About 3 weeks ago, a mockingbird family took up residence in the jasmine arbor that surrounds our front stoop. We looked on with delight as Mama flew back and forth between the nest and the crepe myrtle trees along the steps, and listened to the little nestlings’ funny cries right outside our front windows—like a squeaky swingset: EE-aw EE-aw . . .
We cleared out fast when she seemed to think we might be lingering a minute too long on the step . . . her (or were they Dad’s?) threatening displays of chest-puffing, wing-beating, and strident vocalizing were clues that were hard to miss.
Today the birdbabies reached a milestone: instead of the wobbly beaks we’d been seeing wavering up from the nest as we passed by, we saw actual feathered birds, perched on the edge…
I was grateful the nest hung over our soft green lawn—having witnessed some less forgiving fledgling situations in Brooklyn. Like . . . Fledgling Situations—with poor, puny birdlings lurching across the sidewalk while hungry dogs looked on . . .
Good Lord these babies on our porch were cute—they had this funny, wispy hairdo I’ve never seen on a bird before . . .
For a couple of days we marinated in joy and dread in equal measure: would there be a Fledgling Situation?
I tried to practice isvara pranidhanam—total surrender of my individual will to some greater Will (see Yoga Sutras, II:45)
I repeated the mantra: “It is not up to me to raise these birds. Thy will be done.”
But I knew from experience it was likely there would be a few hiccups before the little guys were successfully launched from their nest . . .
The days passed without incident. No attempted launchings. No need for me to do anything about them . . . until:
Tonight I was leaving the house around 7pm, when something caught my eye on the corner of the bottom step–
A dead birdbaby. Flattened against the bricks, on its side, scrawny, scaly legs pulled in, eyes closed . . .
Setting aside my evening plans, I went back inside for a soft cloth, planning to wrap the poor thing and bury it in the back yard But when I picked it up, I felt life–
A tiny silent pulsating.
Its mouth opened and closed noiselessly (no more squeaky swing set.)
I held it to my breast, whispering soothing nothings (even singing, at one point, the same poignant lullaby I had sung to my daughter when she, too, was a scrawny newborn teetering on the precipice of life) until I could find the key to the garage and bring out the tall ladder.
I put the baby back in the nest (inciting no small degree of distress amongst its birdbrothers and sisters) And . . . hoped for the best.
I know nature does its own thing, and I know better (usually) than to interfere.
But, damn it, nature is not always kind. In fact, nature can be kind of a heartless bitch.
What was I going to do? Just walk on past the sad little pile of feathers on my very own doorstep and pretend I hadn’t seen it? Clearly not.
So, in spite of my mantra, I got involved.
I pray the critter is okay in there tonight, nestled back with its maybe-not-so-friendly siblings (I read somewhere that the stronger baby birds will sometimes push the runt out of the nest. Ya know, Darwin and all . . .but, Darwin be darned, I was there and I saw that little runt on the bricks and I could not un-see it.)
These birds, God love them, did not choose to build their nest off in the forest somewhere. They chose to build it in my front doorway, right here in one of the more urban areas of Savannah. So if nasty old nature was going to take her course, I was going to be part of that course.
Isvara pranidhanam. Thy will be done.
I, too, as the birds, am part of the fabric of nature. And if it is indeed true that only we humans enjoy free will, not to mention opposable thumbs (not sure how Mama Bird would have lifted her kid back into the nest . . . )
Let’s use it. Not to contravene nature, but maybe, once in a while, to be the deus ex machina—perhaps even the agents of miracle? where we see that we might.