Certainties in an uncertain world

Thu, 04/09/2020 - 5:15pm

It feels the calendar revolves even more than usual around the sunny, hopeful, days, the dramatic spring tides, the great moon filling the sky, all pushing aside the inevitable gray April rains that mirror a national mood.

Monday was glorious and I left the door open, tired of Autumn's let-me-go-out-come-in-again antics, then forgot about it until I heard a ruckus in the kitchen. It was, of course, a bird, battering itself against the south windows, trying to fly into the light, the dog in pursuit.

It is an annual occurrence, one of the reassuring certainties to which we cling this spring. I used to have barn swallows, nesting in the high rafters of the old shed, coming into the living room and sitting, with a determined sense of shimmering entitlement, on the curtain rods, but recently it has been little brown wrens, entry and bookcase nesters.

I opened a window but the bird was easily coaxed back out the door, likely relieved to have been freed from the confusing, unnatural trap of hard invisible glass walls, worsened by a land-bound but golden dog bounding about.

The door and window were closed and I didn't think any more about it. There were groceries to fetch from the market parking lot, a blue ocean to admire from the road, a tide to assess, a strip of sand to wonder upon, and relief to be found at the sight of that singular certainty, the great rock that is never quite submerged.

Much, much later, I had to go outside to convince Autumn to come back in. She lay on the cool, damp grass just beyond the edge of the cement walk and gave me a “really?” look. It did give me pause, as late as it was, the night was that of our best rememberings, the muted rumble of the surf beyond the hill, the cacophony of the peepers rising like summer mist from the edges of the wetlands, and the nearly full moon turning the world silver.

It was, though, too chilly to leave the door open all night. Finally, on the promise of a treat, Autumn got up, stretched, did a cursory survey for a deer, and came inside.

Then, we went upstairs and I heard more clattering. Another bird, not a sweet little wren, but I am not sure what. The next day my explanation – my fallback “looks like a nuthatch” - was not good enough to get more than a guess of a type of sparrow.

And a “doesn't this happen to you every year?”

Well, yes, but not at night when there is no lure of light on the other side of the windows and it is not worth the bother when the creature would settle down when I turned off the lights.

It did, and waited until well past dawn to make enough of a a fuss to wake me, then went quite easily on its way, hopefully off-put by what had to have been over twelve hours of entrapment, discouraged from such explorations another day.

Back awhile I resigned myself to having lost the whole month of February, when a few days of illness morphed into a lingering head cold and a disorienting case of muted hearing. Back in the good old days when I went to the doctor primarily to silence people insisting I had the flu - despite a marked lack of symptoms – and to be assured my ears would eventually drain, as was the case. Life was so simple then.

It should have been training but not going out because I felt lousy, and not going out because there is nowhere to go, are two radically different animals. I tell myself I am lucky to be here, where I have only to step out the door to find my dog lying in the moonlight, or walk out in the pasture where I think the horses are ignoring me until I feel a bump and the youngest has sneaked up behind me, hoping for a treat, settling for a pat, or go for a drive and see the ocean so close to the road. We have all manner of electronic communication, and I can make an old-fashioned phone call and confess my fear of little birds to someone in good health who fears the flu every year and we can laugh that we weren't both done in by the bird flu.

Today's virus is not a hurricane or blizzard, not a storm with a defined backside and that uncertainty is a plague unto itself.