Take these broken wings and learn to fly
— sir james paul mccartney
We were walking in the bird park in the twilight hours a couple of weeks ago. A bird was sitting next to the sidewalk. At the point where birds normally take flight, he did not. I knew what was ahead. It would Not Be Fun.
Mo gave him a concerned look. Why wasn’t he flying away? Was he hurt? And then the answer was obvious. One of his wings was broken.
One thing you should know about Mo. She has the biggest heart I’ve ever encountered. And when it concerns an animal, it doubles. I braced for the ordeal that was sure to follow.
She considered trying to catch him, but we didn’t have anything with us, it was getting dark, and he wasn’t interested in the idea. She looked at me hopefully. I gave her what I hope was my “whatever we need to do” reassurance, which may have looked like my “dear lord not this again” look. But it’s all part of the “till death or cormorants do we part” vow, so I rolled up my sleeves. Actually I was wearing a singlet. But still.
She decided the best we could do was to herd him over to the creek, where he could swim and be protected from the neighborhood coyote. So we made like a sheep dog, walking behind him, then next to him, then nudging him, until he finally made it into the water. He seemed happy enough. End of story!
We talked for a while about the options as we watched him paddle around. Leave him and let nature take its course. Capture him and hope for a rehab. Get him some ivermectin, which is a known cure for everything. I was selfishly hoping for option one. You can’t save every bird. You just can’t. Mo agreed. End of story.
So of course, early the next morning, as I began work, Mo stuck her head in and said she was going over to the park. She had a towel and a plastic tub and planned to grab him and take him to the wildlife rehab joint.
I waited for the update, fearful he would be gone, or dead, or a zombie. Beware of cormorants who want to eat your brains. Or your popsicles. Mostly that second one.
But then, she was home again. The bird was still in the water, in a place she couldn’t get to, and besides, she said he looked pretty darn happy there. Food, water, scenery — like a trip to Belize without the spotty internet service. So she just said hello to him and came home.
She’s been checking on him every day since and said he’s doing well. He hides in the branches of a tree that fell into the creek at night, the avian version of the homeless guys in the park. So last night when she couldn’t find him, Mo shrugged and said she was sure he was OK. I feared the worst.
Today, she showed me the fallen tree, and he still wasn’t there. He’s OK, Mo, said, but I was worried. So on the next lap, I went walking up the creek, hoping against hope that I would spot him.
And there he was! Sitting on a rock, basking in the sun, perfectly content. Belize, you know. I excitedly called Mo to tell her about My Discovery.
“Of course,” she said. “That’s his rock. That’s where he hangs out in the morning. He’s a celebrity now. A lot of people shoot his picture.” Dang paparazzi. I assume she didn’t tell me this earlier because I’m competing with a bird for her affection, and clearly losing.
He could have gone to a wildlife rehab center, sitting in a cage, maybe healing, or maybe spending his last days suffering in captivity. Instead, he’s reveling in a sweltering Arizona day, swimming and sunning and eating a fish dinner. Better to burn out than to fade away, Mr. Young once said. But then he also wrote “Birds,” so I should have known he’s an authority.
Edward Abbey got his friends to kidnap him from the hospital so he could die peacefully at home. I think he would approve of a cormorant spending his final days of a rock in the park he loved. Seldom Seen Bird. It has a ring to it.
There’s probably a lesson in life here about adapting and being happy where you are, how you are. Not to look back on how things once were, but about how things now are still pretty dang good. A little push in the right direction, a little karma, a little bit of happiness that sneaks into a grinchy runner’s heart when an ending is happy.
You don’t need to fly to enjoy life. Just keep swimming. You’ll get there.
And maybe find a good rock. I’ve got mine. Thanks, Mo.