Fledgling

A bird flies in a gray stormy sky.
Photo by FRANCESCO TOMMASINI on Unsplash

A storm blows through town, hail smashing so hard against the windows I think the glass might break. I imagine trying to rid the shards from the crevices of my keyboard, only to miss tiny pieces next to the exclamation point. I cut myself each time I disingenuously type “Thanks!”

The power flickers on and off for some time until it’s lost completely. Wind smashes branches against the back porch and I am forced to retreat to the basement to take a call while sitting atop the washing machine.

“I’m sorry, it’s hard to hear. I’m concerned a tornado is coming.” I tell my VP.

“But you can still join the meeting in 15, right?”

I pause, briefly thinking about how my last words might be “deep-dive,” but ultimately tell her yes and add “No problem!”

I hang up and frown deeply, scanning the room to make sure my dog isn’t drinking the dirty water that’s been steadily pooling on the concrete floor. If my life had a narrator, I have no doubt she would interrupt to say, “But it was a problem. One of many.”

When all is said and done, however, I am not carried away to Oz and live through the meeting as planned. Synergy, double-clicks and circle-backs, oh my!

I wonder if it would’ve been better to be carried away on a gale. At least in Oz, heartless and brainless people know their shortcomings and ask for help.

Outside, my husband paces around the yard. Large limbs from our maple trees are strewn about. Grape-size balls of ice lay piled at my doorstep. But the cars are safe. The roof is safe. We are safe.

I am relieved but see the coming weekend — those precious jargon-free 48 hours — fade away before my eyes. We’ll be cleaning up for the next two days straight, and I tell myself to be grateful to have a yard at all, to have a house still standing. It will take more effort to believe it.

I am about to go back inside to check email when my husband calls out. He’s found a small bird on the ground, writhing in the wet grass. I imagine she’s trying to fly, to flee — but her wing is injured and bloodied. My husband rushes to the basement to gather towels and a box before gingerly placing her inside of it.

We stare as the shiny black bird trembles despite being nestled among soft terry cloth, and I feel sorry for being able to see her vibrant yellow and orange feather tips this closely, so I cover the top of the box with a dish rag to give her privacy and rest.

The nearest wildlife rescue is 40 minutes away. The roads are flooded, and trees have fallen blocking routes all over town. But still, we go.

During the drive, I can’t help but wonder what she must be feeling. Is she relieved to be out of the storm? Is she scared of the dark? I don’t actually know if she is she, but I go off my gut — we have a connection, her and I. Both of us feeling trapped and broken today.

My husband and I complain about the traffic and run over potholes. Life goes on as usual as we make our way. At times, I question if this was really worth the drive and feel guilty.

“We’re doing something good,” my husband says, laying his hand on my wrist.

I nod and peek under the rag. I am startled to see her tiny face so close to mine, staring up at me.

“Oh hello!” I exclaim nervously, before dropping my volume and adding a syrupiness to my tone.

“It’s going to be okay sweet thing.” I say, not knowing, but hoping it was true.

When we drop her off at the animal rescue, a man with kind eyes says that she’s a special type of bird — one of their favorites.

“They’re called Cedar Waxwings, and this one is just a fledgling.”

“Just a baby…” I think to myself, sullenly.

“So what happens next?” I ask. He hands me a piece of paper with an ID number we can use to track her progress.

“We’ll see to the injuries and put it with a group of other Cedar Waxwings. They like to pair up and then we can release them back into the wild.”

Later, I research that male and female Waxwings touch their bills together like a kiss when they a fond of one another. The males also give the females gifts while courting, like fruit or flower petals. I am struck by how lovely this is; how similar it is to what people do. I hope our girl gets a gift one day.

A few days later, I mention the storm on another work call, though I keep the details of the rescue to myself. I don’t want to appear self-congratulatory. My boss responds by stating how much she hates small talk. I always thought weather was a safe topic, but I decide to speak only when spoken to from now on.

My husband calls to check in with the animal rescue. I am too nervous to do it myself because I have millennial anxiety about talking to strangers on the phone. I didn’t think to be nervous for any other reason.

“I have bad news” he says, as I step into his office. “Our Cedar Waxwing has died in her sleep.”

“After all that, she died anyway,” I mutter, half to myself and half to him.

“We did a good thing,” he reminds me.

I learned that Cedar Waxwings are typically strong and steady in flight. Females weave twigs, cattail down and blossoms to build their nests, which can take more than 2,500 trips. I think about our Waxwing’s mother, confidently crafting a nest to shelter her brood, just to have it thrown to the ground by an unexpected storm.

You can do everything right, and still, the world knocks you down and boxes you in.

--

--

Your friendly neighborhood leftist socialist feminist.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store