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“hopeful in the church of the morning sun”

It was almost a week ago while I was traveling that I got an email from Steven saying that he’d found a baby bird dying in the hallway of our apartment. I thought that was really odd, but was just glad the cat hadn’t hastened its end. Then came my triumphant return and my day off work Wednesday and a whole lot of bird sounds. I went into the bedroom to find the cat entranced with the closet and quite a racket coming from within.

I was terrified for the bird, but managed to trap it in a shoebox and get it out to the balcony. It was weak, frail, featherless in spots. Its parents flew around but didn’t come near. It got out of the box and, terrified, threw itself off the edge of the balcony. While I don’t think it would have survived long anyway, it died soon after its fall and I buried it on the back hill. I cried a lot.

Clearly something was going wrong to let birds into our apartment, and since they were in the closet I suspected the problem was connected to the air conditioning unit there. There is a nest above and to the right of our air conditioning unit’s vent to the outside, but I think the actual connection must happen inside the brick, which explains the insulation that floats down to our closet floor.

Ever since then, it’s been like “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I wake in the middle of the night sure that somewhere I can hear a bird, an indoor bird, a dying bird. Today I had that same dreadful certainty but whenever I went to the closet, any chirping stopped. After vacuuming out all the insulation and clearing carpet space for birds to fall, I climbed up to see the hole that must be the way in.

Being sure in my heart that the birdsongs I heard were the equivalent of the call coming from inside the house, I finally had to set up a stakeout. I sat with my laptop for a while and, as I’d feared, there was a shrill sound from a box I’d moved out of the way in my cleaning. This one had feathers and personality, and could get itself off the ground a few inches when it flapped its wings. I kept it on the balcony until I was sure the parents had found it and watched them fly to the edge of the box, chirping wildly. When I released the fledgling into the bush below its nest, I couldn’t hear any more cheeping babies in the nest. I did see both parents as I walked back to the apartment.

It makes me feel like a freak that little birds have driven me to photo(blogo)journalism, but I wanted to have documents for when they weren’t there anymore. Maybe it’s because everything seemed like an emergency, like time was slipping away, but I wanted something that would remind me I’d done something (even if, since it’s a photo, that something was only look) and I think it worked. I can hear birds outside now and they sound plenty cheerful to me, but what do I know about birds?