I am on my own this evening and have the opportunity to check an important task off the to-do-list. I’ve inventoried most of our stuff (photos and numbers) in anticipation of a 6 or greater quake, but I need to organize the data and load it on a tote-able flash drive. I need a piece of software and the Apple Store is an easy walk away.
I’ve been inside all day, and in spite of the overcast sky and drizzle, I think I’ll get supper too. Our neighborhood’s commercial street, Chestnut, is 5 blocks away and a cornucopia of diverse food: there is Indian, Mexican, Japanese, Italian, Thai, Greek, new-world, old-world; pizza, hamburgers, sandwiches, crepes, and even doughnuts all within a 10-minute stroll. I cruise the avenue and choose Mexican, Chuyago.
It’s muy bueno , but way over-priced. I order a carnitas crispy taco, a side of beans and rice, Mothership Ale, and the total is over 12 bucks. No table service, Chuyago is convenient and fast for a single.
I sip the ale (it’s my first taste) and the Mothership is signaling for a flight. I can usually depend on a Fat Tire no matter if it is seasonal or vanity. As I wait for my food, I take out my e-reader. I am juggling between Awaking the Buddha Within, Lama Surya Das, and The Passage, Justin Cronin (an epic vampire tome of over 800 pages.) I take another sip. When I look up as my order is set on the table, I notice a small black bird tapping at a nook in the front window.
Chuyago’s front wall is four large panes of glass held together with vertical aluminum, crossbeams. The corner of the window is an adobe fireplace with a gas fire inside and out, but no pass through. On top of the fireplace is a unique perfect-fit pane. A small brown-headed cowbird is hopping up and pecking at the glass.
The meal is fulfilling and the bird taps at the glass. I watch it as I eat. The cowbird jumps up, taps, bangs into the window and falls back, fluttering its wings, and repeats. The sun is down and it is a cold drizzle this evening. It’s warm on top of the fireplace and the bird can see food everywhere through the glass. It must think it can get in; there must be a hole or opening somewhere.
Other patrons in restaurant notice me starring at the corner of the window and turn to see what I am looking at. They look at the wall and at diners sitting tables on the other side of the window. I continue to eat and one of them notices the little bird. It stops every few repeats to take a breath and then starts anew searching for a weakness or way in; jump, tap, fall, flutter, repeat
Will it give up?
No. It is heart breaking to watch this little bird tap, bang into the window, and fall, over and over. Perhaps it is pecking at its reflection?
I finish my meal in half an hour and the cowbird is still tapping the window in the same routine, only with a little less enthusiasm. I don’t understand why it doesn’t turn its head and fly off. Perhaps it can’t overcome its hunger for its own sake. Should I interfere? Who can say? There is a huge population of cowbirds; one more or less will not affect the whole. Perhaps this is its moment or perhaps it needs to learn a valuable lesson. Can it learn, or is it stuck? If it tires itself to exhaustion, it will not be able to forage and perhaps not survive the night. The evening’s meal is critical to a wild animal. It needs the energy to stay warm and be escape if the unexpected occurs. Nature doesn’t offer much an energy store for wild birds.
I rise and grab my software bag. I walk out the door and pause for one last look. The creature is panting, but it will not turn away from the window. I shake my head and take two steps out of the restaurant. I can hear it tap, flutter, tap.
I turn back, walk over to the corner, and as it pants on the ledge, I reach down and cup it between my hands. It squeaks and flutters its wings, but after I close off the light with my hands around it, the cowbird quiets. I can feel its warm beating heart, its fragile bones, and smooth beak. I turn to look in Chaygo and no one notices what I am doing or at least they give no indication of notice. Cupping the bird I proceed down Chestnut looking for a tree to release it. I pass in front of a bank ATM and the cowbird whistles an alarm. When I let it’s head out between my fingers, it vigorously pecks my hand. The whistling can be heard up down the street. Even to a human being, it is obvious the whistle is a call for help.
A patron in the queue at the banks turns and looks in my direction. At first she can’t figure out where or what is whistling. She looks at my eyes then down at my hands. She can see the bird’s head between my fingers.
She tugs on her friend’s sleeve and says, “hey that guy’s got a bird in his hands.” Her tone is accusative, as if I am involved in a horrible mischief. She tugs at her friends sleeve again and he turns around disturbed at her insistence and looking for a fight.
I smile and release the cowbird. It flies up into a tree above me. The couple’s jaws drop in unison like a silent comedy. I walk on.