Though I can’t, by any stretch, be described as religious I was reminded of the bible quote when I noticed a baby sparrow behind some flower pots outside my back door the other day. It seemed he was injured-I somehow always think of injured creatures as male, don’t ask me why- though he was able to move around on the ground fast enough.
Mindful of advice to leave baby birds alone but thinking of next doors prowling cat I made sure there were plenty of places for him to hide and put out some water. I did not expect him to survive the night but the next morning I looked out the window and saw his mother feeding him. Then she flew up into the hedge while he ran along the ground making hoppy, unsuccessful attempts to follow her. This happened over and over again. Father was in attendance too though he stayed at quite a distance, usually up on a roof, while maintaining a constant cheeping. I imagined their exchange
“You shouldn’t fuss over him so much!He’s just looking for attention!”
“ But dear I think he just needs a little encouragement…”
This is, I am sure, the kind of thing that male sparrows say..
I soon saw that the little sparrow was missing at least half of one wing and there was some angry red flesh showing underneath, the result of some clash with the cat, a hawk or maybe even one of the Willy Wagtails that goose-step around my house in their black and white uniforms. I realised that it was unlikely he would fly again and that soon the parents might get bored.
“If he likes it so much down there we should just leave him to it. Lets see how he gets on with his independence!”
Still, he looked content dozing in the sun in one of my pots. Once, he woke up and deftly caught a moth and he was able to drink water from the saucer I put out but watching the other sparrows as they looped from bouncing briar to rooftop I realised his life would be limited. When he wasn’t resting he was running around the yard looking for a way out or was stretching his half-wing or pecking at it in a futile effort to make it work.
Maybe it was this that made me identify with him for, having a hearing impairment, I often feel like I am stumbling along, never quite taking off while others swoop and dive and chatter above me. No matter what I do I can’t join them. I wondered idly if there was a god watching all of us anxiously from a celestial kitchen window occasionally providing shelter from the marauding cats of life, scattering seeds. But a lot would depend on which back yard you landed in and if the god was like me, it was a relatively helpless one.
A friend who called in suggested that I kill it which seemed to me to be a trifle gratuitous. It recalled to mind another friend who had once watched a documentary on cruelty to factory bred chickens in a silence that seemed to expand with his growing incredulity.
“For Gods sake!”…he suddenly yelled…”They’re only CHICKENS!”
And while I could laugh I can’t quite think like that. I am at least pragmatic and killing the sparrow made as little sense to me as dancing attendance on him. Why subject the thing to my inept attempts at murder when it would surely just scare the hell out of it and most likely leave it even more disabled than before?
I also did not like to think that I too, in some parallel universe, could by dint of my shortcomings, be exposed to attempts on my life by some clumsy deity. I would prefer to take my chances among the flower pots. In the end I decided to leave it partially to fate, to leave the dirty work to the more skilled assassins of the hedgerow:the cat, the rat. It meant I ignored the rules of non interference but, hey, sue me.
There is a hawthorn tree at the end of my yard. I am not sure if there is a nest in there but its where the sparrows perch and the shady greenery beneath seemed to offer a better place for my young friend to meet his fate than the sun-baked concrete of my yard so, using bits of wood that were lying around, I made a ramp that led up the yard wall to a ledge that opens into the hedgerow below it. I hustled the sparrow toward the ramp and he, being a quick and doughty soul, divined it’s use and, with encouragement from both parents who appeared on the shed roof above, he navigated his way up onto the ledge and into the dappled shadows beyond.
For the rest of the day I heard his chirping and his parents replies but by the next morning the ditch was silent again.
When I went looking for the bible quote about the sparrows later I saw that I had remembered it incompletely. It ends…
So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.
Somehow that made me feel sad.
BUY THESE ILLUSTRATIONS ON MY ETSY SHOP…