Saturday, 13 July 2013

A Fighting Chance...

This is not the post that I intended on writing today, but sometimes life just takes over and demands that we change our plans. When I started this blog I thought that it would be about the art of writing. In many ways, I have stuck to my original aim, but what I have now realised is that rather than write about writing, I simply need to write - on any subject. No matter what I choose to write about, I use the same words to form sentences, the same punctuation to help those sentences to make sense and the same passion and creativity to make it all (hopefully) interesting to anybody kind enough to take the time to read it.

This brings me to today. A typical Saturday in summer, but one that contained a brief moment that has formed a memory, which is going to stay with me for a long time. I had been out for an early morning walk with my wife, Katie (it was a little more than a walk actually, but not quite strenuous enough to call a hike). We were on our way back and were crossing over a bridge by a busy roundabout, which leads into our home city of Portsmouth in the UK.

It was a blisteringly hot day and many people were out taking advantage of that fact. As we crossed the bridge, we were overtaken by a jogger and passed by cyclists travelling in both directions. A road was to our right and traffic was heavy. Then I noticed something on the pavement about ten yards ahead of us. By the time that I had shortened that distance by half I could see that it was a small bird, but it was not moving.

'Look at this,' I said to Katie. 'Isn't it sad?'

She knelt down next to the creature.

'Why is it sad?' she asked.

'Well, because it is dead, obviously.'

I made to give it a little nudge with my foot to confirm my suspicions, but Katie stopped me.

'Don't kick it, you idiot,' she said. 'It isn't dead. I can see it blinking.'

I got down beside her and she was right. It was indeed alive and also very young. Fluffy down covered its head and carried on over its back. I was unable to see how well formed its wings were.

'Something isn't right,' Katie said. 'What is it doing here?'

I shook my head, unable to answer. I gently nudged its back, but it did not move away. It did not seem capable. It was sat in direct sunlight and appeared to have been drained of all of its energy. After a quick glance around we determined that it must have made its maiden flight from a nearby tree and become stranded on the bridge. With all of the traffic; foot, cycle and car, it must have been terrified. I could see the entrance to a wooded area not far from the termination of the bridge and gathered that was were it had come from.

'Give me your hat,' I told Katie.

Katie duly obliged and as she held out her hat by the bird, it used what little strength it had left to hop inside, craving the blissful respite of shade the garment offered.

We then carried the hat over to the entrance to the woods, but neither of us was exactly sure what we needed to do next. The bird was still not moving and we had to face up to the fact that it may not be able to survive on its own.

'Do you think that we should take it home?' Katie asked.

I thought of all the neighbourhood cats. Between them and the two mile walk back to our house in blistering heat, I did not think that taking the bird home was a good idea.

'Maybe we should just wait for a while,' I suggested.

We then placed the hat down on the ground. Hoping for a miracle or at least a means of removing ourselves from the situation with a clear conscience. It took a few minutes, but the miracle did eventually come. Well, I say miracle, but it was actually just the shade offered by the trees doing its work. The baby bird finally started to show more signs of responsiveness. It hopped around the interior of the hat and opened and closed its mouth, searching for a song, but finding none.

'I think that it needs water,' Katie said. 'Perhaps if it can find its voice, it can call to its mother.'

It was worth a try. We had brought two bottles with us on our walk. One was filled with raspberry cordial and I did not want to risk poisoning the creature, but the other bottle that was filled with water had been emptied earlier. I turned it upside down and managed to collect a few drops, which filled about a third of the lid. We placed this into the hat, but the bird was not interested (or did not know how to drink without its mother there to drip feed it).

Katie was the one to take on the role of mother bird and after she poured a few precious drops into the chick's beak, it finally found its voice. As it chirped, it also hopped and spread its wings, but could not escape the confines of the hat. Katie tried tilting the hat, encouraging it to simply hop out, but it seemed scared and retreated away from the grass offered to it. I decided that it was now my turn to intervene.

I scooped the bird up in my right hand (it weighed nothing) and was pleased to find that this time it offered no resistance and displayed no fear. I then began to walk around, hoping that as the bird continued to sing, its mother would hear and come to its aid.

Just as I was beginning to feel that the plan was futile and trying my best to think of another, I noticed something pass by the corner of my eye. Another bird had flown in and landed on the grass beside me. It looked to be the same breed as the one that I was holding, but without the fluffy down of infancy. It too, began to sing.

With the two birds engaged in what could only be described as a conversation, I realised that my part in all of this was no longer needed. I said a final goodbye to my little friend and placed him down on the grass beside what I assumed to be its mother (or slightly more mature sibling). The two birds continued to sing at one another and I knew that everything was now going to be okay. The second bird to have entered the scene unfurled its wings and flew up into the trees. The singing however, did not abate. In fact, it increased. More voices were added and unable to resist the calling of his family in the trees, the little bird who had been so inanimate just ten minutes earlier was now hopping and jumping and flapping its wings. It was not long before it too had vanished into the cover of the trees.

If I had left the little chick on the bridge, it would surely have died. The heat was simply too great. I do not know if my intervention really had saved its life, but I was at least certain of one thing. I had given it a fighting chance. Sometimes, a fighting chance is all that is needed.

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  1. Well, David, I'll be honest -- I probably would have found this far more interesting than more posts on the art of writing which everyone seems to be blogging about. This is of far more intrigue and you have that gift, for taking a moment and creating an actual scene out of it -- as you did with your moth. And scenes engage the reader. Keep it up. The small life moments; it's exciting how big you can actually make them when recreated in your own words.

    1. Thanks Sandra. I think that the best thing that a writer can do with a blog is to use it as a means of practicing writing. I must also admit, a certain post about cream cheese and frogs may have influenced the style of this last post a bit!