After The Storm

What would you say to grief-torn birds,
anguished by life’s broken bonds?
Could you turn away, unmoved,
dismiss their cries as habit,
a bit of empty noise?
I saw it once, there on the spring grass–
not hidden in the human way
but public, painful as a slashing wound
that leaves the heart exposed.
The  frantic male’s flapping,
his heav’n-tipped beak and sharp-edged trill
I thought no more than courtship
until I saw his mate, keening
near their babe —
its helpless form  feathered but inert,
its life-song drained and pooling.
It was a kindness, I supposed,
to pluck the nestling, hold it close, and carry it away —
to claim the fallen home and end the desperate cries.
Nest in hand, I caught the signs
of growing  resignation —
the folded wings, the fallen heads,
the shared and tender glances
more intimate than death.
Soothed at last,  unfurling wings,
they lifted to the sky —
flying in silence against gathering clouds,
absorbed by the swift-rising sun.


Comments always are welcome.

101 thoughts on “After The Storm

    1. The event itself happened many years ago, Jean. I’ve been trying to give form to it for over two years, although the first year wasn’t very productive. Every time I tried to find words, the emotion would come rushing back. Now, it seems right to me — sorrow and beauty, fit into a single poem.

    1. Thanks, Jim. Spring is an ambiguous season, to be sure. In the midst of all the hatching, blooming, and birthing, there are other events — not pleasant, but equally worthy of notice. I’m glad I saw this one.

  1. Beautifully written poem. You so accurately described the grief birds show. Several years ago a duck built a nest too close to a pond near my house. It then started to rain and the nest flooded. The poor duck continued to sit on the flooded nest for at least two days as the water gradually rose. The water finally got so deep that she could no longer stay–and her anguished cries were so sad as she swam around in the water near the sunken nest.

    1. Life can surprise everyone — even the creatures who surround us. The mallards here are particularly expressive — I can see and hear your poor mama duck. The good news is that many birds will build again, and successfully hatch a second clutch of eggs if the first is destroyed in some way.

      Sometimes we make jokes about the ducks who lay their eggs in cockpits or inside coils of line on boats, but at least their “nests” stay afloat. The swallows are particularly clever. They will build under the floating docks, where they’re not only safe from predators, but safe from flooding, too.

    1. Nature has lessons to teach, if we’re receptive. Of course, being attentive comes first. Life is happening all around us, every minute of every day, so the chances of seeing something memorable are fairly high, if we only look.

    1. As much as I enjoy writing etherees, it was clear that this one demanded another form. How that happens, I’m not certain, but it’s another reminder that sonnet, essay, memoir, and novel each has their place. It’s the matching of form and function that’s the trick.

      Thanks for stopping by. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

  2. What a beautiful poem. I am a wildlife rehabilitator in my own right, and I’ve nurtured many chicks back to health. I’d like to stop doing it, however. Sometimes the fledgelings seem like they’ve been abandoned, and the parents are right around the corner.

    1. I’ve carried many an injured bird to our local rehabilitator — the one-eyed pelican was the most memorable — and her advice to all of us echoed your comment. An injured bird is one thing. A baby bird just sitting around probably isn’t abandoned or injured. As she liked to say, “Bird parents know what they’re doing.”

      1. Some people grab fledglings just because they’re on the floor, and this could be mistaken. Some fledglings still emmit low ftequency squeaks that their parents can hear but not us, so they still are fed even when on the floor

  3. A beautiful poem, and not surprisingly, it has prompted some thoughtful and interesting comments. I’m not surprised it took a couple of years to sort out. Sometimes when I’m reading history, I encounter customs and rituals surrounding death, that have passed out of currency in our time, and they seem so strange and even distasteful. 19th c.photographs of the recently passed, for example. But all just creatures struggling to cope. Thank you, I liked this poem.

    1. Another custom I’ve encountered is jewelry made from a deceased loved one’s hair. Sometimes, decorative items like wreaths were made, too, or pretty designs placed under glass. Like portraits clustered on tables or walls, such things help us both to remember, and to let go. As you say, every age — and every species, probably — has its ways of coping.

      I’m happy you liked the poem — by the time it was done, I liked it, too.

      1. I’ve seen such wreaths of hair in old houses in NY, and sometimes little convex glass frames, with a lock of hair. In the William Seward house in Auburn, NY, where I worked one summer, they have a mourning wreath of pressed flowers from Lincoln’s funeral, almost colorless but amazingly well-preserved.

        1. I’ve seen the same thing in herbaria sheets. People who know what they’re doing (i.e., they press flowers with more than a sheet of newspaper and a couple of dictionaries) can do marvelous work. And speaking of marvels, I suspect you’ll enjoy this article about the assassination. In the list of blood relics, there’s a paragraph about how a lock of Lincoln’s hair made it to Mary Jane Welles, and how she framed it, together with flowers from his coffin.

    1. Thanks, Steve. You know how I love Annie Dillard, and I’ve especially loved this, for years: “Beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them. The least we can do is try to be there.” I’m glad I was “there” in this instance.

    1. I’m sure you have bird-babies galore by now in your part of the country, Camelia. I hope they’re thriving, and giving you joy. Thanks so much for visiting, and for your kind words. You’re always welcome here. ~ Linda

  4. What an intensely beautiful, heartbreaking piece. Nature is as lovely as it is harsh — I’m always amazed at the capacity and tenacity of creatures despite it all. It constantly gives me drive and hope. I can’t count the times I’ve seen grief in their world; horses passing soon after their long-time companions leave our earthly plane…feral cats and dogs protecting ailing friends…and of course, mourning parents. You’ve captured it just beautifully.

    1. Thank you for sharing some of your experiences, FeyGirl. Not everyone believes such things possible — grieving bird parents; animals being protective of one another, even cross-species; wounded creatures intentionally coming to humans for care — but the limits of our knowledge and experience aren’t necessarily the limits of reality.

      You’re right, too, about their tenacity. I watched a mockingbird pair build a nest in a flimsy crepe myrtle this spring, then lose it in a storm. Twice. After the second loss, they finally got smart and headed up into a palm tree, where all seems to be well. Before long, there will be babies, and the cycle will repeat.

    1. I’m glad you found it so, Becca. Watching the world — whether trees or the birds that nest in them — is so rewarding. May all your trees have bird-babies this year!

  5. Superbly written, Linda! Though sad, your poem also poignantly illustrates both the resiliency and beauty of life. We have a house finch nesting near one of our windows (under an awning). During the past week, several volatile storms have come through, including one involving hail. Fortunately, the mother and her eggs have survived thus far. The chicks should hatch soon.

    1. One of the great amazements of life is the simple bird’s nest. So many of them seem almost ridiculously fragile, and yet they do endure. Now and then a little home repair’s necessary, but that’s true for us, too.

      This year, I saw my first pied-billed grebe’s nest. I didn’t realize what it was at the time. Only after getting home and looking more closely at the photos did I realize what I’d seen. Here’s to a safe nesting for your finch, the grebe, and all the birds.

      And thanks for the kind words. I appreciate them.

      1. Linda, so far so good for house finch nest. Four nestlings have hatched and are quickly growing. By the way, another nice post (with the waxwings and Robert Francis poem)!

          1. Waxwings are really beautiful birds. With the coming of spring weather, they have migrated away from here. Oh, by the way, one of our four finch fledglings just flew from the nest this afternoon. My wife was lucky; she actually saw it awkwardly flap off. Now just three more to go.

  6. Golly, Linda, this is gorgeous in its simplicity and the complexity of emotions! I don’t imagine anyone can truly appreciate the agony of grief like this except for those who’ve experienced it. Yes, life goes on, but yes, nature can be cruel.

    I sang in choir years ago with a young woman who carried her first baby to term, but delivered it stillborn. I don’t know exactly what happened, but her grief was monstrous. After preparing all those months, then…nothing. And you know, I’m not sure she was any more able to understand it all than this poor mother bird was.

    I can tell you’ve probably written and rewritten this one gazillions of times — don’t think you labored in vain because there’s an economy of words here. Nothing too much; nothing too little. Exactly right!!

    1. Gazillions is about right, Debbie — especially if you include all the re-writes in my head of particular lines and phrases. I must say, it never occurred to me that I’d labored in vain, least of all because of the economy of words. That economy, and that simplicity, was what I was striving for — that you recognize it makes me very, very happy.

      The kind of grief that descends suddenly, and that changes life utterly, may or may not be the worst kind of grief — who would rate or rank such experiences? But they are piercing, and difficult to absorb. That sudden nothingness that your choir mate experienced can be like a chasm opening in front of us. Some fall in, and never are able to climb out.

      Your comment about nothing too much and nothing too little reminded me of a post in which I mentioned the “Three Bears School of Writing.” That was me being silly, but T.S. Eliot would have known what we meant. I love this, from his poem, “Little Gidding.”

      “The end is where we start from. And every phrase
      And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
      Taking its place to support the others,
      The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
      An easy commerce of the old and the new,
      The common word exact without vulgarity,
      The formal word precise but not pedantic,
      The complete consort dancing together)
      Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
      Every poem an epitaph.”

      There’s a graduate course in writing, right there for the taking.

  7. Oh Linda, how heartbreaking. And so powerfully stated. I know all too well that animals physically manifest grief (at least I know Gypsy did, when Stimpy died) but birds? I didn’t really realize, although it makes such sense. Nature is such a tough mistress, isn’t she? This moves me so deeply, I’m not sure I can find the right words — but you certainly did. I suspect it took more than one time. But you nailed it.

    1. As it happens, I know precisely when I stopped just thinking about the experience, and began trying to shape it: January, 2014. And thanks to WordPress, I know how many revisions there have been since I began working with the text: a hundred and fourteen. To paraphrase that old Paul Masson wine marketing slogan, I publish no poem before its time!

      It’s interesting that you mention Gypsy and Stimpy. I’ve thought for several years that my growing sensitivity to creatures around me was due in part to Dixie Rose. One of the first lessons I had to learn was that the cat has its reasons, of which humans know nothing. Once we straightened that out, things improved greatly.

      I’m glad you were moved by this, Jeanie. Distilling emotion into words is a far different proposition than communicating ideas through words, that’s for sure.

  8. Linda, this is a beautiful poem about how cruel and heartbreaking nature can be. This scenario plays out millions of times all over the globe. We as humans think we are the only ones who grieve about loss.

    What you witnessed gives one pause for thought and for the individual that is aware, a greater appreciation of nature and what goes on in the world besides our own self preoccupation.

    1. I’ve been thinking a good bit about nature over the past couple of years, Yvonne, and I’ve become less willing to call nature cruel. Cruelty requires intention, and despite our willingness to anthropomorphize — Father Time, Mother Nature — much of what distresses us isn’t planned or intentional. The wind didn’t set out to blow that baby bird out of its nest.

      On the other hand, I can’t accept that birds and other creatures are devoid of what, for lack of a better term, I’d call feeling. Clearly, they respond to events in their lives in many of the same ways that we do. I know you’ve seen it in your rescue work, because you’ve written about it. In a strange way, people who mistreat animals and people who sentimentalize animals are two ends of a spectrum. Neither respects the reality of the complex creatures that surround us.

      I’m glad you liked the poem. It’s part now of an experience I treasure.

  9. It is true, isn’t it, that poetry communicates something that is missed in prose – I suppose the opposite too is true. This poem certainly reached deep into life and shared its pathos. Interestingly, I went for a walk this evening and a constellation of memories, sights, smells, sounds etc set my mind on finitude and how it sometimes scratches where there is no itch. And yet a kind of beauty is preached in the flapping, the plucking and the silent flight. Thanks for this.

    1. Your first sentence reminds me of a question that always has felt wrong to me. Asking “what does this poem mean?” seems to imply that a poem should be reducible to a single declarative sentence — as though all those metaphors, similes, meter, and rhyme are nothing more than icing roses on a birthday cake.

      Of course it goes the other way as well. Perhaps if we still taught classical rhetoric and people understood the distinctions between logos, pathos, and ethos, we wouldn’t have so many politicians giving speeches that are truly pathetic: in every sense of the word.

      As for finitude? All it takes is an occasional browse through the tech sites to see just how uncomfortable many are with that reality. Between the brain-freezing, the cyber-brains, the live-to-a-thousand-years scams and the blissfully naive promises that tech innovation will bring immortality — well, who wants that? The church might be able to add to the discussion if it were willing to claim its true heritage — eternal life, as opposed to immortality. But that’s a different discussion, for another day. :-)

  10. A sensitive and moving poem. And what coincidence, for this past week has seen more than 90,000 people flee their homes in Fort McMurray in Northern Alberta due to the historic, humongous wildfire, swallowing their homes, upturning lives. The fire has doubled in size in the past two days and still out of control, now . 90,000 without nests, flee with just the shirt on their back for it was very short notice for evacuation. The whole town is emptied now but the smoke and fire still burns and is spreading fast to nearby oil field and tar sands. Google and you’ll see the devastation. But I love that poem.

    1. I finally saw the news about Fort McMurray a couple of days ago. In fact, I went to the maps to see where it was in relation to you. The fires we had here in 2011 were terrible, but the current fire’s on a different scale.

      The connection you draw — 90,000 without nests — is exactly right. I can’t find it right now, but I read a very interesting, short article about the things that people took with them as they evacuated. Some very strange things went along for the ride. That’s one reason I always back my “go bag” filled with family treasures and such at the beginning of hurricane season, and keep it in the closet by the front door. It reduces the need for thought and decision-making should the time come.

      I’m glad you like the poem. I didn’t specify the species so that people could fill in that blank as they chose. I hardly expected a Canadian wildfire to be a perfect analogy, but so it is. We’re hoping and praying for those folks, and for a quick end to the fires.

      1. Yes, I read that article too. Just by the title/ premise I was not happy with how the newspaper could trivialize this tragedy. But as I read, it was from the people themselves who posted them on FB. Fort Mac is far from us but being the oil province we all know people who used to work there. The fire is still growing and heading to Suncor’s tar sands and oil field and spreading to Saskatchewan. No end in sight. Horrible ordeal for all those people. The Queen and the Pope have sent their regards. Firefighters from all over Canada have come. Mexico has sent help too. But for some reasons no mention of US our neighbors coming up to help. :(

        1. American citizens are generous. American communities are strong, and believe in mutual aid. Our government? I’m less sanguine. We seem to have reached a point where, if a particular action doesn’t benefit the political class, they can’t be bothered. For some years I’ve comforted myself with the thought that I’ll probably outlive the country. Now, I’m not so certain. The current campaign has left me sickened — so, I write poetry.

          I’ve seen estimates that the fire may continue burning for a month, but of course there are so many variables, they can’t be sure. The smoke from the fire was affecting air quality here in Texas this week. One site I follow and appreciate is maintained by knowledgeable fire professionals: Wildfire Today. It’s often possible to glean more technical and “behind the scenes” information there.

    1. Thank you, Myra. The process was a good reminder that, with writing, a quick finish isn’t always the best. We all procrastinate, but letting a piece age can allow for a little extra richness.

  11. Linda, You have put together the words and feelings I’ve always known was within each creature on Earth.
    [I’m sorry, but I have not as yet received the envelope. I do hope the poster stamps are not lost in the mail. That would be an ironic tragedy.]

    1. Thanks for those kind words, GP. There’s so much we don’t know about the creatures who surround us. Now that I think of it, there’s much we don’t know about our own kind. And worry not. I got delayed a bit getting to the post office, but they will be coming via priority mail, which includes tracking. At the last minute, I decided I didn’t want to just stick them in first class — which often isn’t!

  12. Birds work so hard and have such a difficult life. Beautiful poem
    The images of the Alberta fires might be a reminder how thinly balanced human life exists. Those small roads lined bumper to bumper with lighted cars – with that massive wall of flames behind them.
    I saw on Canadian official speaking a few days ago – during the period when I like others were thinking – they need more firefighters and equipment. Not sure what the situation is , but in the past there has been reluctance to accept a flood of “help” from the south . No “looking for some giant to save the day”? There were a few terse words about “we know how you do it there, but each fire is different and we are doing what is best” sort of odd answer to a question I didn’t hear. (Hope it wasn’t a rude question…and hope the US puppetmasters aren’t attaching strings…can’t trust some in charge…Canada has right to be wary, but no doubt there are firefighters willing to go on their own to help)
    Hey You know Whooping cranes – don’t they summer in Alberta? Maybe they are watching the reports and recalculating, recalculating alternate routes?

    1. I’d not thought of the cranes. I looked at some maps, and it seems that they do skirt that Alberta/Saskatchewan border on their way north. It’s shown farther east than the fires, but still — I’d be surprised if they aren’t affected. On the other hand, might they already be at their nesting grounds? I don’t know.

      I’m sure you thought of the same thing I did when I saw those evacuation photos: Rita. It’s a good reminder that the time has come to get ready for The Season. Now. Everything else has been early this year (including the Alberta fire season, from what I’ve read) so we’d best not dawdle.

      Whatever has or hasn’t happened re: the offering of assistance, I do wish the instant politicizing of every event in life could stop. And it seems that there have been some of the same conflicts in Canada when it comes to best forestry practices bumping up against people with ideologically informed convictions about how to manage the boreal forest. Ah, humanity.

  13. This gives fine voice to my belief that animals have feelings akin to ours. They do think in a way that we may not find familiar, they learn, they adjust and they feel emotions. We humans have a conceit that we are superior in all ways and have a special place allotted to only ourselves. Pain is pain. I think in many ways it is an advantage to so completely move on from sadness as most in the animal kingdom appear to do…we have no way of truly knowing…well, maybe the Vulcan mind-meld.

    Your poem is beautifully written, Linda. It captures the reality of the bird pair’s loss and grief.

    1. I happen to think we humans have a special place in the orders of creation, but we make our mistake in thinking that the raccoon, the bluejay, the walking stick, and the turkey vulture don’t have places equally special and worthy of respect. We assume we understand their behavior, and miss the complexities that could teach us a good bit: if only we would pay attention.

      I didn’t know what the Vulcan mind-meld was, but now that I’m better informed, it occurs to me that we have other words that at least point to the same phenomenon: compassion (“to suffer with”) comes to mind.

      As for moving on from sadness: it’s possible, but it seems it’s a process, even for the birds.

      1. If they all have places equally special, then we are saying the same thing but from different perspectives. Yes, compassion and empathy are qualities that need to be practiced much more. Our society lately seems, unfortunately, to be going in the other direction in too many cases. Not all, of course, but the divide between “them and us” is widening at present. The gap needs closing.

        Moving on is indeed a process. Almost a year later and I am still in the process.

    1. It seems the bluebirds at the top of your blog page are more than pretty decoration. Was your monitoring informal, or were you engaged wtih more formal programs?

      I wonder from time to time what has happened to some people, that they can witness the death of even their own species with no apparent feeling. Even for the rest of us, to confront the realities of life and death without fear or sentimentality is hard, but it’s an ability worth nurturing.

      1. Those are actually tree swallows on the blog. The monitoring was “official,” for the local bird society. I did it for three years. I never got used to the losses, though it was of course always fun to witness a new crop of baby birds.

        1. Of course I knew that — that they’re swallows. After all, when I needed a photo of swallows, you were the one I turned to. While at work yesterday, I was delighted to see a pair of doves building a nest in a palm tree. It seems to me that their location is far more secure. I’m hopeful, at least.

    1. Sadness and joy are woven together, aren’t they, Kayti? Just like darkness and light, we need them both. As Annie Dillard so rightly said, “You do not have to sit outside in the dark. If, however, you want to look at the stars, you will find that darkness is necessary.”

    1. Thanks, Dana. I’m sure you’ve seen some drama, and maybe even some sadness, in your yard. Still, it’s always worth watching. The beauty — and fun — help to balance the sadness.

  14. What an emotionally moving poem that is. Hard to imagine all the work that goes into the making of a nest and the hours of patient sitting and then the non-stop hunt for food to feed the ravenous chicks. I have often felt that great sense of sadness when walking round the garden and finding a tiny form – inert on the ground – and wishing it was possible to breathe life back into it

    1. As strange as it sounds, I have ample opportunity to watch birds at work while I’m at work. The beautifully landscaped yacht club where I spend the bulk of my time is filled with birds, primarily swallows, grackles, doves, mockingbirds, and starlings — along with all the water birds. I’ve often thought they work as hard as I do, and probably harder.

      It’s fun to watch the nest building — and to discover hidden nests once the babies start peeping for food. But things don’t always go as we would hope: such a hard thing to witness. From time to time I have to curb my interventionist tendencies and remind myself that, after all, birds know how to be birds.

    1. It’s true, that not all is meant to be. And the grand excesses of nature — I’m thinking here of ducks that produce great clutches of eggs — seem to be a way of coping with the losses that necessarily will come.

      As always, the parallels between photography and writing suggest themselves. It can take time to put things in proper focus.

    1. Yes, ma’am. I saw the event several years ago, and began trying to write about it two years ago. Sometimes, setting experiences aside is part of the process, too. I like to think of my draft files as a wine cellar, filled with posts that are happily aging, until time to uncork them.

  15. Oh my goodness! You have plain tore the heart out of me, wrung it out and put it back in bits! What a moving, beautiful account, I’m glad you took your time in writing it, and writing it so poignantly….I have seen animals grieve far too often, and grieve they do…..recently Buddy killed a couple of chicks in my garden, the first was a robin and I quietly moved it, the poor parents spent two days calling and looking for it, heartbreaking it was. The next chick, a little blackbird, I left out in plain view, the mother repeatedly attempted to revive it but at least eventually acknowledged that it was dead and didn’t waste any energy and time looking for it, so was better able to focus on remaining offspring. Another hauntingly beautiful

    1. I thought about you a time or two while I was working on this. You share so many wonderful events with us, but I suspect you’ve seen more than your share of unhappy endings. The truth is, without you there would be far more sadness. I’ve heard some people question rescue work, asking silly questions like, “Is a pigeon worth all that time and effort?” The answer, of course, is, “Yes.”

      Thank you for sharing those stories of the robin and blackbird. The devotion of the parents to their babes is remarkable — or so we say. Of course much is instinctual, but there always is that “something more” that is both inexplicable and inspiring.

    1. That the sorrow exists, there’s no doubt. On the other hand, the maternal impulse sometimes leads to a happier ending. Given our recent exchange about squirrels, I thought you might enjoy this story of a mother squirrel and her babies. It’s a bit long, but it really is worth reading. It’s a remarkable tale about an event I never would have anticipated.

  16. Beautifully written, Linda. I have tears welling. It brought back the feeling I had several months ago, running through my condo community to join my husband in the waiting car, and not a moment too soon noticing that the leaf I was about to step on was no leaf, but a fledgling dead on its back. Ants were swarming it, doing their own natural procession, and as I jumped over the tiny naked bird my heart stopped. By the time I reached the car, I was crying. I was sure that it was from the tree just outside our patio. We often hear the chirping of nesting birds from there. I felt so helpless, even moreso to just come upon it in passing on my way out.

    1. It can be heart-stopping, can’t it? I have the same feeling whenever I see a squirrel dead in the road — due in part to having one as a pet, I’m sure. The sense of helplessness, combined with that sudden awareness of a larger world with its own sorrows and joys, can be unsettling.

      Mary Oliver has a poem called “Lead” that contains these closing lines:

      “The next morning
      this loon, speckled
      and iridescent and with a plan
      to fly home
      to some hidden lake,
      was dead on the shore.
      I tell you this
      to break your heart,
      by which I mean only
      that it break open and never close again
      to the rest of the world.”

      That’s it.

  17. Linda, I found your poem so moving – reminding us not only of our connections to the ‘common weal’ of all life, but also of life’s fragility. Here is a fragment from an article of mine which I offer in response. Not about a bird, but concerning another tiny death which has never left MY memory:
    “… A tiny frog, barely half an inch long, flopped, dead, on the tip of a teaspoon as I gently lowered it toward the plug hole of my kitchen sink. Soon, I’d turn on the tap. Its fragile little body, already liquefying, would be washed down the drain.
    Yesterday, it had been leaping around, full of life, inside the plastic refrigerator box in which I had created a little aquarium with water, moss, and stones. The tadpoles which I had brought home a few weeks previously had all survived. My satisfaction and pleasure at having achieved this, however, was tempered by the growing knowledge that my delightful new pets would soon have to be returned to their original habitat.

    But this little fellow would never go home.

    That small incident, which occurred more than 40 years ago, offered such a poignant illustration of the fleeting fragility of life that it has never left my memory…”

    1. I remember you telling of that experience, Anne. There are certain stories we tell again and again — not necessarily because we have to “resolve” anything, but simply because they’re so extraordinary in themselves. I’m glad you added it here.

      I’m almost to the point of being willing to go back to Proust, and re-read “Remembrance of Things Past.” The story of the madeleine is one I return to again and again, but I’m beginning to suspect I may have missed some things that would be well worth reading and considering.

      The creatures surrounding us are fragile, and we are fragile, too. We may be strong enough from day to day, but we’re all vulnerable to the unexpected threat. We should pay that more mind.

    1. You’re exactly right. It’s strange how sadness and beauty can co-exist, but they do. I suppose that’s part of the reason people feel a little nostalgic at sunset, or in autumn. It’s the sense of endings. But it’s not supposed to be that way in spring, and that probably is what makes the sorrow sharper.

  18. Have you ever heard and seen a female dog howl over the loss of one of her pups? She points her face to the sky and emits these low, heart-breakingly mournful sounds that can pierce your heart.

    I’m not at all surprised that birds mourn the loss of their young as well.

    Those who believe that only man is capable of such “human” emotion, need to open their eyes, minds, and hearts a bit more to what’s happening all around us, and the lessons we can learn therefrom.

    Beautiful, moving poem!

    1. Honestly, I don’t have much experience with dogs, and haven’t known one who’s lost a pup, but I can well imagine the sound. What I do know is that a dog who has lost a family member — even if it’s only someone going off to college, or getting married and moving away — will pace, and look, and mutter.

      There are days when I think humans might profit from allowing freer expression of grief. We consider older traditions, like wearing black, or not marrying for a year, to be quaint, or even unhealthy, but there’s a place for acknowledging the losses of our lives.

      Thanks so much for your kind words. I’m glad the poem touched you.

  19. I enjoyed how you brought human feeling to the birds. Where I work we have a garden courtyard surrounded by the building on four sides. Last spring a couple of robins built their nest in a small tree there. A small magpie found its way into the courtyard one morning. Protecting their nest, the robins attacked it relentlessly. Diving down and striking the black and white bird with their beaks. By afternoon of the following day the magpie was dead. I had never seen robins in this light; had always thought of them as peaceful and industrious. Watching them that day altered my perception.


    1. I hope I did as well at bringing avaian feeling to light. Clearly, we tend to impose our meaning on other creatures, saying things like, “That bird has been singing forever — it must be really happy.” In truth, it may still be singing because it doesn’t yet have a mate: not such a happy state of affairs.

      Just today, I happened to hear a discussion on radio about the fierceness of birds protecting their nests, and on my way to work I saw a mockingbird attacking a red-tailed hawk that was sitting on a wire. Whether there was a young mockingbird in the grass, or elsewhere around — or whether the hawk already had had breakfast — I don’t know, but that mockingbird was relentless. The light changed and i had to go on, so I don’t know how it ended, but your story makes clear the dedication of those parents to their young.

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