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.

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The Titanic Connection

What is it about the Titanic we find so compelling?  Yes, it was an epic maritime disaster, but it occurred a hundred years ago, and we already know how the story ends.  Still we line up to see the latest movie version and read the newest book, even if it means waiting through forty-two library holds.

It felt like impending disaster when my husband invited me to his soccer association dinner.  Its purpose–to thank board members’ wives and husbands for tolerating their spouses’ hours of service to the association when they could have been home cleaning out the garage.  My preferred gift would’ve been to not have to dress up and go to a fancy restaurant with a bunch of strangers.  I saw icebergs flashing before my eyes, and headed for the lifeboats.

Me:        “I don’t know if I can find a babysitter for Bea.”

Thom:   “She’s seventeen years old.”

Me:        “But it’s finals week.”

Thom:  “She can handle it.”

Me:       “I don’t want to sit for three hours in panty hose listening to strangers talk over my head in a foreign tongue.  I don’t speak Soccer.”

Thom:  “And I don’t want to be the only one there without a significant other.”

Me:       “You’re fifty-five years old.  You can handle it.”

Thom:  “I went to your family reunion.”


He had me.  There was no escape.  I was doomed.

Upon our arrival, someone filled my wine glass, the next best thing to a life vest.  As they kicked soccer talk up and down the table, I speculated about the other couples’ relationships—research for my next novel.  But when travel stories surfaced, my ears perked up.

An older couple was seated across from us, and the husband mentioned living in Belfast in 1956.  I jumped into the game and headed the conversation back to him.  Born in Belfast, he immigrated to the US as a young man.  His wife, who he called Lady Marion, was a second generation Finn.  She told of their travels to visit family still in Finland, and how she and John met and fell in love.  But their most interesting story was about each one’s independent link to the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912.

Marion’s grandmother and her family was booked to sail on the Titanic’s maiden voyage.  When her little boy took ill, reluctantly they postponed their journey.  The Titanic sailed without them, and Marion’s grandmother lived to tell the tale.  For that, they are still thanking God today.

Meanwhile, in Belfast, John’s grandfather was a riveter who helped build the Titanic.  Everyone in Belfast, everyone in the whole country, John said, took pride and felt personally invested.  When the tragic news came, grown men cried in the streets.  John said they have never recovered from that tragedy.   He said they never would.


Thus the story goes on, a tragedy that has spanned the generations and left its mark upon them, he, in a way, a lingering victim and she a grateful survivor.  It seemed to me poetic justice that they had found each other.

I am so glad I didn’t jump ship that night!  I filled up my story bank, met interesting people, earned my husband’s undying gratitude for not embarrassing him in front of his friends, and made a Titanic connection.  Not just John and Marion, although I hope our paths will cross again—and they probably will at next year’s soccer dinner.

I also figured out the enduring appeal of the Titanic.  Of course, there are the larger elements of an epic story; the morbid fascination with disaster, the brush with fate, the sinking of the unsinkable, death as the ultimate equalizer between the one percent and the other ninety-nine.  But the Titanic was also a petri dish, a microcosm where the best and the worst of humanity was displayed for all the world and for all time.  So many mistakes, so much heroism, so much courage and sorrow, so much love and sacrifice, so very many little stories imbedded into one great one.

We’re not done with the Titanic.  As John said, we won’t ever be.  It is a story we need to hear again and again, in all its reincarnations.  Wouldn’t you stand in line to see them?  Or put the newest one on hold at your library?   Or maybe even write one yourself.

cNaomi Baltuck

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