’t ignore and learn to tell them. Thanks as always for words of courage that you share.

    • Hi Sabrina,
      Said like a true storyteller. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts–they always offer a wise and interesting perspective.

  33. Lovely!

    Oh, and I LOVE those little punk rock birds!

  34. How very true Naomi. Glad this one had a happy ending. A beautiful and very Baltuck interpretation 🙂

  35. Naomi, this is a profoundly beautiful, moving, caring post. I am touched to the core of my being. Lovely!

  36. Dear Jamie,
    Thank you so much!

  37. Good looking bird. The colorful plummage stands out. Most of the birds I see in Texas are grey and black. Exciting post my friend.

  38. I’m so happy that little Kinglet was able to fly off again. He’s so beautiful. Love your post and way of looking at the world. 🙂

    • Thank you, AD! That familiar sound–something soft hitting the window–I don’t hear very often, but it is one that I dread. It almost always means I will be facing another little story of life or death. I am so happy when the bird rests a moment before picking itself up and winging its way back home.

  39. I’m so glad the fledgling survived. We get a lot of birds hitting our back windows (which is why they’re covered now in stickers, to my teen-aged son’s embarrassment) and it’s always an anxious wait to see how they do. You’re right – sometimes the story doesn’t always end well. But it’s good that this little guy had you nearby ready to scare off any predators.
    Would that we all had such a conscientious guardian angel 🙂

    • I am sure that you get to do some serious birdwatching in the greenbelt. After seeing the photos of the lynx family in your yard, I am now convinced you live in the equivalent of a wildlife sanctuary. Thanks for the visit!

  40. How do I love thee post? Let me count the ways:
    -photos of bird > so, so dear
    -informative data
    -your concern and compassion for even the smallest (insignifigant) among us
    -reference to fine literature, cultural sophistication
    -Deep thoughts: life & death perspective; isolation of life; brutality of day-to-day existence, yet hopeful message; shit happens and that’s not necessarily a bad thing
    -HUMOR: “cold and uncaring eyes” of a truly creep gnome; “life can get mess” with a pile of bird poo
    This is Pulitzer material if you ask me.

    -Nikki

    • Dear Nikki,
      Thank you for the best comment EVER (even if it doesn’t win a Pulizter)!

  41. So true Naomi. I hope that bird had a happy ending and returned to the nest. 🙂

    • Hi Kourtney,
      My thoughts followed the little bird too, and I can only just hope that it made it safely home again. Thanks for the visit.

  42. Oh my goodness, my heart jumped into my throat when you said the bird hit the glass. Whenever birds hit windows and break their necks it breaks my heart. Glad this little guy was ok and what a handsome one at that. Wonderful post Naomi about looking out for the little guys too 🙂

    • Thank you! It is a sound that is familiar to me, and it is always a relief when they recover and head for home. Many years ago an adolescent Cooper’s Hawk flew into our side window, and it didn’t survive. It was such a magnificent creature–we took into both kids’ classes and the children studied it, and sketched it, and then we gave it a proper funeral.

  43. I read these words and I know they can only be written by someone who has compassion. It’s one of those virtues I most value in my friends.

    That said, Monogamous kinglets for the win! 😀

    • Hi Tita,
      I have a soft spot in my heart for the wild creatures who mate for life and stick around to take care of their little ones. Thank you so much for the visit, and your thoughtful comments.

  44. wooo its yellow head is quite sharp! ha

  45. Absolutely beautiful!!!!

  46. Such empathy for the little bird. Reminded me of two incidents – I found a stunned little chickadee outside my window, picked it up and stroked it’s little head in sadness when lo and behold he stirred and staggered to his little feet in the palm of my hand. I set him somewhere safe and then watched from the window until he flew away.

    The other is notes from my mother’s diary that tell of a loon stranded on the ice. She wrote it over several days, a week or so as she watched the drama play out. She tried to reach it, but, sadly this loon did not survive.

    • Dear Lynne,
      Thank you for sharing your story, and your mother’s story. I am glad yours had a happy ending. So sad your mom’s did not–it must have been agonizing for her to watch that drama played out and feel so helpless to intercede.

      • It was, you could hear it in her writing.

  47. SO glad the little one flew away safely, Naomi. He must have felt your sheltering thoughts.

  48. Love your pictures….the little sparrow 🙂

    • Thank you! I appreciate the visit, and the time you took to comment.

      • Thats what this its all about for me : ))


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