Feathered Time


My Christmas Tree is still up. Time to do all that needs to be done is slim; I guess that’s why the task of taking the tree down never finds its way on the “To Do” list. I don’t mind that it’s up, really. A couple decades past, while living in Japan and experiencing a rough patch in my life, I left the Christmas Tree up until May. I needed comfort and inspiration. A few sun-bleached ornaments from that time continue to adorn my tree in the states; a reminder of the bravery and courage I am, surprisingly, capable of. Classes are back in session at the college where I work. I’ve limited myself to teaching only three courses so I will have more time for everything else I love. I find it difficult to keep the things I do separated. Maybe your life is like that too. All my interests seem to fold in on each other, whether they relate to one another or not. I guess it’s me, the only relative factor that pulls them together. Yesterday, while sitting at the dining room table and formatting my grade book to accommodate the new students this semester, I heard a sound very similar to a tennis ball tap against the patio door glass. When I looked up, I saw nothing but knew what had happened. I walked to the door and looked down at the deck. Oh no . . . A lump of Chickadee lay still, her right wing outstretched and her left wing tucked beneath her. Her eyes were closed. The hawk silhouette I sympathetically affixed to the glass panel in the door has worked very hard over the years to keep most birds away from devastating injury or death by window, but it isn’t 100 per cent fool proof. The tiny, Carolina Chickadee had made a foolish flight error. Now, it all depended on how hard she hit. The wildlife rehabilitator in me was summoned. If there was no internal damage and she just knocked herself out, she might make it. I knew I had to give her time. If she were still alive, picking her up would be an inexperienced and over zealous move on my part, posing more risk to a possible recovery. In her vulnerable state, the feeling of a huge human hand wrapping around her would be too stressful for the little songbird’s high-strung heart, and that could kill her. The best things for me to do were stand watch for any free roaming cats and give her more time. The sun had shone on the deck all morning, so I knew the boards beneath the injured Chickadee’s body were warming her. I waited, watched and reflected on a woodpecker that smacked hard into the glass many years ago. He lay lifeless for over an hour. Thinking he had expired, I placed him in a shoebox and left it on the outside table, giving me time to finish a task in the house. When I returned, the box was scooting all over the tabletop. What a thrill it was to open that box and see him fly beyond the tree line. I could only hope it would be the same for the wild-child Chickadee. Time passed and although an occasional breeze stirred her soft feathers, she otherwise did not move. I began thinking the impact might have been harsh enough to tear an air sack or crush the hollow bones in her chest, but in an unexpected and sudden surge upward she flit and quickly lit on the hot-tub cover. Looking somewhat dumb-founded, the usually active flyer stood still, repetitively blinking and seemed to be shaking off the ill-flighted maneuver. Her stance was straight, no head tilt, both wings folded neatly at her side, her feathers dry, and both legs and feet displayed normally. There appeared to be no concussion, bleeding or neurological damage. She took only a few more moments to gather her wits before darting to the shelter of a Bradford Pear tree. I love spending time on happy endings, don’t you?


Linda Bergman-Althouse,

‘Doer’ of many things


The “Red” State

I find reading events and book signings thoroughly enjoyable activities along the winding road in ‘author world.’ Meeting like-minded folks around the bend who appreciate and share the same interest, passion and intense commitment toward protecting our environment and conserving wildlife is thrilling. However, I also find the ‘unknown factor,’ like meeting people who think nothing like me and who object adamantly to my conservation views, exciting as well, in an intriguing way. Those experiences I take on as opportunities to educate. I haven’t run into many I’ve offended, but it happens. During a book distribution stop over the holidays a man asked, “Do you know where you are?” The silent question ‘Do I NOT know where I am?’ pulsed through numerous neuronal axons, spastically hurdling synaptic gaps in the right frontal lobe of my brain, but I answered “I think so.” The tall man with the stern face towered over me as he said, “This is a ‘red’ state.” All things red immediately raced through my mind. Red Rover, Red Rover, didn’t South Carolina ask me over? How about ‘Little Red Corvette’ or ’99 Red Balloons?’ Does he not notice my red hair? I had a feeling that whatever he was about to say next was going to be less than pleasant. I braced myself with a smile and internally ordered ‘Shields UP!’ He proceeded. “We’ don’t take kindly to liberal . . . socialist . . . tree huggers heya.” I’d never describe myself as a liberal or a socialist, but I will embrace tree-hugger. He continued by saying, “Let me give you an education, little woman.” My table had been turned. He told me how my “views conflict with everything ‘we’ progressive South Carolinians are all about. If it takes trees coming down and animal habitats lost, so be it. Progress means development and vice versa.” It was odd how he believed he possessed the knowledge and right to speak for ALL South Carolinians, because I know fellow wildlife rehabilitators and friends, from my neighboring state of South Carolina, who are also actively involved in environmental issues. Guess he wasn’t aware of that. From my 65″ frame, my ears perked respectfully skyward to listen attentively to his words of aggravation. I watched his face contort in disgust and couldn’t help but think ‘he must be a developer and wants to set me straight (from his point of view, of course).’ He’s afraid my little book may influence some caring group to rally behind saving our natural resources, which could possibly result in a negative factor for his wallet. My book had crashed into a nerve; a hot nerve that became so riled the man spent valuable moments of his day explaining to me what he thought about my perspective and recommended I revisit my cause. In moments like this I always wonder how other authors handle the controversy they go on record creating. But for me . . . on that day . . . the more he talked, the more elated and powerful I felt. I wanted to jump up and down, spin and yell ‘YAHOO,’ because I knew it had happened!~! My downeast, North Carolina story had already made a difference! Still smiling, I thanked him for his opinions, shook his hand and asked if he’d like an autographed copy of my book, “Save Them All.” He said, “No.”

Linda Bergman-Althouse