The sound of a hard knock at the window makes my heart ache. This time I turned in time to see a flash of brilliant yellow spinning downward. I ran to the window and looked outside to see a bird on the rocks below. His neck was bent underneath his body, his wings convulsed, and then he was still.
I know what to do if birds are only stunned. I cover them with a towel and put them in a box for a while to stay warm, dark, and calm. It gives them a chance to outlive the shock. More than once I've opened a box outside and had a strong, healthy bird fly away. Other times I run outside only to find a glassy-eyed and limp bird, and then the body is taken out to the pasture. I never bury them. It seems like the wrong thing to do to a bird.
When you pick up the body of a dead bird the moist heat of it still seeps through the towel into the palm of your hand. And that's how the goldfinch was. His unblinking eyes were glassy, his head lolled on a neck that looked disjointed, and I had to gather the wings into his body. But that warmth in my hand! I stood as still as I could, but felt nothing pulse or breathe. I said a prayer. I wrapped him up in the towel and started out for the pasture, but I only made it half way.
He had looked dead--and that awful spasm of the wings, head down in the rocks--but he might still be alive. I didn't really believe it, though, and although I'll watch birds for hours I can't bear to look at, or worse, poke at a dead one. So I tucked him in behind a bale where he was sheltered from the wind, but warmed by the sun, and I went inside for a while.
I worked up courage to try again and went out to check on him. As I unwrapped his towel I felt him roll over, unmoving and stiff. For some reason, I pulled the towel back anyway. And he blinked.
Shock, amazement, joy! Is that possible? Am I seeing what I think I'm seeing? What a feeling...what a blessing.
I pulled the towel off completely, lifting him up in my hand. He was injured, one eye was shut and swollen, and his feet were curled up beneath him. We stayed there awhile, out of the wind, waiting. When I had just about given up hope again, he flew up into our apple tree.
I willed him to go eat, but he didn't. His eye seemed better, but he just waited and hours passed. At some point when I wasn't looking he flew off to whatever fate remained for him.
To put it all in perspective, this happened a couple days after Easter. I've been thinking about two things. First, I don't want to become callous toward resurrection. Second, how strange the time is between resurrection and heaven. Nothing changes, everything changes. What was it like to have Jesus around when he had been dead, was alive, and was not staying? Our lives as Christians are shadows of this time. We are dead to the old, still in the world, but it is not our home.
Although it goes against my worry-prone nature, I didn't feel any anxiety about this finch. He was already a miracle, and whatever would happen would happen. Sometimes I am blessed with that same feeling about my children's lives, my life, the lives of friends and family...everyone, really. The plan is in motion, anything is possible, and we already know how it ends.