Thursday, April 7, 2011

Pretty bird

When I was a little girl, the story of Dr. Doolittle fascinated me. The thought of being able to talk to animals made my already wild imagination take flight. I envisioned myself in Africa on the savannah making friends with the wildest of wild beasts. Or in the jungle (my favorite ecosystem) prowling around with the panthers. Or in the Maine woods having great adventures with the wolves and moose and bear.

But, I really dislike zoos. As much as I love seeing the animals live and up-close, I hate the captivity. As lovely as some zoos' manufactured habitats are, they are still essentially cages in which these magnificent animals are trapped. Another similarity between Capote's Ms. Holiday Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany's and me -- she abhorred cages of any kind. Even for birds. And speaking of birds.....

This morning I arrived at school between the first and second classes. (I wasn't late -- I don't have first period on Thursdays.) It was raining, so the students were not running around the school yard. Instead, many of them were crammed onto the entryway porch, milling around, being kids.

As I walked up the steps, I noticed that one of the tenth-grade boys, Ted, had something in his hands. I looked closely to see that he was holding a dark brown sparrow that he had caught inside the school (there are no screens in the windows, so all sorts of things find their way in). A beautiful, fragile little bird -- he held onto its feet and legs with one hand. I wondered if it had a hurt wing, but then it stretched out its wings and flapped them as if answering my query. I stepped right up to Ted, and he held out the bird for me to see. I asked if I could touch it, and he held out his hand with the bird sticking up like a live chocolate popsicle. I reached out slowly and cupped my hand around its warm, trembling body -- trembling out of fear at being held fast. The soft, feathery form felt more fragile than it looked. I really wanted to see it fly away. I asked if he was going to let it go as I pantomimed releasing the sparrow into the air. He raised his eyebrows in question and copied my gesture. I nodded (he takes German as his language class in school, not English). Without a word, he threw his hand up into the air, letting go of the bird. Smiles broke out on both of our faces as we watched the sparrow dip and dive in the excitement of being set free. I clapped, and my heart soared with the sparrow as it mounted up into the air as high as it could go.


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