South Park Self

fragile things

It's not madly compatible with ownership of four1 cats, but I really enjoy birds. To this end I have a hanging bird table in the back courtyard, which I fill erratically with assorted seeds, and watch with great pleasure while a motley assortment of pigeons, doves, sparrers, white-eyes and the occasional thrush squabble for it messily, taking off in a miniature thunderclap of wings whenever I wander outside. The cats lurk under the feeder, pretending nonchalance, but the birds either cheerfully ignore them or, in the case of sparrers and white-eyes, swear at them with Cockney urchin insolence.

Yesterday one of the doves, the dainty little Cape turtle-doves with the distinctive black collar, flew madly into the kitchen and thence into the living room, where I was curled up on the sofa imbibing my daily dose of hawt mind-bending demon-sex courtesy of Justina Robson. The stupid bird of course did the classic stupid bird thing, which was to make a mad dash for the outside via the closed window; fortunately it wasn't flying fast enough to stun or kill itself, but it ended up fluttering frantically in the space between the window and the burglar bars. This meant that I could actually rescue it by the simple expedient of moving slowly up to the window and catching it in my hands.

Holding a wild bird in your hands is a surprisingly intense experience. Their frames are astonishingly light and brittle; the tiny bundle of feathers sits in your fingers with incredible quivering vitality given how fragile it is. The discrepancy between its size and your own is almost unthinkable, and you feel like a clumsy giant, strangely torn between impulses of nurture and predation. Nurture wins out over the "small crunchy morsel" instinct because the fluttering stops the instant you have your hand around the frail body, which is suddenly motionless except for the hammering of its little heart. The stillness is heart-rending: it suggests that the small creature is overloaded, has given up, is stoically waiting for death. This is the point where birds can simply die from the shock, so it's always a victory when you step outside and open your hands, and the negligible weight reasserts its energy and motion to flutter off, disbelievingly and slightly drunkenly, into the sunlight.

I like birds. They’re a completely unlikely conglomeration of delicate physicality, all that self-determined, vibrating life hung onto those slight, airy bones and feathers. I can’t imagine how we must appear to them – huge, threatening, noisy, incomprehensible creatures confusingly unlike a definable predator, and prone to these unexpected and unfathomable rescues. I want to reassure the flitting, feathery bundles that I mean them only good, but there’s absolutely no way I can. Frustrated, I put out birdseed.

1 Stealth!Cat, thank heavens, seems to have departed, suggesting Ounce and Hobbit actually managed to find enough of the missing masculine equipment to run him out of Dodge.

  • Current Mood: contemplative contemplative
I think you must be conveying some type of reassuring message to them, because all the birds I've had to rescue do NOT sit still when I finally have them, but continue to struggle sporadically and unexpectedly, causing me horrible fear lest they inadvertantly injure a wing, or something. I'm not really a wild creature person, though. They scare me. Even birds - and I think they know it.
You may well be right, actually. As I type there's a starling sitting on my windowsill, inside the window, eyeing the apples on my desk with a remarkable lack of fear. Cheeky bugger. I have spoken to him sternly, and he's just left.
"The discrepancy between its size and your own is almost unthinkable, and you feel like a clumsy giant, strangely torn between impulses of nurture and predation"

Weirdly, I hear this is actually how a number of new moms feel - very aware of "you know I could hurt/kill this little thing SO EASILY, just like THIS" - which really messes with their heads and does nothing at all good for the PPD...

Gah! I'm super thankful that I don't remember feeling that. That's gotta stuff you around - especially with the hormones and the lack of sleep.
A brief "aargh" suffices. While my mental list of "reasons to actually regret not having kids" has a surprising number of entries, the one for "reasons to be bloody glad I don't" is something of a nine-foot scroll. Written in very small writing. I seem to be Hermione.