I normally have Sundays off, but yesterday I had to go into work for the afternoon, and even though I had volunteered to do so and was being paid money I otherwise would not have been, I still found it annoying. This irksome sentiment was further complicated by the bizarre inaugural protocol I was going to have to have to enact perfectly to maintain my comfortable employment – despite my well-appreciated quality of work, my job has become quite toxic lately. How well I performed it did not only have bearing on my career, but that of my friend and coworker assisting me that evening. Not to mention, this weird procedure I was tasked with involved directly calling one of the newly hired higher ups whom I have not had the pleasure of even seeing yet, so I had no flippity-dippity clue what to expect from contacting him on his personal phone except for a southern accent.
In all honesty, things were not too terribly unreasonable, but this combined with the hurricane of changes and moves going on at my workplace was a lot to handle. I had zenned myself to a level of professional calmness during the morning to prepare myself for whatever chaos could erupt later, but this chillness was brought back to a boil when one of my coworkers on duty called to say she got a panicked call from the client whose event I was going in to work. The client was concerned that we might not be coming, which was easy enough to reassure her about, but she had us pegged down for the wrong time and assumed we would be there a couple of hours before we were scheduled! Uh oh.
Fortunately, I called the contact and got the details sorted out, but then I started to worry we may have missed something else, whether with that event or another we may have left off the schedule entirely. Typically, I’m at an Outkast level of cool at work (i.e. ice cold), but yesterday was riling me up. Thus, I hopped in my car and hauled ass to the office. I was almost there when I remembered that due to construction, I could not park in the lot directly next to our department headquarters, but I was in too much of a hurry to park in the main lot since the other designated lot for employees was still closed off for one more day (instead of occasionally clearing away some snow they like to just close it down for three plus months). It was all good though, for another close friend and coworker lives in the adjoining neighborhood and had space in front of his place I could park at. So I set my sights on stealing his go-to out front spot while he was visiting family (classic Chris). As I went down the main road through his neighborhood, I slowed as I approached a stop sign, but not just out of adherence to traffic laws, but because I saw something small moving ever so gently in the road….
My years of birdwatching paid off in that instance, for I was able to spot and identify a teeny-tiny bird laying on the pavement. I initially passed by him on the right as I verified what I was looking at was not just a stick or leaf (trust me, I do not claim to be one, but even the most experienced birdwatchers spend more time than they wish staring at branches, leaves, and general detritus trying to figure out if they are looking at a bird or not). I could see that it was a little bird, and swung back around to block any oncoming traffic while I picked him up out of the roadway.
As I pulled on my thin knit gloves, I could see that the grounded little guy was a golden-crowned kinglet (the bird in the title picture), an adorable bird of the forest and backyard with trees that is a common sight throughout the United States and Canada, especially in the cooler months. The namesake for this bird is obvious at a glance, and I could see this guy’s brilliant gold crown with a touch of red in the center. He seemed to be okay, just a little shell-shocked, so he probably had been hit by a car, or rather the envelope of air around a car which would be more than enough to knock the wind out of such a small animal. I quickly picked him up and moved him under a nearby conifer tree so that he would have some cover from predators, and of course so he’d be away from the road. It was clear to me that he was not going to be flying anytime soon, but he was able to hop around and had a better footing on the pine needles and branches than the pavement he had been sprawled on.
I was still in a hurry to get things sorted at work, so I left the bird there with a renewed sense of purpose, glad of the good deed I had done. I wanted to scream it to the world how I had saved the little kinglet, but that would have been seeking hero worship for a simple action. I’m sure that kinglet thought I was a hero, and that was enough for me.
The rest of my day went smoother than I could have imagined. My colleague and I got to our event early, kicked some ass, and were able to roll out early. I had an extremely nice chat with the new big wig I had to call, and messaged my boss the favorable details. Everybody was happy, so I was happy. As I punched out and made my way back to my car, I considered stopping in at my friend’s house that I was parked outside of to inform him of the crazy start and easy finish to the wacky day I had, and maybe bum a beer off of him. He still wasn’t home though, so I decided to head to my own home.
Suddenly, I thought of the kinglet, and decided I would swing by the tree I left him under to see if he was okay. I parked on the other side from where I found him and moseyed over to the fallen branch I had set him beside. To my excitement, he was nowhere to be found! He must have regained his strength and flown away, off to catch more small insects tomorrow. I did a quick round of the tree just to be certain, all the while careful to make the most delicate of steps in case he still was on the ground nearby. After a minute of searching I decided he was definitely gone and started back to my car.
Upon turning back I froze in my tracks. There he was, leaning on the ground close to where I had set him hours earlier, only he was not moving. I moved in as quietly and slowly as I could and took a closer look. I couldn’t believe it. I wouldn’t, not until I had absolute proof. I pulled my knit gloves back on and gently touched him. He tipped over helplessly. The body had gone stiff; only the legs had any flex. I tried to gently press his chest in and out in a small bird CPR motion, but to no avail. I have experienced death more than I would like, but I fortunately have not had any close friends or family pass away for some time. I was broken up by the loss of plenty of celebrities last year and this year, as recently as Chuck Berry who I wrote about last week. However, this one was different in that it was such a small thing. I had never seen this particular bird before, and I did everything within my power to offer it a chance at life, but it’s wounds were too great. I noticed the slightest abrasion on its head after I found it lifeless. Who could have helped?
I was determined not to leave the bird in such an undignified manner. I have no problem with the circle of life, and welcome the thought of the bird’s body being consumed by predator or detritivore to continue the energy cycle this universe runs on, but I could not permit him to be flopped on his side looking helpless. I scooped up a handful of pine needles and placed him on the bare ground I’d opened up, then replaced the pine needles to cover him up. This tiny burial for an equally tiny bird is still fresh in my mind and I anticipate it will remain so for a while.
I’m sorry if this upset you. It is a departure from my usual subject matter, but this small experience deeply affected me, and when something shakes me to my core as this did I find some peace in sharing my experiences through words. This encounter reminded me of the fragility of nature and how much we are responsible for as the dominant species of this interconnected world.
Thanks for reading. Please send any questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to swing back around here next week for a look at the newest class of Rock and Rollers who will be immortalized in Cleveland.
Fly on, my feather friend,