Monday, April 6, 2009

A Safe Place

I went to the beaver dam today. Actually I was on a pilgrimage; I wanted to share what I saw and found and felt with my grandchildren, most specifically Jon and Derrick. How they loved that pond and now they no longer live with us.

I walked across my brother's Dale's field, then into the woods where the trail led to the pond in the canyon. There I smelled the faint woodsy smell of mosses and mayflowers and the pungent aroma of fir branches. I caught glimmers of the pond through the barely budded vine maples and hazelnut.

Were the mallard ducks who had made the pond their own last Fall be there? I headed down to the pond edge and yes, they were swimming toward the dam. Before I could get my camera out they flounced in a great water works display and disappeared skyward. It was then I heard the sound of a bird calling; I had heard it from the top of the slope, but I hadn't paid much attention. Several small brown—or were they gray birds on the other side—flitted through the branches. Could it be that they, angry at my intrusion, were calling out a warning, “human in the forest! Watch out! Watch out!”

I climbed up on the huge piece of a giant old snag that had fallen during the Columbus Day storm of '62 and took several pictures, then moved to several locations to take more pond shots. And all the time I heard that warning call, over and over, and over again. It almost sounded like a froggish “ribbett” call, but it was higher pitched than any frog could make and I knew I'd never heard it before.

Something isn't right, I thought. That's a distress call; a wild creature in trouble.

I got down on my elbows and knees and crawled under the wire fence spanning the upper part of the pond. My jeans got wet and it took a bit to get through. One shoe even sank out of sight and the mud slurped as it let go. As I moved closer to the sound I realized it came from the ground.

There, right in front of me was a beautiful bird with orange and black wing and tail feathers jammed tightly under a root. Anxious to see if there was any way I could help, I gently removed the frightened creature. The bird tried to move away but couldn't go far; it had blood on one wing and had a hard time walking. My daughter and her twins had previous experience in rescuing wild creatures--one of them would know what to do. I took several pictures for identification purposes and headed back home. All the while those shrill distress cries followed me to the top of the canyon where the trail led back through Dale's field and home again.

Clytie, Georgian and Victoria were eager and ready to go. But when we reached the slope overlooking the pond we heard no cry. The duck pair rose upward, the sun was warm on our shoulders. This time I climbed over the fence, holding the barbed wire as low as I could. I spotted the bird almost immediately, lying in the mud. I picked it up, then passed it's motionless body over the fence to my waiting family. Georgia wrapped it tenderly in the towel she'd brought and we headed for home.

While my son and his wife surfed the web, Victoria, Clytie and I leafed through bird books while Georgia cradled the injured bird in her arms. At first we thought it might be a fledgling green heron, it had similar markings and a long sharp beak. Then Clytie found a picture of a flicker that closely matched our prodigy. Grandpa confirmed he thought it was one, too.

Sadly our beautiful bird took his last breath at 6 p.m. He had found his own safe place and we were left with our memories; the beaver pond, the flying ducks and the injured flicker wrapped in his own warm towel who took his own flight up and away.


Beth Niquette said...

Hello, Mumsie!

I was so touched by this story, Mummers. How amazing. I saw my first Flicker when I stayed with Criss. They were digging for bugs and worms in the lawn.


Grannie Annie said...

Hi Eva,
Death seems to be the topic of the week for me, so when I read your post I just had to write. I guess I just wanted to ponder the difference in a once living body, human, bird, anything when the soul has departed it's flat, still, inanimate. Dead is such an apt word, yet there is peace a reverence connected with it.
Experiences I have had this week changed my view of death forever, I know there is heaven and it is love, it waits to bring us home.
Thank you for your beautiful writing and the mind journeys you provide for all of us. Many blessings, ~ Deann

Mekeel McBride said...

By some wonderful stroke of good luck, your daughters found me on the web and we are now following each others' blogs! I'm now following your blog and just read about your experience with the flicker. I volunteer at the Center for Wildlife in Cape Neddick, Maine and have worked lots with flickers. They're very beautiful and have the spunkiest, brightest spirits. Not many people would have taken the care you did with this wild creature. And I am fairly certain the bird was well aware of your gift. Since you found it and chose to love it, help it, I believe the bird's spirit will be around you, helping you, now. And I'm pretty sure the bird has a message for you. If you meditate, or even if you don't, just sit quietly with your eyes closed and ask the bird what message it's bringing. Thank you SO much for caring. A new fan in Maine --
best wishes, Mekeel

Tammie Lee said...

This is quite a story. It surely could be a great chapter in a novel!
I was told by a medicine man that the indigenous people of S.California consider the flicker to be a healing bird. If one finds a feather of the flicker that is 'good medicine'. You found and tried to save a flicker; I am thinking you have just been given some BIG medicine! A blessing!

Thistlebrooms said...

A True way with Words...
A delight for us to read the thoughts that come through you onto these pages...Some cannot put into words what you express and for us its magic...
Thank you from my Heart for sharing your piece of the world...
My Best...Marilyn

Catherine said...

What a beautiful story, Eva. I could envision every step of your beautiful walk – the magical smell of the woods, fir needles crunching underfoot, the flapping of the mallards’ wings as they took off across the pond. What a blessing for you and the flicker to have found each other and that you were able to care for such a beautiful creature during its last hours. I, too, have had the privilege of watching over injured birds. Through tears, each has been given each a resting place of honor under our majestic cedar tree. In return, each has shown me indescribable beauty. Thank you for sharing your beautiful story, Eva. In your words I see not death, but instead hope and comfort. Just as we care for these beautiful, injured creatures, how much more our heavenly Father cares for us and is aware of our every breath.

~Cheryl said...

Thank you for sharing this story. You have a marvelous gift for giving life to words.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Tammie,

I think you were energised to life where compassion and love filled your essence. This may be the gift that the flicker gave you, and in return, the flicker tribe will always remember you with their love and gratitude.