Little bird

She flew so fast; it looked to my human eyes as though she flew joyfully, but I have no emotional key to goldfinch sentiments, if they possess such things. I was looking out the window: one of our uniformly large picture windows providing us with a panorama of the basalt plateau at the edge of steppe country, the top of which is the fertile loess of the Palouse, and of our pasture and garden. She was flying straight toward a dining room window, the window that looks out on the lilac and spirea garland bushes where several goldfinch pairs have been nesting. Within a splinter of a second, the lives of her life mate and their hatchlings were changed forever. Although I saw her coming, her impact with the window jarred my startle reflex. I wondered stupidly whether she was supersonic. She lay stunned, her eyes closed, one wing akimbo.

I have seen many birds hit our windows. Usually they are stunned for a while, look dead, and at some point recover and fly off. Goldfinches mate for life. I don’t know whether widow and widower goldfinches re-pair. I prayed she was only stunned. I could scarcely bear the thought of her brood orphaned and her mate alone.

My husband and I went out on our Saturday morning Starbucks date and returned an hour or so later. The tiny goldfinch wife was still where she had fallen. Her body was stiff. For want of window savviness she was removed from the breeding pool. It just seemed so awful that the windows through which we enjoy so many nuances of our world are deathtraps for so beautiful and frail a representative of creation. My husband buried the unfortunate goldfinch. Human sin infected creation with death; such a lively goldfinch surely merited more than mere disposal.

New flax is coming up; the red popcorn has grown taller these past warmer days, and sweet peas are starting to bloom—in Montana they seldom delighted our senses before early August. As always, life goes on; and that it does is as inevitable as death.

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