Hitchcock's "The Birds"

Just Hatched Eaglets at Fishcamp + Shall I Kill this Sparrow? (video)



"What have you surmised of life thus far, brother?"


It’s been Bird Week this first week at fish camp. I found the eaglets first. 

We began the hike around the cliff of our island, hoping, hoping, staying as quiet as our dog and our anticipation allowed, our cameras around our necks. Could it be possible? Would this generous offering be given again this year?  And there it was--- the perfect-circle nest  on a bluff, just below and beside our island trail. 
The bluff, mostly safe from fox, weasel and us.

And within the circle, a lump of fluff, a puff of exhaustion, so limp I wondered if it lived. And after several minutes of patience and devouring eyes, we saw it. It lifted its head---no, it lifted two heads. There are two! And they are just-hatched, just days old, the youngest eaglets I have ever seen in my many years of eagle-watching.  Do I really get to watch this stunning transformation, from  weightless scrap to a ten pound hulk in less than ten weeks?  Mercy! I am excited---and glad to bring you along with me this summer.  (I have a very long lens to keep me safely distant, but to bring us close. )  


 "Someone get me wings----please!!"


Why is Mom always so stressed? She already brought us two salmon! See? We haven't even finished them! Take a break, Mom!


   "Haven't Mom and Dad fashioned the perfect nest?  It's a masterpiece of found art!"


   "Where do we think we rank, really, in the whole scheme of things?"



"There goes Mom again. We told her she forgot dessert."

   "Will we grow up to be an ostrich, maybe? A chicken? Oh please let me be one of those birds that fly!"



But there is more. This week Duncan brought out a birdfeeder to hang outside our window---our first ever. 

And I  watched again the oystercatchers who patrol our beach as regular as the tides.

And still more. This whole first week at fish camp, a  sparrow has begged to be let in. He has beat at the window, at every window in the house, for hours at a time, every day this week.  It is the same plump bird who flew at the window a month ago, my sons tell me, when they were out here earlier. They  named him “Tubby.”  Tubby  bats against the glass, still not seeing it is there. He cocks his head, peers at me wiping the table, sweeping the floor.  He taps the glass with his beak and feet again and again. 




Did he catch a few minutes of Hitchcock’s “The Birds” and left inspired to wreak his own beaked malevolence on the world? Is he angry that we are happy and living in an inside nest and he is not? I am not unmoved by his urgency.  He wants in so badly, I am tempted to  just slide open my bedroom window and give him his own room.  Just another bird in my own nest.  But I have finally decided he is batty,  loony,  this  addle-pated sparrow  who is  mimicking the wrong flighted thing, and I don’t need to feather my own nest with an angry bird, or even a needy bird. 

And I will tell you  a darker truth. Eight days in now, with this bird beating his (questionable) brains against our windows at all hours of the day and night, we are tired.  I got up early to write this morning—my only chance today--- and spent the hours muzzling the dog instead.  The bird beats the dog awake who barks us awake, and as I rush to quell the dog I am scheming the worst---how can I kill this bird?   I have chased it with a broom. I have draped a sheet over the window---but it is not enough. My exhausted fishermen sons and husband, all of us who work from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and later, need rid of this sparrow.

But then I consider. I have been just as eager and hungry and needy and persistent at  the nest of the eaglets. I am lured to their nest to watch, to peer.  My eye is pressed to glass as well, the camera lens and I do not want to leave. I am missing only wings and beak, but possessing all the rest: a desperate wanting to see into another life, another species, another nest, another family. I want in. Am I so different? 




As I write this, I have not yet decided the fate of this bird. But I do believe, with  theological certainty, that should I dispense with this troubled and troubling creature, that God will know it. That God will watch the fall of this sparrow by my hand, and what will He think, the Creator of every bluejay and eaglet and dog and man and woman and wren?  

It is a blood-spattered  world since the day the bitten fruit fell from Adam’s hand.  I know the first eaglet hatched will sometimes consume its sibling, with no  intervention from the parents.  I have seen the worm writhing in the beak of the robin, the gasping murre in the talons of the eagle. Shall I join them?  

 I already have, in so many ways.  I killed the goshawk eating our chickens with my own hands and a 2”x 4” one year. I skin the deer my sons shoot for the table. I help at the slaughterhouse when I can. I am as covered in blood as anyone, or more.

And this sparrow, the one who is waking us from sleep,  who is dying to be with us, shall he die too?  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by the same mercy that has given me a window to the eaglets . . .  

Perhaps I should  be swayed by my family’s desperate need for sleep . . . . 

What do you say, you who watch through this window as well? 

Which mercy shall I choose?