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.

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The Light Changes: Books for the Autumn Equinox

Summer is coming to a close, as usual marked by heavy rain and fitful sunshine. I woke up to a downpour a few mornings ago. It took me awhile to fully wake due to the gloom-heavy atmosphere in the bedroom. When I finally got up and opened the bedroom door, the cats were waiting in the hallway, small triangle faces tilted and full of questions; they were unsure if it was breakfast time or not due to the strange murky light. It was so dim that even the street lamps were still on.

I padded with the cats out to the living room. Water was pouring down the western windows, giving the room a half-submerged effect as if it was about to give up and dissolve with the rain. The kitchen was a little better: I opened the eastern-facing window and a heavy, damp breeze rushed into the room, lifting napkins and papers and then setting them down again.

I set the kettle going and brewed a cup of green tea, sitting down at the kitchen table with the cat. She had gathered herself into the windowsill and we drank in the oxygen heavy air together. As the wind struck my face, the sensation of being sealed up alive in the house relented and I was able to breathe easier and drink the tea slowly, savoring the light, toasted flavor. The cat looked at me a few times as I drank but she inevitably returned to staring out the window, sniffing at smells I couldn’t detected but were utterly engrossing.

The loss of morning light in autumn makes the shortening days more noticeable. I love the night but hate early evenings and as sunrises comes later and the sunsets earlier, my fingers curl a little in my pockets. The long endless nights are coming. I’m not ready for summer to end but I attempt to reconcile myself by pulling out a few books.

As the light eases towards the darkness, I pull out the books that were once the spoken word, told during the long dark evenings to family members, friends, and the community; they’re usually called fairy tales or folk tales but “wonder tales” work just as well. I make a small pile: Franz Xaver von Schönwerth’s The Turnip Princess and Other Newly Discovered Tales, Zitkála-Šá’s American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings, and Zora Neale Hurston’s Mules and Men.

Schönwerth collected fairy tales in the 1850’s when he traveled around his beloved Bavarian homeland, listening to fairy tales and writing them down. The Grimm Brothers were recording fairy tales at this time too, racing to preserve stories that were disappearing as print culture was erasing the need for verbal storytelling. In the centuries that followed, much of Schönwerth’s recordings was preserved but many stories were lost. In 2009, Erika Eichenseer found 500 previously lost fairytales of Schönwerth’s in the municipal building of Regensburg, Bavaria. She found a fairy tale treasure. The stories were recently translated from English to German and stand alongside The Brothers Grimm and Charles Perrault’s fairy tales.

Next to my copy of Schönwerth’s The Turnip Princess is Zitkála-Šá’s American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings. Zitkála-Šá was born during the Battle of Big Horn and was educated at a boarding school that enforced assimilation of First Nations’ peoples. Despite the school’s attempts to flatten her mind, body and spirit, Zitkala-Ša (Lakota for the cardinal bird) went on to be a political activist, writer, editor, translator, educator, and musician. She recorded Dakota Sioux legends, saving them for posterity. Many of them center on the trickster Iktomi, a spider fairy. I’ve included the beginning of a legend below.

Next to Zitkála-Šá’s folk tales is Zora Neal Hurston’s Mules and Men. Around the same time Zitkála-Šá was writing, Hurston was recording African-American folk stories that were fast disappearing. She recorded the stories she heard in her home of Eatonville, Florida and other nearby communities and logging camps. These stories often center on John Henry cleverly outwitting everyone, sometimes even the devil. Alongside the folk tales, Hurston recorded her experience learning hoodoo in New Orleans. It is not for the faint of heart.

These three books and the deep histories they invoke make the evenings richer, more bearable and in closing, I leave you with this opening of Zitkála-Šá’s retelling of “Iktomi and the Muskrat”:

Beside a white lake, beneath a large grown willow tree, sat Iktomi on the bare ground. The heap of smoldering ashes told of a recent open fire.  With ankles crossed together around a pot of soup, Iktomi bent over some delicious boiled fish.

Fast he dipped his black horn spoon into the soup,, for he was ravenous. Iktomi had no regular meal times.  Often when he was hungry he went without food.

Well hid between the lake and the wild rice, he looked nowhere save into the pot of fish.  Not knowing when the next meal would be, me meant to eat to enough now to last some time.

“How, how, my friend!” said a voice out of the wild rice. Iktomi started.  He almost choked with his soup.  He peered through the long reeds from where he sat with his long horn spoon in mid-air.

“How my friend!” said the voice again, this time close at his side. Iktomi turned and there stood a dripping muskrat who had just come out of the lake.

“Oh, it is my friend who startled me.  I wondered if among the wild rice some spirit voice was talking.  How, how, my friend!” said Iktomi.  The muskrat stood smiling.  On his lips hung a ready “Yes, my friend,” when Iktomi would ask, “My friend, will you sit down beside me and share my food?”

That was the custom of the plains people.  Yet Iktomi sat silent. He hummed an old dance-song and beat gently on the edge of the pot with his buffalo-horn spoon.  The muskrat began to feel awkward before such lack of hospitality and wished himself under the water.

The rest can be read in Zitkála-Šá’s American Indian Stories, Legends and Other Writings.

Please feel free to share your favorite fairy tale or folk tales in the comments section.

The Delicate Balance of a Crescent Moon

Spring is turning towards summer now. It began so delicately with a soft green — the hue of a tender rumor murmured only in off moments — but then the green rumor became bold, became the truth, and over the course of seemingly a night the grass is long, the trees are full, and the peonies are about to bloom. Every night I smell smoke and charcoal, my neighbors busy with their grills. They mow their lawns, weed their flower beds, dump their mulch, and then go to their backyards to cook up dinner.

I do none of these things. The rhythms of suburbia are pleasing to watch with their precise, ticking movements but they are less pleasing to indulge in. There’s a deep pressure to conform, and so I recede to the sanctuary of my old deck, watching the birds and bumblebees pass through my yard.

I’ve been toying with the idea of sinking a spade into the ground, ridding one area of hideous orange daylilies and planting a few tiny bits of bleeding heart and bluebell, gifts from a friend. It’s been years since I’ve played in the dirt, dug around, sorted things out, grimaced at the grubs and bugs that emerge from the dirt. Intolerable joint pain cut off many activities, and gardening was the first to go. But this year, after so many years of pursuing healing and wellness, I am feeling better and I think it might be time to poke and prod at the earth again. To see what I can do about weeds and debris.

But then again, this might not happen. The doctor told me yesterday that my body was “currently struggling with inflammation due to increased activity,” that I need to take it slower, that I needed to continue working on a low-inflammation diet.

Dreams of gardening haze in and out. It might happen this weekend, but it might not until later. Depression surges forward and I struggle with it. Life is hard with fibromyalgia and chronic pain, and there are always so many small, difficult choices to make. I chose to increase my exercises by a small amount last week; my body responded with intense shoulder pain and a flare up of inflammation throughout my system — primarily in my hands, shoulders, back, feet. It is just this way and I walk slowly through it, sometimes crying but mostly not, because life has been like this for years now and slowly, as time passes, the tears dry up.

Pain makes us discard some goals and pick others up.

There is a waning crescent moon in the sky, a thin sliver that sets in midafternoon and rises in early morning. It will soon be a new moon and then we will pass into summer.