Sunday, August 28, 2011

For the Birds

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.


Anonymous said...

So sorry for you. Chickens are so such delicate creatures, really. I love how they get under your skin with their little funny ways, and I know you will miss her for some time.

Anonymous said...

On the weekend I dispatched three roosters that my friends just couldn't bare to do. It's not easy but I've taught myself to be distant.

Apart from my dog/dogs in general I have no real emotional attachment to animals in a parental loving way. I appreciate them as fellow sufferers of the fate we all must face, it's just that I get to eat some of them.

RIP Smalls.

PS. I don't eat dogs. Yet

michelle said...

So sorry to hear about Smalls, it sounds like she was a good girl. I have to admit that I try not to get attached to my chickens but it is still tough when one of them goes. Last year I watched a hummer that had a defective foot. It seemed to do fine for quite a while, but it eventually disappeared. Nature is not very forgiving of defects.

Lucy said...

oh, smalls...

darling, you know you are the best writer on the web, right?

(there. i've said it.)

i'm going to get my mum reading this - their dogs have both gone now, and this notion of impermanence is something i was intrigued by while away on holiday.

the good soup said...

Poor Smalls. Poor you. But you know what I think is almost sadder than a chicken dieing in the heat? One last chicken left alive after all their friends have keeled over. This has happened to us a couple of times. Chickens just aren't meant to be alone.

Christina said...

Vegeyum: Thank you!

Whole Larder: I understand distancing myself from food animals; my family raised cattle and sheep when I was growing up, and we thought of them as food from the beginning. It's a bit different when I don't start out thinking that the animal is food, though.

Michelle: I was surprised that the parents hadn't pushed the blue jay out of the nest! You're right, nature isn't forgiving. Smalls was good--a fantastic layer.

Lucy: Blush, blush, and more blushing. Thank you. Wow. I'm blown away by your holiday pictures, just gorgeous!

TGS: These birds are quirky little dinosaur-animals, aren't they?

Lisa said...

Poor birds! I adore jays. I hope this little one does okay.