Monday, April 7, 2008

Rockin' Robin (Of Death)

In the words of The Office's Michael Scott, I'm not superstitious. Just a little stitious.

Just "stitious" enough that when a bird tries for three straight days to get in my house, I'm a little worried about the safety and well-being of those around me.

My mom, being of the Appalachian culture, firmly believes in signs and omens and "old wives' tales" and bad luck. I have heard her speak with great dread when a picture has fallen off the wall, or when a black cat darts out in the road ahead of her car, or when the woolly worms have broad black stripes, or heaven forbid, when a bird flies into a window. So Friday afternoon when a robin flew headlong against my patio door with a rain-soaked "Thwack", my heart dropped to my toes. In my mom's book of legend, that means there's going to be a death. And it isn't helping that said bird has pecked and knocked at the kitchen window for three straight mornings and afternoons now. It's Hitchcockian, really.

Say what you want, skeptics and practical-type, common-sensical people. Tell me that the folks who say a bird-in-the-window came before a death in their family only remember the bird in hindsight after the death in much the same way that we can all remember where we were on September 11 or the day the Challenger exploded; people can remember the specifics of the days of or just before a tragedy in great detail and gain clarity and try to make associations in the wake of the horrible event. Tell me that birds don't have great eyesight and see reflections in windows that make them think they're flying to a group of trees when they're really flying into double-paned glass. Tell me how it's spring and mating season and my possessed robin is just fighting with what it thinks is another male. Just don't tell me you wouldn't be a little freaked out if a bird pecked at your window all weekend.

I thought I had effectively run the darn thing off after the first hit (when it literally knocked the crap out of itself) Friday evening. But Saturday morning I was wakened at first light (on a morning when Ainsley was with my mom and I should have been able to sleep in--grrrr) by a gentle knocking sound. It turned out to be the sound of something gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door (sorry, wrong bird reference.) No, it was my robin, and this time he was parked on one of my patio chairs opposite the kitchen window, repeatedly flying to the window and tapping it with his beak, and then going back to the chair and crapping all over it. I opened the window and hollered. And fell back asleep for about 5 minutes. And heard the knocking again. And chased again. And got woken up again. And this went on for TWO HOURS before I gave up and hollered out the window, "What the @^#& do you WANT?" Which made the bird crap all over the patio table.

I cannot tolerate dirty windows or dirty glasses (I need clarity in life) so I spent a while outside Saturday on our deck cleaning the wet feather smudges from Friday evening and the dry feather smudges and copious droppings from Saturday morning. I had the patio table, chairs, and the kitchen window and patio door sparkling. I went downstairs to run the vacuum, and when I came up Ainsley called out, "The bird's back!" He was just on the other side of the crystal-clear glass of the patio door, looking at me. We stared each other down. I felt like crying.

I grabbed some black construction paper and made a crude (very crude) outline of something sorta resembling a bird of prey and taped it in the window, knowing I've seen those decals on office windows before. Allegedly a shadow like that is supposed to scare away birds and keep them from breaking their fool necks flying into windows. My bird is either smarter than that or it has a death wish; Ainsley crept into our bedroom at 8am Sunday to say that the bird had woken her up tapping on the glass and that she already had gone out there to see him. Fabulous.

A second "hawk" silhouette went into the kitchen window, but it's not doing much good. This thing is determined. Which adds to the freak-out factor. What is he trying to tell me? Should I start atoning for my sins? Calling loved ones to check on them and let them know I care? Okay, I should be doing this anyway.

Here's something else that cues the Twilight Zone music in my head. When I had my psychic encounter this fall, the spiritualist told me that birds are my "spirit animals." When my loved ones from the beyond want to be near me, she said, they use birds. Hooey, you may say. But when I was sick with Hodgkin's, there was a pair of mourning doves that used to coo from overhead every day that I stayed in bed post-chemo. For a long time, I didn't know what the noise was that I kept hearing; I would lay in bed and hear this odd but somehow comforting sound that made me think we perhaps had an owl around. It almost sounded like a hoot, but it was softer, and I only heard it on the days I was sickest. Sometimes I would also hear a faint rustle of wings. One late spring morning when I was finally seeing the light at the end of the cancer treatment tunnel and my chemo days were numbered, I was getting ready for work with our bedroom's walkout door open, enjoying the breeze and the rising sun. I heard the cooing I had heard so softly before, but this time it sounded closer. On the rails of the deck, right across from the bedroom door, were a pair of mourning doves. They stayed there even as I stood in plain view. Oh, so they are what I've been hearing, I thought. And for a moment the world felt so beautiful and peaceful. But then Scout caught their scent from a far corner of the house and she ran full-tilt-boogie into the screen. The birds departed, and I've only seen mourning doves on our deck a handful of times in the last five years. And the last time I heard them from overhead was the last afternoon I recovered in bed from a chemo treatment. It could have been coincidence, it could have been that chemo gave me bat ears and I heard things I ordinarily would have ignored. But it could also have been something more.

So, is my robin a harbinger of death, or just a really dumb specimen who will eventually realize he can't win a turf war with a reflection?

And, no matter whether or not you really have an opinion, please chime in with a little something to let me know that you're still on the planet. If Mr. Robin is a tolling bell, I'd like to know that he's not tolling for thee.

1 comment:

Karen said...

Some birds are just like that. I have one too. I'm not sure what kind he is (not a robin), but he lands on the grill next to the den window, or even on the window screen, looks in at me and chirps. A couple of Christmases ago, we moved the computer desk into the bedroom to make room for the tree. That darn bird found me in there as well! He'd come land on the screen on my bedroom window and stare at me in there too. I asked the folks at the bird store near here if that was normal, and they said some birds are just social like that. I don’t think he’s been the harbinger of anyone’s death so far. Feel better? :)