Out in the World

 We went to Sighosora, Romania…

…and stayed in the Old Town.

In the passage to the courtyard we found a nest, with two baby birds huddled nearby.

There had been a fierce windstorm the previous night that must have blown the nest from its nook in the wall, our Romanian host told us when delivering the key to our flat.  My husband Thom replaced the nest, but when he tried to return the birds to the nest….

…he discovered two of their legs were tightly bound together by a long blond hair–nesting material gone terribly wrong.

We had a knife, our tiny blunt-nosed travel scissors, and a larger pair of scissors scrounged from the kitchen.  Thom and our son Eli hoped to separate the birds with a quick snip.  But the hair had been there for a long time, the legs were swollen around it, and every effort set the birds fluttering in a panic, which we feared would cause further damage.  Our host wished us good luck, and left for work.

We felt helpless.  We were there for only one night.  To whom could we hand off these birds? We could return them to the nest and let nature take its course–a slow and painful death by starvation and infection.  Or should we put them out of their misery?  The only other possible solution was harsh.  If we did nothing, both birds would surely die.  By amputating one leg, one bird would likely die, but the other might have a fighting chance.  One delicate leg was unresponsive to the touch, probably already broken.  Eli braced himself and severed the mangled leg, cutting through the hair.  Immediately both birds were free and fluttered off.

The one-legged bird landed on the ground nearby.

The stronger one fluttered all the way to the far side of the courtyard.

We heard a cackling overhead.  Even without the family resemblance, we recognized an anxious mother, calling to her babies from the rooftop.  We felt a glimmer of hope–their mother might yet take them back under her wing!

But our presence made her nervous, so we watched from inside, then left to explore the area.

By suppertime, the stronger bird had flown up to a perch in the courtyard…

…high enough to be safe from hungry cats.

The other remained quietly earthbound.  We wondered what the morning would bring.

The next day, the stronger of the two was gone, as was its mother.  The injured bird remained, probably abandoned as a lost cause by its family.  We checked back only moments later to discover the one-legged bird was now gone without a trace.  In a laundry room off the courtyard were two domestic workers.  Could they have removed the bird like a piece of litter?  Or perhaps a crow had carried it off to feed to its babies.

Out in the world, we often catch glimpses of a story, or a life.  Sometimes they are as sweet as a single drop of honey.

Others are stories of sorrow and want.

Too many will be lived out in the shadows in quiet desperation.

As with the baby birds, sometimes we are helpless to help, sometimes we can offer only a bandaid, and most times we will never know how the story ends.

What makes the difference between a happy ending and a tragedy?  Survival of the fittest?  An accident of birth?  An ill wind, perhaps.  But sometimes it falls into our power to make a difference.  When that happens, even for one tiny being, it can make all the difference in the world.

All images and words copyright 2015 Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Wind.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Inspiration.


  1. Great story! Ambiguous endings are good teachers. We don’t know; we practice: kindness, decision-making, being faithful to our values. And the stories play themselves out beyond our hearing. They are self-determining. Our egos humbly take their place amongst the many stories of this world.

    1. Hi Priscilla,
      I always look forward to your thoughts–you always have a unique perspective and are so articulate in your response. It’s so good to hear from you–thanks for taking the time to share your response.

    1. Dear Lesley,

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I was so proud of Eli and Thom, and so moved by their compassionate actions. What a surprisingly emotional, confusing, slightly agonizing experience!

  2. Romania looks like a lovely and interesting place in the world. The story of the two birds was something to think about for sure. Wow.
    Good to read your post today, Naomi.

    1. Dear Ruth,
      It is very good to be back, and wonderful to hear from you. I will be catching up on my blogging, and looking forward to seeing what I’ve missed in what turned out to be a monthlong sabbatical! Thanks so much for the visit, and for taking the time to say hello! I’ll be by your place soon!

  3. Naomi, That is a lovely story. I remember you from the time I lived in Seattle. You were very kind to me. I loved the storytelling Friday nights. Norris

    Norris Spencer Storyteller

    1. Hi Norris,

      I remember you very well, and fondly. Did you move to Virginia or West Virginia? How are you doing? I see that you are still telling stories, and that doesn’t surprise me at all!

  4. Thank you, Naomi, for this family story. I’ll tell about it tonight at our storytelling circle and know it will open up other stories of kindness and appreciation.

    1. Thank you, Cathryn! I went by This Gives Me Hope and loved your story about the puppeteer-watched both videos, but couldn’t figure out how to leave a comment on your site. Thanks for sharing it, though. Made me smile.

    1. Hi Jill, Thanks so much for your kind response to this story. I was so touched by the bravery and compassion of my two lads that it stands out above all the other experiences on that trip.

  5. Those birds were lucky to be found by someone who cared. 🙂
    Your story reminds me of the story of our new kitten. Not even 3 weeks after we had to say good-bye to one of our cats, a little kitten showed up in our yard, crying and afraid. We fed him and brought him inside, and now he is ours. A tiny life, but a precious one.

    1. Hi Naomi, It was a kind spirit or poetic justice that guided that little one to your door! I have been thinking more lately about being open to the universe. It seems that when we are open to the universe, things happen–we notice and act upon opportunities we might not even see when our minds are too busy, our hearts are not paying attention. Give your kitty a hug and a scratch on the tummy for me! Thank you so much for sharing your story–it helped me start my day with a smile.

  6. Great story. There isn’t always a happy ending, but this one went better than I would have thought when you were trying to get the hair out.


    1. Hi Nancy, it is so good to be back in touch! I was very afraid of making things worse than they already were, but we knew they were going to die if we didn’t do something. At least, I hope, there was one happy ending at the end of this story, if you can call it that. For a little bird, and for so many people who are living hand to mouth, it’s just one more day of survival, one more meal to keep going, one more escape from the jaws of a car, the beak of a crow. Am feeling very fortunate in my life. Thanks so much for the visit, and taking the time to comment.

  7. I’m glad you guys did your best to help those little birdies. My mom has saved many kittens over the years and we once saved a duckling in distress. Unfortunately, our dogs, little hunters that they are, have killed a few birds (I once horrifically realized I had slept next to a dead bird under the pillow next to me for days. My dog had placed it there) And a bunny rabbit. So our karmic balance is slightly out of whack, but we try. Great post. Thanks for sharing. Looks like it was otherwise a lovely trip.

    1. I don’t know if I could have done it either–I was both touched and moved when my son stepped forward. Thank you for the visit, and for sharing your thoughts, Gilly.

  8. Naomi, thank you for another beautifully crafted story. Your photographs and words always have so much real depth, and imagery. This was a poignant reminder that life is both harsh and magical ,not only for the bird you saved but for all of us. i always look forward to your posts!

    1. I was torn–I have heard that it is best to just put the birds back in the nest, but this would surely have been a death sentence for both of them. This way at least one of them could have a fighting chance for a normal life after abnormal circumstances.

  9. Such a touching bird story, Naomi. So glad you were there to help them. I’m sure that mother bird was so grateful to have one of her babies safe and sound. Your photos are very moving, and your words so true. We make a difference when we can, but most times the end of the story is left untold.

    1. Hi Sylvia, So good to hear form you–thanks for the visiting and for sharing your thoughts. I hope your summer is going well–trotting off to pay you a visit in paradise!

    1. Thank you, Amy (although my son gets the credit for that, and I was so proud of him for caring enough about a baby bird to do it.) It’s great to get back, and be back in touch!

  10. Good for you for trying your best to help, Naomi. Such experiences keep me awake at night with worry…and in my case, the little creatures I had tried to help were always gone the next day. We try to keep it all in perspective, but sometimes wisdom doesn’t always bring peace. Take care, Naomi. Sending warm wishes for a wonderful August.

    1. Dear Elisa, I know what you mean. All you can do is hope for the best, but for some reason these little stories stay with you, probably because they are emotional triggers for larger issues. I don’t know how many tiny featherless baby birds we scraped off the sidewalk and brought home in a shoebox, hoping in vain to save a little life. It was a bittersweet experience to lose one bird in the course of saving the other, and hard not to know its fate, but I take comfort from the fact that they both would have died without intervention, and that, at least this once, one of the tiny creature we scraped up off the sidewalk survived. Thanks so much for your very thoughtful response, Elisa. Best wishes to you and you family for a good rest-of-the-summer.

  11. This is such a tough story for me to read, as I’m a huge animal lover. I am so happy, though, that those birds had you to help them. Someone else might not have even bothered. You gave them a fighting chance, and that’s the best you could do under the circumstances.

    Happy summer!

    1. Dear Kate,
      I know what you mean. I didn’t mention in the story how Bea and I kept springing up from the table to go wring our hands or back away in frustration, wondering what to do, how to help, not wanting to look, but wanting to support Thom and Eli. One of the things that kept us going was that we knew that no one else would do anything about it–I really do believe that the one-legged little bird was tossed out like a piece of litter. Our host would have liked a happy ending for them too, but only if it were a nice and easy resolution. He had no suggestions about where to go or what to do, and he had to go to work. It was too small a problem for him to bother with. It reminds me of my Mom’s favorite saying: Hope for the best, expect the worst, and try not to be disappointed! Thanks so much for your visit, and your thoughtful response. I hope your summer is going well!

  12. Wow, lovely post, Naomi. Your words and pictures are always so powerful. My heart breaks for that poor little bird. But you did what you could, and saved a life.
    Bringing good to the world in your usual quiet way…thank you.

  13. Terrific post Naomi–read like a children’s book with just the right photos. Would have loved a happier ending but life doesn’t always cooperate, does it. Good for you for doing the hard thing. At least there was 1 survivor.

  14. So sad about those birds, Naomi, but good that one of them survived. I hadn’t thought about human hair ending up in birds’ nests and causing a problem like that. I know that sometimes my dog swallows a long hair and has awkward moments when pushing it out the other end! She always looks very embarrassed and in need of rescue.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thanks for the visit, and for sharing your story (I won’t tell your pup that you tattled). Our cats used to swallow a hair and then have a little friend following after them until we could locate a pair of scissors. (I tattle too!)

  15. Ah what a nice story Naomi – like the Good Samaritan you didn’t pass by on the other side. Reminds me of years ago me and my work colleague watched a nearby rooftop throughout Spring and early Summer as two seagulls were hatched. One went on to thrive and fly the nest, the other was weak and was eventually abandoned. Fate points its finger.

    1. Hi Roy,
      Thanks for stopping by and sharing your story. It’s so sad to think of so many big and little creatures left behind, no matter what they say about survival of the fittest.

  16. So often the opportunity to help arises; we don’t know if our attempts will bring relief or pain, but try we must.

    1. Yes, Patti, and we can hope. When we used to bring home the featherless baby birds that we’d found on the sidewalk, I’m sure my mother knew they would never survive, but she’d let us try. She’d say, “Hope for the best, expect the worst, and try not to be disappointed.”

    1. Eli and Thom did the tough stuff here, and I was more of a cheerleader this time. I was so proud of them–it was really hard for Eli to wield the knife as he is a sensitive soul, but he did what he had to do to save a little life. Thanks so much for the kind word, Elyse!

  17. That is such an awesome story Naomi, I am not sure I would have been able to cut the birds leg, so well-done Eli. It would be so great to know what happened to the lame birds, but at least you know that because of your help one DID survive. Wonderful photos too….thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Pennie, Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts, and for your very kind response. Yes, Eli did the though job, while we were all wringing our hands. SO nice to hear from you! I hope your summer is going well.

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