They Fell from the Sky

They Fell from the Sky

Hundreds of them.  Eared Grebes.  The birds precipitated from inside crystalline clouds where the sunlight flashed in an infinity of ice atoms swirling and refracting in a frozen explosion of brilliance, as if the sun raged coldly right there inside the clouds.  The birds became utterly hopelessly disoriented in the icy intensity, blind, not knowing up from down.  Hundreds of grebes dropped from the mists to bounce into buildings, cars, trees, yards, and parking lots.  And there she stood, unmoving, in my parking space, her olive-brown feet stuck frozen to the ice.  My office key made a crude chisel for chopping around her toes – they bled and flaked skin already.  I wrapped her in my coat and sat her in a box by my desk, with cracker crumbs and a bowl of water.

The children begged to open the box and see what was scratching inside, and exhaled exclamations of wonder when they saw.  What IS it?  She’s an Eared Grebe.  Look at her pointy black beak, her long flaring golden feathers that look like ears, and her crimson eyes.  Do you know what you call a group of grebes?  A Water Dance!  Can’t you just picture the family flapping and paddling and splashing their delighted dance on the lake?

What are we going to do with her?  Can we fill the bath tub?  Our grebe paddled around with obvious enthusiasm.  What are we going to feed her?  How about fish!  Tub-side with a bag of goldfish, the children clamored for the privilege of feeding their bird.  Our compromise: eight hands held the bloated bag and poured.  She darted after the fish in a flash of black and gold and red, a little paddling package of magnificence.  Look at her feet – no webbing.  Look at how her toes unhinge with little retractable paddles.  Wow! came in whispers.

That needling question of what to do with the bird in the bathtub?  We would try a nearby pond, and hope for the best.  The children watched her swim away and they looked sad and happy and I sensed how singular a blessing to have welcomed that bit of living feathered grace into our human home, to release her willfully, to be moved by her wildness and beauty.  And I hoped a small sliver of that exquisiteness would stay behind in memories of hinged toes and golden ears and red red eyes, and of creatures that dance on the water.

(Image by David Mark from Pixabay.) 

Roger is the author of Rabbit Lane: Memoir of a Country Road and A Time and A Season.



13 thoughts on “They Fell from the Sky

    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      Thank you Patsy! I think you are my longest and most loyal fan! I always appreciate your support and kindness. I do wonder at times how and why some special and unusual events happen. Maybe it is only that we always are watching for them, and are ready to see them when they happen. Such experiences often ripen for years if not decades before finding their way onto paper. And a single image can require great effort. This was one of the most difficult because my task was not to merely recount an event, but to create something worthy of the image. I hope I succeeded, and take heart in your response.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Laura Denise

    Roger!! It is at the very top of my to-do-for-soul-pleasure list to explore your archives and order your books! When I read you, my muses gather ‘round like children and then beg to write reflective essays.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Roger Baker-Utah Post author

      I am so pleased and flattered by your kind words. Two writers unlocked my vision of what writing can be. The poet Mary Oliver: I read an anthology of 60 years of her poems, entitled, Devotions. The essayist Brian Doyle: I read a collection of his essays, entitled, One Long River of Song. My writing MFA son introduced me to both, and I am forever grateful. Sadly, both have passed away, but their words will continue to inspire generations. (There are two writers named Brian Doyle, one American and the other Canadian. This one is the American.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Polly

    The movement, whirling colours and drama of that opening section is great. What a delightful rescue and so lovely for the children to have this interaction with the wild and the satisfaction of releasing a wild thing back to its place in Nature. A beautiful memory for them.

    Liked by 1 person


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