A bird in the yard


Saturday, January 29, 2000


††††††††††† Sharon said she saw the dark shape on the front lawn when she got home Thursday night, but because of the cold, ice and darkness, she didnít investigate, noting it again yesterday morning when we came out to start the car and go to work.

††††††††††† At first, as I approached it, I thought a chunk of wood had fallen on the ground or perhaps the remains of a bird=s nest we had not seen previously perched in the branches of the evergreens. Our two trees had been home for numerous species of very talkative birds and would not have surprised me to have found them nesting there since they used the tree for everything else, and the driveway for their toilet.

††††††††††† Yet as I worked my way out the front gate and along the metal fence, the shape on the lawn looked less like wood or a nest than a bird, but a larger than usual bird, of a brown pattern I=d not seen before. It could have been a large pigeon, but was not.

††††††††††† It was an owl,† perfectly preserved owl, with feathered horns on its head, and its inner lids closed, stiff from days of below zero wind-chill factors, yet so intact, we could have taken it into the house, put in on a mantle B and left it there until it rotted as if it was stuffed.

††††††††††† How the owl had arrived on our front lawn remains a mystery, as is the question as to why it had died. Sharon thinks it crashed into the side of the house during its nighttime flight. But the corpse looked too well preserved for that kind of impact.

††††††††††† The next question was: what were we to do with it?

††††††††††† For some reason, Sharon and I both felt it wrong just to dump the body in the trash and put it out for the city to pick up. The beast B even in death B seemed to maintain a great dignity that defied such a burial.

††††††††††† I assured Sharon I would find someone who would arrange for a more proper disposal. We knew after two weeks of sub-freezing cold that we could not bury the creature on our property, even if our land was not so full of roots, needing a pick ax and dynamite to loosen the soil enough to make room for it.

††††††††††† Yet telling people in town I had found a dead owl on my long seemed a little strange to me.

††††††††††† More strange was the concept that it had chosen our land to die upon, making me ponder the possible interpretations, the way some ancient tribesman might have in looking for signs from the universe. Were we blessed or cursed by this circumstance? Should we light incense and celebrate or burn favors and pray for forgiveness?

††††††††††† Like all human beings caught up in the tragedy of our lives, we constantly look for clues from the cosmos as to what the immediate future will bring, some sense of direction by which we might guide our lives. It is, I think, a futile occupation, as wrong-headed in some ways as those who think aliens from outer space walk among us and that the government is spraying the sky with chemicals that will provide social control.

††††††††††† I keep wanting to be realistic. I keep wanting to say that this is merely a dead animal, something that happened as a matter of chance, and that we B as animals B must find our own place to die someday. Yet such events have occurred before, as when Sharon helped bury two mice in her New York apartment, events that later helped her cope with burying her mother.

††††††††††† I want the owl to be some positive sign of success, a message from the gods that we have finally arrived at that stage in life when we can reap the rewards of our life of labor.

††††††††††† Yet I know, in the end, a dead bird is a dead bird, which needs to be buried.







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