Both the dining area and the TV room had large, floor to ceiling picture windows, walls that no bird ever saw. Every time a bird hit, we’d rush outside to see if it had survived. It was a clear sign that spring had arrived whenever we started finding a larger number of robins, rather than chickadees, lying stunned and prone in the flower beds. If the birds were alive we would pick them up carefully, tucking their scratchy little feet between our hands and then holding them up, like we were cupping water to drink. The birds’ quick hearts fluttered, their small dark eyes darting back and forth, the birds were so soft and fragile, like precious babies. We were big and clumsy and could hurt them, so we had to be extra careful to be nice, to hold them for only a few moments, to pet them softly, and ultimately to set them carefully in the hedge so that when the bird was ready, it would fly away on its own.
Not too long ago I dropped by my parents house after work.
“If you’re getting a glass of wine will you get me one? It’s in the freezer,” my mom asked. Next to the bottle of chardonnay, was a little body bag.
“Did you guys have a bird hit the window?”
“It’s one of the humming birds!” my dad said, “do you want to see it?”
In their new house they also have picture windows, but these are on a second story, so the only birds that come close are those drawn in by my father’s hummingbird feeders.
“I feel a little guilty,” he said.
It was beautiful, but strange to see a hummingbird so still. My father was particularly excited that its tongue was extended out of its bill, like a stamen left after the flower petals had been stripped away. He explained to me about the coloring of the males versus the females, that this was a male.
As they feed from his feeder, they flash in the sun like gaudy living gems. Now on the dining room table it was like seeing the gimmick behind a magic trick.