There's a Bright Eyes song that rattles around my brain some days; "did you forget your yellow bird?" asks Conner. I never forgot mine.
It was my birthday, I believe it was my 6th. Only my Mum could confirm that fact and she's gone now, so I'll never know for sure. There were two boys from down the street who came. Boys I'd played with many times before. I didn't know they had cruel hearts but I found out that day.
We were playing outside mostly, it was a warm day for May 19th in Alaska. I came around the corner to the front of the house and there were all my friends in a circle around something. The two boys were kicking it delightfully. It was a small, yellow bird. I started screaming in terror. They were kicking a small, helpless creature and I was horrified. I remember yelling for them to stop, I felt helpless and alone. Like those dreams where you try to run but your feet don't work. They wouldn't stop and I didn't know how to make them.
My mother heard my screams and came running to the window. Her stern voice stopped them instantly but it was too late. I remember her sending them home, disgusted with their behavior. We scooped up the little bird and amidst my tears she gently led me to the backyard where we buried it under the stairs.
I don't know if I ever quit crying for that helpless creature, facing the brutality of boys that had probably faced it themselves. I carry that yellow bird with me today and the need to protect other such vulnerable creatures. There was a robin once too, that Mum made me take back to the place we found it. A baby that had fallen out of it's nest most likely.
I've always loved birds. They've always found me too. I've rescued many a bird since then, my most recent was last week. It was a yellow bird. I thought it was trying to get my attention away from a nest at first, acting hurt and hopping away. As I moved towards it (with the goal of finding the nest for observation) it became obvious that it really couldn't fly.
Knowing the neighbor cats would get it in a heartbeat, I scooped it up and made a temporary home for it in a tall bin. We fed it the customary black oil sunflower seeds that the goldfinches seem to love at our feeder and kept it dry and safe long enough to see if it would survive.
The idea was to transport it down to a wildlife rehab center, but each day that I checked on him he seemed better. I came to believe he was a fledgling that just needed a bit more time to gain strength. Time that the cats would not have given. Each day I got close enough to upset him so he'd try to fly, making sure he got exercise.
On the fifth day, he flew out the open garage door and into a tree. My yellow bird was gone, just like that. He stayed nearby most of that day, flying from tree to tree as if to show me how well he was doing. I wonder which of the goldfinches at my feeder he might be now.
There are no pictures of this bird, or the one that died when I was a small child. I don't believe there is any mystical connection, but it felt good to save a yellow bird for some reason.
"We are nowhere and it's now"
by Bright Eyes
If you hate the taste of wine
Why do you drink it till you're blind?
And if you swear that there's no truth and who cares
How come you say it like you're right?
Why are you scared to dream of God
When it's salvation that you want?
You see stars that are clear have been dead for years
But the idea just lives on...
In our wheels that roll around
As we move over the ground
And all day it seems we've been in between
A past and future town
We are nowhere and it's now
We are nowhere and it's now
And like a ten minute dream in the passenger's seat
While the world was flying by
I haven't been gone very long
But it feels like a lifetime
I've been sleeping so strange at night
Side effects they don't advertise
I've been sleeping so strange
With a head full of pesticide
I've got no plans and too much time
I feel too restless to unwind
I'm always lost in thought as I walk a block
To my favorite neon sign
Where the waitress looks concerned
But she never says a word
Just turns the jukebox on and we hum along
And I smile back at her
And my friend comes after work
When the features start to blur
She says these bars are filled with things that kill
By now you probably should have learned
Did you forget that yellow bird?
But how could you forget your yellow bird?
She took a small silver wreath and pinned it onto me
She said this one will bring you love
And I don't know if it's true
But I keep it for good luck