|Photo Source. (We didn't take a single photo. It seemed like taking a picture of a holy moment, or a car accident. So here is a blue jay who is not ours, but is also lovely.)|
We recently watched our neighbors--a nice retired couple with chickens and a gorgeous garden--build an elaborate net structure around their bushes to keep birds and squirrels out. It was like a room for their blueberries, made of net. Since then I've seen birds fly into it, glancing off one way or another as the netting pushed back.
But last evening, as Henrietta and I hung out in the backyard while Sam finished dinner, I realized the bird by the blueberries didn't fly away, though he tried. And then I realized he was somehow inside the structure, flying against it from the inside again and again, getting more frantic each time.
"Birdie stuck?" Henrietta asked.
"Birdie stuck," I said. "Let's go tell Hank and Linda." I carried her on my hip and we walked next door and knocked, but no one was home. So we went in and told Sam, and he came out with us to see.
While Sam stood by the blueberries and Henrietta and I watched from our yard, I looked up the bird on my phone. He was a blue jay. A gorgeous one. His belly looked very white and his wings were brilliant blue, and the pattern of his tail feathers was so pretty that I imagined long lengths of cloth in the same print. I wanted to make a dress from the imagined fabric. I would have worn it to the moon.
"Birdie stuck," Henrietta told me, her voice concerned. I was concerned, too. We didn't know how to free him. Sam was worried we'd make things worse, that we'd destroy the structure while our neighbors weren't around. We didn't know them well enough to know whether they'd charge us with trespassing or destruction of property. Also, we were concerned that we'd upset the bird so badly that he wouldn't know how to get out. We wished our neighbors would just come home.
And then, before we'd figured out what to do, getting the bird out wasn't so much an option. The blue jay's feet tangled in the netting. He hung upside-down on the wall of the net room, unable to move except to thrash. His black beak was wide open, wider than I've ever seen a bird's beak, and he called and called, his song turned a plea for deliverance. But we couldn't deliver him. With his feet stuck, we really didn't know how to begin.
The next hour or so is a blur. I made call after call, trying to find someone who would care about a blue jay on a Sunday evening and come rescue him. All the while Henrietta tugged on my hand, "Come on, come on," she said. "Birdie stuck. Birdie stuck."
Holding her hand, pacing between the fence so she could see and back to the house so she wouldn't see, I called an animal rescue place. I called the small animal clinic on campus. I called animal control. I called a family in my ward who has a farm. I talked to a few people who were concerned, but there wasn't anyone to come out. I'm not sure why I cared so much, or why his plight seemed so real to me. But it did. It seemed I knew that feeling. I knew what it meant to have gorgeous wings but tangled feet.
All my calls made and fruitless, I stood at the kitchen counter and cried. I rested my arms on the countertop and found myself praying for the bird, that the bird would be okay, that his small heart would calm, that his wings would settle, that he'd somehow feel comforted, that we'd know what to do to help him if we could.
Our neighbors still weren't home. We ate dinner with our side door open, watching their driveway. And still, after dinner, they weren't home. Maybe they were out of town, we thought. If someone was going to save the bird, it was looking like we'd have to do it. We couldn't leave him there indefinitely.
We figured it was at least a two-person job. One to hold him and cut him free, one to hold the net open so he could go. But how would we do it with Henrietta around? She was almost as intrigued and worried as we were, but she was tired. She was throwing tantrums, flinging herself on the floor every few minutes to weep at some injustice. I knew that if we went out to save the bird, she'd never let me put her down.
I don't know how I thought of it exactly, but I texted our friend Dan and asked if he'd be willing or brave enough to come help with a stuck blue jay. His text came back quickly: "Yes, I'll be there as soon as I can."
I took Henrietta up to bath time and bed, and this is my biggest regret: they freed him while I washed her in the tub. I wish I could have seen. Sam says that Dan had worked with birds so he was confident, and made Sam confident, too. Sam says the blue jay was soft in his hands, and he worried he held him too tight while Dan clipped the tangled net with a small pair of scissors. And then, quickly, Sam was just holding the blue jay, wondering what he ought to do. The jay's foot looked slightly injured, but he seemed more or less okay. Would he really be okay?
Sam told me how it went, and I keep imagining it, the moment I'm most sorry I didn't see: Sam simply opened his hands, and the blue jay took off. The bird tucked his feet. He spread his wings. He took off flying for the trees.