They were cutting down tree branches in my neighborhood this morning. It was loud. Ear-splitting and vicious. I knew it was coming because there were posted signs on the sidewalk for days warning people not to park on that side of the street. It was either tree cutting or a movie shoot. Oh LA!
The roar of the metal demon and its sharp teeth ripping through the bark was angst-inducing. But, I just felt bad for the birds. They’re all in my yard now. I can hear them. They’re tucked into the overgrown trees and bushes along my fence. They are so loud and frenzied they’re practically drowning out the wood chipper. The mockingbird is screaming like a car alarm but he’s not the worst. The worst is the soulful cooing of the aptly named mourning dove. Low and desperate and haunting, just pulsing underneath the screeches of the finches and sparrows. This isn’t the joyous-ness I’m used to hearing from the throngs of these commoners in my yard. These birds are stressed. They are cross. They’re upset and manic. And who wouldn’t be if they lost their home in such a manner? But, it's not the branch or even the nest they're desperate for. These average birds are having babies right now. I know because I’ve been watching them. I sit on my swing in my backyard and I see them dipping down and picking up leaves and twigs and returning to those trees to make those nests, those homes. And if I'm lucky, after a sprinkler has switched on in our drought-stricken neighborhood and a tiny worm is surrendered to its fate I can see a momma carry that sustenance back home with her. Back up to her babies in those branches, in those nests she and her mate so lovingly devoted so much time and tenderness to build, the nest she and her mate made to bring life into this world and to give that life a home, a chance to grow and provide the beautiful birdsong that frames the background of every day.
And while all of this was going on, someone from the city made a call and a schedule was drawn up and the day came and some workers who are just doing their job chopped the branches off, tore those bird homes down and sent them careening into a wood chipper.
I know it’s not a bad thing to trim trees. I know it’s good for the trees. The branches get heavy and in order for them to stay healthy, especially in a windy area like we live in, they need pruning or they can break off and the tree can become diseased and the sick heavy branches can fall on property or worse, on people. I get it. I’m not an idiot. And the truth is, I’ll admit I have feelings for the trees, too. I'm glad they're being tended to but I can't help but feel frustrated, confused, depressed by the knowing that sometimes we - the collective we - must lose, must sacrifice in order to gain. Am I insane? Am I some kind of crunchy, granola, fruitcake? Maybe. Probably. But as a wise narcissistic friend once said and I couldn’t agree with more: “I don’t believe in labels.” Anyway, my feeling, my question is this, if we must, if we have to do it: why now? Why not wait until those little common, average, everyday birds have the opportunity to grow and fledge and have a fighting fucking chance at life? Even a month would make a difference, right? On my walk the other day my dog sniffed at a dark pile underneath a street sign. I looked down to see the ant-covered remains of a tiny house sparrow. I looked up to see the mother bird, still in her nest inside the crook of the narrow sign and just the tops of the beaks of a couple of crazed, hungry babies screeching alongside her. My breath caught in my chest. Oh the unfairness of it all! Life! I have no explanation. This, the going-on-ness, was just something that I bore witness to that day and her story became interwoven with the fabric of my story, my life and reinforced what I already know and am grateful to be reminded of again and again and again. Home is not the structure but rather what’s inside it.
And that’s ALL THAT MATTERS.
My darling daughter had a birthday yesterday. My littlest one insisted on dressing herself this morning and my beautiful son went on his very first overnight school trip and will be home this evening. I'm alone in my house right now and while I love and cherish and need my time to be alone and still, I will be grateful when we are all home together. And for now, I'm going to go toss some breadcrumbs in my back yard, and maybe a call to the city...