This week has been Bird Superstition Central. Call it ParaNormal Bird Activity. Somebody alert the Tweet Exorcist. Our screened porch, aka The Sleepin’ “Poach” off our bedroom, has been zooming with early spring twitters. They come and go through a torn hole in a low screen (this is a second-story poach) that leads straight out to the arms of a river birch. No surprise that the screen poach is a safe roost at night. So I say these birds-in-the-house don’t count as Superstition Def Con 5.
But it’s Bird Grand Central Station in the rest of the house that worries me.
I love open doors and windows. My hubbie, Mr. Suburbs Boy, not so much. But I’m farm-raised, pretty much happy with the breezes of barns and drafty old houses with no central air or heat. I’ll let the outdoors inside every day that’s not below 40 degrees or above 85 degrees, year-round.
Bugs, critters, a nosy raccoon or possum, even the nose of a bear or two — we’ve had them all inside our unguarded doors. Fine by me. But the birds are rare. They tend to avoid the southern pride of punk housecats lazing inside the shady rooms, plus the junkyard dogs eager to prove they still have their street cred. Last summer a young hawk braved the pride-pack and got chased onto the screened poach through its open door from the back deck. His fury was an event for the century–all talons and beak and low-pitched screees–which quickly sent pride/pack in reverse.
The Husband put on work gloves and cornered him, at which point Hawk flung himself on his back with talons up, ready to fight. Happily, except for some ripped leather, the rescue ended with him zooming off to freedom. He was majestic. (the hawk and the Husband.)
But back to the superstition patrol. Something this spring has activated the Tufted Titmouses. Titmice. TeatMouses? This year they seem to be enamored of half-opened screen doors and darkened interiors, despite sleeping old neutered tomcats and fat “yellow mountain dogs.”
A typical day: Noon. T-Mouse is sitting in the fiddle-leave fig by the living room couch. I snagged him with the net from the gold fish pond, snared him in one hand carefully, and endured his angry snarls and pecks until I set him free.
Five p.m. T-Mouse two. Same fig destination. Same scenario. Same snarl, same pecking.
11 p.m. “BIRD IN THE HOUSE,” the Husband yells.
Ah gah, I’ve had wine and vegetarian goulash and I’m working, oh puh-leeesh. All birds are on the roost by now.
This time it’s not a T-mouse. Not a gold finch or a sparrow or a wren. Certainly not a killer Jay or a cardinal. Have to look this one up tomorrow. It’s hard to catch. I have no time to study it in the dim light and the blur of feathers.
It heads into my late mother’s bedroom. A place of tall curtained windows with ornate sashes and long drapes. It perches on the drapes, the collection of Blue Willow china on one wall, and the framed photos of grandchildren.
This is a bird message I don’t want to think about. There are family portents here I want to shake off like a bad dream.
I finally trap Portent Bird in Ma’s bathroom, where I store yarn along one side of the sink. Mired in a fluffly skein of alpaca, it’s angry and exhausted. I tote it outside. We both stand in the spring darkness heaving for air, and even after I untangle it the bird sits on my hand gulping, not ready to take off for the next flight. The house lights have disoriented it; the darkness disorients me. We trade worlds.
Finally, in a tired flutter, the bird heads into the towering rhododendrons along the woods. I’m reminded that on the night when my mother was drawing her last breaths in my house I sat on the front stoop and listened in the cold December air as mysterious bird wings fluttered in the dark. I’ve always thought there were messages in that soft whir of wings.
Maybe the elders were right. Birds come to us for a reason. Not necessarily as portents of doom, but as reminders that life is a feather, that the bridge…