The baby bird must have fallen out of its nest. Maybe while trying to fly and failing; maybe pushed by a sibling or parent. Now it lies under the tree it used to inhabit, squeaking meekly, crying for help from a parent or a sibling or whatever.

I don’t know if birds have deities or if they even have hope, but if birds do have hope, I guess that baby bird is hoping for some kind of way out.

I watch it squeaking, unsure of what to do. Unsure of how and if I can or could help it. Unsure of what to feel about another life running out, fading squeak by squeak.

The eight year old me would have picked it up, run home with the small bundle of panting life pressed to my chest, put it in a shoebox on a cotton bed and tried to feed it bugs and water.

The eight year old me would have watched it slowly die despite my desperate efforts to keep it alive, would have cried rivers when the bird finally would give up and would have buried it in the back of the garden holding a funeral with songs and even more crying. My eight year old me would be sad for a couple of days, contemplating the brevity and fragility of life, but would move on and find joy and sadness in other things.

The forty-three year old me is another matter. Call me cynic, I reckon that’s what living does to you, but the forty-three year old me knows that picking the bird up, running, panting, cottoning, feeding, won’t help it much. The bird is dead, it’s just a matter of time. And all that would be left for me would be the crying, burying, funeraling (with songs and more crying), and the contemplating.

The forty-three year old me can’t run away from the contemplating whatever I do. I know about the brevity and fragility. I know about the beauty and the ugliness that is life; the pain and the pleasure; the joy and despair. The forty-three year old me know that a bit of shadow gives the image depth. That said, I also know that to much shadow makes the image into a choking blanket.

I walk away, leaving the bird; hoping for an eight year old to come by. In the end, hope is all we’ve got.