Mount Shasta, February 15, 2004: As I was sleepily rising, Adrienne called from the kitchen. The fat robin was in trouble.
In our back yard, near my office door, the holly tree sports bright green prickly leaves, and bright red berries. Mothers around the world have warned us as children: Don’t eat the berries! That’s why I believe, and you believe, that the berries are poison.
Our robins, however, have never been warned by their mothers, and appear to gobble the berries throughout the winter. And do the robins appear dead, lying feet up in the snow?
They do not.
But one of the robins, the big fat one — we marvel that he can even fly — is sitting in the snow, today. Adrienne had spotted him in the branches, sitting very still. She worried, when she went outside, that he didn’t fly away.
And now he’s on the ground.
He’s not dead, for he looks around at me as I peek from the chilly doorway. I diagnose the freezing cold, rather than the holly berries, as the problem. Luckily, as I picked up a dog towel from the floor, Adrienne gives me professional advice on towel size, and provides me with a smaller one.
On the porch as I crunch through the snow, I speak softly to the big fat robin, and he permits me to wrap the towel around his little body. As I return to the kitchen, this fine wrapped bird in hand worth two in the snowy bush, Adrienne jitters.
“Don’t bring him in here!” she cries. “Take him out in the garage … to warm up!” But I don’t think the garage is very warm. I’ve been in that garage.
“I wanted you to see him,” I said, but before she could come over to see, suddenly between my warm hands a wild flutter and the bird launches, from within the towel, scrabbling and flying at the ceiling, the doorway, then quick as lace around a corner into the living room’s tall roof and the windowsill ten feet above the floor.
There he perches upon the sill, and flutters at the glass, perches and flutters, perches and flutters.
I ponder. I ponder over a cup of coffee, then another coffee. I ponder over toast and peanut butter. Pondering becomes me, but Adrienne has become impatient.
“Go on,” she says.
I try the magic trick. Holding my arm up toward the bird, with one finger outstretched, I say, “Come land on my finger.” It worked once with a fly; maybe it will work now.
Nope. It doesn’t.
I fetch the ladder from the garage. I clatter through the doorway, and set up the ladder below the window.
Up I go.
My balance is not what it was, but, hey, I’m only four feet up, daring bird charmer I. I have my specialty bird towel, and I speak calmly to the fat robin. He’s a little excited. Probably doesn’t get so much company, so up close and personal, most of the time.
Sure enough, his perch and flutter method first takes him to the far side of the sill, and then his perch and flutter method brings him near. I wrap the towel around him; he is caught. He goes still, wrapped secure in the towel.
Outside on the back porch, I unwrap him and attempt to place him on a branch, thinking perhaps we might have a conversation. But once free, like a bat out of hell, or perhaps more like a robin freed from monsters, away he speeds in a straight line, away to the west to the tall, tall, distant evergreens so safe and dark on the far side of the block.
Probably just now he’s telling robin buddies about his adventure and his escape. Probably they don’t believe him. Among the branches, in the chill they stomp their feet and hunker down, awaiting the warm weather to come again.
Soon the talk turns to more acceptable subjects such as eggs and nests and cute lady robins, and bugs to eat.