Precarious is the word for the season. It’s how we feel about our health with a new variant blasting its way through our illusions of safety. It’s how I feel when I go outside and encounter the slippy-slide-y snow and ice. It’s the extreme-weather-economic-social angst and a million other things in the news every day.
And it’s what I feel for the birds in their frenzied visits at our feeders.
One day when the birdseed supply had almost run out, I noticed a particular pattern of bird prints in the snow at the edge of our front door portico. Had they seen me emerge from there, even though it’s not visible from the feeders? I got the message and filled the feeders directly. They didn’t wait for me to depart before they started eating.
So when I finished trying out all the flavors of Posca paint pens in my gift set, the birds outside my window jumped into the picture along with their tracks!
The problem was the hummingbird feeder, which froze solid so the Annas were out of luck. I should have melted it down each morning, but it was so cold I thought it would just freeze back up.
But then I saw a couple Annas on the feeder and realized I’d better try a little harder. Next morning was sunny and when I put the feeder out again with fresh nectar, I had a couple customers.
Next day though I found a one tiny body in the snow below. The heart gone from its 1263 beats per minute to 0, wings no longer beating 80 times per minute but now motionless.
Precarious. . .the life of such a small creature in the frozen world.
Found you, my tiny iridescent flasher
Beneath the feeder on a pristine pillow.
Did a snow clump fall and knock you out?
Did the cold stop your heart?
Did you, desperate with hunger, drink too much too fast?
Or did it the nectar come too late, after days of starvation and freezing?
My grieving took the form of an afternoon of study of this miraculous little body with the tiniest iridescent feathers that shone electric when in just the right light, but otherwise had become a dull gray. I hoped with my attention to unlock some secret of bird survival in a kind of artful homage to a valiant life.
Or was it a contemplation of the precariousness of life.