Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

(This was all written out for yesterday but due to some lovely changes to my blog, the blog wasn't ready for an entry till my programmer swung by again)

 

When you get up in the morning and go about your business, it’s never clear what’s going to happen. I starting cleaning out the trunk of my car at about 11 or so and that's when I saw him. He was part robin, part fuzzy baby and no tail to be seen. Half a robin. He jumped up to me, cheeping, contemplating and staring. Very clearly he was asking, "Are you my mommy? Just feed me!" but there was a sweetness there too. He came right up to my toes, cheeping at me.

I did what anyone would do: I rushed to the Internet and found the number for the local Forest Preserve's Nature Center. I called and a guy told me that fledglings get out of the nest and fly around on the ground. They still need their parents to feed them but since birds are very auditory and visual, the parents would find their baby. So I left the birdie. The parents would come.

They never did. The short hours passed and he stayed in one place, not moving. Fledglings need to be fed every twenty minutes. It was now two o'clock and he looked like a tiny statue. He was doing what all animals do when the time comes…he was preparing to die and wasn't going to make a fuss anymore.

That was it. Screw the Red Oak Nature Center guy. Screw them all. Someone, somewhere took care of ailing wild birds. So I hopped back to the Internet and found the Fox Valley Wildlife Center. Why the Red Oak Nature Center never gave me this number, I shall never know. Anyway, I called them and after what seemed forever (45 min.) they called me back. Bring him into Elburn, they would see what could be done. I found a box, Jeff and I bundled him in and I sped off. I plowed into rush hour, hitting every light on Randall Road and trying not to swear like a sailor. It took another 45 minutes to get out there to Elburn. Worse and worse. This little guy was going down and I prayed and I prayed even more that he wouldn't die in the car. Dear God, not in rush hour, do not let this baby robin die in this car. The implications for what that could mean seemed too terrible (they still do).

I got him there still barely alive and the lady whisked him off, telling me he had a 50/50 chance. I gave them some money and went home with a terrible headache and a number to call tomorrow to see if he had made it.

(That was the action of the day; this is what the evening writing brought)

I guess the truth is that I didn’t let that baby bird die. He might be dead but I gave it my best shot and instead on dwelling that I lessened his chances for life by trusting someone at the Nature Center, I’m seeing I persisted and saw that he got to the right place in the end which was the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. I did take care of him and simply didn’t let him pass away back into the earth. And if he passes, he does. I prayed for him and his little soul and I feel that was good. Animals aren’t like us. It was terrible to see him starve and grow fainter and fainter but it wouldn’t have lasted very long and then he would have been gone- a very short life and short death. As it was, I gave him a possible retaliation of life to become a jaunty robin who does jaunty robin worm things. We’ll see tomorrow if he was able to hang onto being here. And instead of grinding myself into the dust that I didn’t question the Nature Center sooner when he was cheeping and hopping around and being friendly, I have the calm belief that I did aid him. I had to see that his parents wouldn’t come and they never did. I know now, of course, how to deal with a fledgling and how many hours they have from not being fed till when they start dying and where to take them in-between those small short hours. He has a little number and tomorrow I’ll call that forest preserve house in Elburn and see the status of his little number. I hope, of course, for life. I’m really hoping for life and I know that I worked towards it and not to death.

 

And now today, I just got the call back an hour ago from the Wildlife Center. He's doing just fine. Since he's wild and a baby animal, he could still die but he's hanging in there and it looks like he'll make it. They're going to be hand feeding him for awhile!

I just want to say how amazing the Wildlife Center is. That anyone would care about wild animals and tend to them is an enormous gift. I would encourage everyone to find your Wildlife Center and make a donation, be it food, money or weeds! Ours is entirely dependent on donations and seem to need a bit of everything. I'm sure it's the same with other places. They are incredible, hard-working places.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Cracks in Time

There are moments in time where the past overlaps with the present. Sometimes referred to as “thinning of the veil,” they are strange, illusionary moment when one season passes into another, when the silvery full moon shines its brightest, and when firelight flickers warmly in the cold night.

Right now in the Northern Hemisphere, the darkness is overtaking the days of light. Icy winter is just beginning to finger the edges of autumn’s beauty. The first frost came a few days ago and over the weekend, I awoke early in the morning and was greeted by the sight of downy snowflakes falling weighted from a heavy sky.

As the days grow shorter, I catch glimpses of color and movement out of the corner of my eye. I can’t say what I’m seeing exactly—perhaps it is the corners of autumn on the wane, the earth shedding its summer glory before it falls still. Perhaps I’m seeing the fast flicker of days as they shorten, when sunset comes around 5PM instead of later hours.

Whatever it is, I feel the shift and though it’s a cycle I’ve witnessed my whole life, there is something unearthly about the shift, as if something strange is lurking in the off edges of the exchanging cycles. There are tiny spaces in the exchange, little windows that open up into another world and as the darkness lengthens, perhaps it is the past that grows a little clearer, a little nearer.

Earlier sunsets and later sunrises means more darkness and with the dark and external stillness arises memories and with memories, the dead rise up. The dead is our own past, old and gone versions of people and ourselves which are still living. What people have been to us, what they have done to us, what we ourselves once were, lives in the murky shadows of memory and as the seasons change, one foot treading precariously before another, time slides a little and anything is possible.

There are many stories that deal with these strange moments in-between worlds and time.

One of my favorites is Still She Wished for Company by Margaret Irwin, first published in 1924. It deals with the lives with two women, Jan in the 20th century and Juliana in the 18th. The two women never fully see each other, despite their ability to see the past and future, but it is Juliana’s brother, Lucian, that travels through time between them. Jan first encounters him on a stormy afternoon on Hill Street, London. She takes shelter under the doorway of an old, preserved 18th century house and as the rain pours down, he appears near her side. The book follows and explores their strange relationships.

Another book about curious women existing in that magical land in-between words is The Brontes Went to Woolsworths by Rachel Ferguson. The three Carne sisters live in pre-war London. One is a journalist, one a young actress and the last is still under the care of a governess. They make up stories as they have done since they were very young, one particularly long lasting imagery saga about a real life judge they read regularly about in the papers. When they meet the judge’s very real wife, problems ensue and during a dark night, two of the Bronte sisters appear on their doorstep. Take a guess which two.

And of course, any list about the stories that deal with past impinging on the present would be incomplete with The Turn of the Screw. One of Henry James’ most popular short stories, The Turn of the Screw is narrated by a very young and sweet governess who isn’t entirely sure what she is seeing or what is going on with the two children she looks after.  The three (including a housekeeper and a few servants that are rarely mentioned) live in a great empty house but after a short while there, the governess begins to see lone figures in what should be empty spaces—the top of a turret, in front of a drawing room window overlooking the lawn, by the side of a still pond. She is never able to catch and speak to them for they always disappear and slowly, she gathers that these figures are not quite human nor, is the rumor, were they that human when they were alive neither. What follows is questions of belief, what is real and what is not, and the end plays out the consequences of her decisions.

Earlier than James’ spine tingling story is The Christmas Carol, a ghost story that largely takes place at night by the master of Victorian ghost stories, Charles Dickens. His lesser known Ghost Stories are a delight. The characters in his haunted tales travel through dreams, moonlight, firelight and meet all sorts of ghosts and other sorts of beings. My favorite “The Queer Chair” occurs when man dozing at night realizes that an old, quaint chair in his room has come to life and they have a long discussion about the future near the warmth of the fireside.

Another of my favorites is “The Ghosts of a Mail.” A drunk man on his way home decides to take a comfy snooze on the top of a wall overlooking a yard of wrecked and decrepit coaches. He wakes under a full moon only to discover that the coaches are being used once more and goes on to have a wild ride with a beautiful lady trying to escape her pursuers.

Dickens favors the moments between sleeping and waking for his ghosts to appear (his most famous ghost of all Marley can’t resist making his appearance during the ungodly hours) and it is small wonder.

Some of my own most fantastic nightmares, more real than the day, occur when I’ve been dozing off or are just beginning to fall asleep. My mind is in-between places here, not fully in one state nor the other. I’ve seen ghostly sad boys standing by my bed. For decades, my bedroom walls were covered in elegant cursive every morning as I slowly awoke.

M.R. James is another writer that uses the moments in-between sleeping and waking as some of his most terrifying moments. One such story is “Oh, Whistle, and I’ll Come to You, My Lad.” A professor comes across a strange bone whistle on his walk along the English coast and inscribed on it in Latin are the words, “Who is it who is coming?” As he makes his way back from his walk, he blows the whistle a few times. Nothing happens. But that night his bedclothes rise in the form of a blind man and attempt to strangle him.

It Leapt Towards Him in an Instant

Sleeping is dangerous time, indeed.  The mind lives in another realm while the body lies prone. And now as the dark and heavy hours approach, we turn on lights and stay indoors. But those strange corners still remain and in-between our waking hours, we sometimes see them.

The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)