Sunday, September 14, 2014

Lessons from an injured sparrow

I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm mildly obsessed with the birds that visit my balcony every day. Right now there are 5 feeders out there--one suet bell, three homemade feeders, and one window feeder that, I'm happy to report, the sparrows and chickadees have just figured out is for birds just their size. I love walking through the living room and seeing a bird having a snack right there.

But this post is about one particular bird. There's an injured sparrow who shows up pretty much every day. He (or she, I have no idea) generally comes when no or few other birds are around and eats from the suet bell.  Because he has an injured leg, he scoots around on his belly, or half-hops with his good leg. He can fly just fine, but when he's not using his wings, it can get a little dicey. Last week he somehow flipped himself over on his back, dead-bug pose, and I was terrified he wouldn't be able to get back up on his own. But he did.

After he eats, he often hangs out for a while. Unlike other sparrows, who flit and squabble and chirp the whole time, this one is very calm. He doesn't chirp. He just hangs out, very chill. Sometimes on the edge of the balcony, sometimes in a corner he seems to have designated as his favorite, and once on the outside windowsill. I walked by and there he was, just sitting there, just breathing. I could tell he saw me peering out at him, but he stayed calm (and his presence calmed me).

Every day I fear he won't be back, that his injury--or a cat or bird of prey taking advantage of his injury--will get the best of him somehow. And yet every day, there he is, usually coming by for more than one meal and, often, stays for a while afterward.

He's the sweetest little thing, and every day I blow him kisses and silently tell him, as if he could hear me or understand, that I'm glad he's there and doing as well as he can. Even when I see him struggling to move around, or when the bitchy woodpecker chases him and he has to scramble and fly off quickly, I'm glad. This little guy has tenacity, and I admire that. Drags his lame leg around behind him, but still has the moxie to fly eight stories up to eat.

I also feel sorry for him, having gotten a raw deal. All the other sparrows eat and chirp together; he does not. I can identify with what it's like to be a quiet loner. It's not always fun. I like to think when the sparrow sees me, he knows he's not alone, and it makes him feel a bit better. (He seems less skittish than the others and won't fly away if he sees me move, although this may just be because it's harder for him to get up and fly away, and he really picks his moments wisely.)

The sweet little thing reminds me of me--and of Emerson. Against all odds, he keeps coming back to do what he's supposed to do. Even when people expect him to fail, he doesn't. He does it with grace, and charms people along the way. He does it alone, without complaint, and somehow he makes it. Every day he comes back to eat or hang out, he makes me smile.

I'm rooting for the little guy. And I'm learning from him, too.

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