The weather is so beautiful today, it puts me in mind of another spring day years ago . . .
The sun dappled leaves of the Elm tree-shaded our patio swing as I swayed, happily immersed in the Sunday paper. My faithful hound Toby snored at my feet, and a warm breeze carried the scent of summer blossoms. It was a tranquil scene – until I caught a flash of movement out of the corner of my eye. I turned just in time to see a scruffy-looking object plummet from the sky and land with a plop on the dog’s nose.
Too startled to move at first, we both just stared. It was a baby bird. As it hopped from its unfortunate landing pad, Toby came to her senses and did what any self-respecting dog would do – she lunged. So did I, and grabbed her collar just in the nick of time. Toby’s teeth snapped shut on empty air and I began dragging her towards the house. Claws raking furrows in the lawn, she struggled to get at the bird all the while yelping like a strangled hyena.
My husband stuck his head out the door. “What’s going on?” he said.
At that point the noise level in our backyard was roughly equivalent to a rock concert. In addition to the howling dog, we had acquired an entire flock of hysterical bird relatives chirping and shrieking and swooping through the air. All the while the young bird, apparently unconcerned by the uproar it had caused, sat calmly in the grass, bright eyes blinking in the sun.
After depositing our crazed pet in the house, my husband and I sat down to watch the drama unfold. Two of the birds, presumably Mom and Dad, landed near the baby and chirped with shrill disapproval.
We wondered what had happened. Was this a flying lesson gone awry? Had the youngster simply gotten tired of testing its new wings and checked out? The odds of it dropping from the sky and landing on the nose of a dog must have been astronomical, but as I’ve learned over the years, it’s best to expect the unexpected when dealing with children. The adult birds were clearly appalled by their offspring’s close call, and I could imagine the dialogue that must have been taking place.
Mother bird: “What were you thinking!”
Baby: “Nobody told me not to land on a dog’s nose.”
Father bird: “Why would we tell you that? Everyone knows better that!”
Like any child caught in an embarrassing situation, this one appeared to ignore its elders. It fluffed its feathers with great dignity and at one point actually turned its back on the others. It made a couple of half-hearted attempts to fly, but though seemingly uninjured, just didn’t seem that interested.
Suspecting that our presence was adding stress to the situation, my husband and I retired to the house. I kept an eye on the scene lest a cat should appear, but it was clear that the bird family could easily take down a dinosaur if necessary. Before long the baby seemed to reconsider the merits of our lawn, and without fanfare, lifted itself into the sky, entourage in tow, and flew away. Quiet reigned in our yard once more.
I could relate to that bird family. I knew exactly how they felt. Eventually we all have to push our children out of the nest, yet in spite of our best efforts they often manage to get themselves into awe-inspiring trouble. In the end we simply have to shake our heads and accept the fact that we can’t protect them from everything. Sometimes all we can do is pray – namely that they’ll exercise caution with their new wings and ultimately, that they’ll find a safe place to land.