I just came in from the morning. It isn't a cool morning, but cooler than it will be in a few hours, and the hummingbirds are out sipping from honeysuckle and cactus blossoms. The wrens and sparrows hop and make morning noises. But it was quieter this morning because there was no laughter.
Our last remaining chicken, Smalls, died yesterday in the heat. I had tried to provide shade and cool water, but it wasn't enough. She had a morning crow like a fat woman laughing, waking up from a hilarious dream. She laid distinctively shaped dark brown eggs almost every day. In the middle of our backyard, her coop and run was a social place; we had parties around it, and everyone who came in my yard stopped to talk to Smalls.
This summer, a blue jay pair built a nest in my big old oak tree. One of the young blue jays was born without a wing, and my husband and I have fallen a little bit in love with him. He's nearly reached maturity, and he can use his one wing to get him up and into trees when there is a threat. By hopping and flapping, he can move from branch to branch. He'll never soar and swoop—fluttering and hopping is his destiny. What else is his destiny remains threateningly up in the air; will it be the hawks who get him, or something more pedestrian, the coyotes or cats? It's dangerous for us to hang our hearts on him, the bird with such a slim chance, but isn't that how it goes?
In fact, isn't that how it goes with any animal? The pain of animal love is that we'll always outlive it.