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.