This is a roundabout way of getting at how to make a difference in the world, but bear with me.
A few days ago, my daughters left for a meeting with their teacher (they’re taking pre-calculus this summer, not because they love math so much, but because I had laid down the law that this summer, they could be in school or get a job, there would be no three-month lounging period) and returned in seconds. The lawn was covered with baby birds they said.
A bit of an exaggeration, I said. We all of us in our family
are prone to exaggerate like to tell stories and add little fillips to embellish here and there.
But I went out with them, and there were five baby birds lying helpless in the grass. Two were not moving at all, one was making a tiny baby bird racket, and two moved slightly. These were nestlings: they had fuzziness on their heads and the beginnings of feathers elsewhere, but you could see raw pink skin under their wings and their beaks and heads looked too big for their tiny frail bodies. Their wings and legs were useless.
The two motionless babies were already dead, the two barely moving ones were in the last throes of dying. We kept those two warm and safe until they died. This little chirping lively baby we wrapped in a dishtowel and placed in a small container (you can find directions for anything online) which we put on a heating pad while I called every telephone number for every wildlife or bird rescue in the county. At dusk, I spoke with a woman who runs a rescue. She agreed to take the baby, and I drove thirty minutes to her house, the baby chirping from the makeshift nest in the front seat all the way.
It was a finch. The nest must have been raided, either by another bird or some other animal. The woman at the rescue said she gets at least 120 of these a year. From the moment she expertly took up the baby, pressed on its wings and pronounced it sound, with no broken bones, I knew the baby was in the best hands. All day, I had worried that I was just giving this chirping baby a warm and safe place to die, because of course the baby would starve to death without its mother to feed it, and feeling as if that tiny death were inevitable–especially after the deaths of the others–was a really bad feeling. But thanks to Nikki’s dedication to saving wild birds in Ventura County, the lone survivor of the finch massacre would live and thrive.
Here’s a finch singing. There are many, many finches in our yard and neighborhood, and I’ve always taken this song for granted.
This was only one finch. Nikki saved it.
Everything we do is only one thing.