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Up A Tree


It happened while I was rolling the garbage can out to the curb. (To be clear, it was Garbage Day, I wasn’t just pushing our trash around for fun or exercise.) It was a moment – a split second, really -- where everything just came together, or in this case, fell apart, for one of the two characters in the scene.

As I turned to go back into the house, I looked to my right at the very instant something fell out of the large maple tree in our front yard. It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t insignificant either, that fact proven by the “thunk” that accompanied its awkward landing.

I stopped for a moment, not stunned just curious, and then decided to eyeball the situation up close. Upon arrival, I saw it was a bird, now – and presumably recently – deceased.

Now, before I get too far into this, I’d like to state that this story (and that’s a loose interpretation of this account) has very little plot, virtually no point or moral, and as I reflect on it, no valid reason to be told. But, it happened, I thought it a bit strange, and so now I’m telling it to you.

Not knowing exactly what to do, I crouched down to make sure the bird was dead, as though I’d have any idea how to treat an injured but “not yet dead” bird, though I’m sure there are thousands of YouTube videos on exactly this topic (and other less “savory” topics that no doubt appear when one types “What do I do with/for an injured bird?” into the Search window).

After confirming the bird’s “state,” I looked up into the tree. What was I looking for? No idea. Maybe the bird’s next of kin, the perpetrator or a clue to the heinous crime that led to this animal’s demise.

Seeing nothing but leaves, I returned my attention to the bird, who seemed to be just as dead – if not more – than seconds prior. Then, I had a thought, actually two thoughts, about coincidence.

My first thought was, “What are the chances that I would be present and looking at the very instant that a dead bird fell out of a tree?” In the “cause of death” scheme of things for birds, I would think “falling out of a tree” would be rather rare. I mean, if a bird loses its balance on a branch 20 or 30 feet off the ground, you’d think it would have plenty of time to correct its course and start flying, right?

So, then I started wondering how it died. Was a predator lurking in the tree? Again, I crouched down to check for signs of “foul play,” and seeing none, I determined that this bird must have died of natural causes, again having no idea what “natural causes” lead to death for a bird. Or, maybe it had a chronic condition like untreated diabetes or clogged arteries. Who knows these days?

That brought me to my second thought: “How fortunate for me that this happened on garbage day.” I know, too soon, but you have to admit, if you find a dead animal on your property, you do NOT want it occupying your garbage for days on end.

And with that, I straightened up and went back into the house, planning to scoop up the bird a bit later (when it was – for lack of a more clinical term – “stiffer” and therefore easier to scoop into a plastic bag), and throw it into the garbage.

With that, I went on with my morning, fully aware that our garbage is typically picked up early to mid-afternoon, giving me plenty of time to get out there and get the job done.

About an hour later, I decided to mow the lawn, so I grabbed a plastic bag from the kitchen closet and headed to the garage, where I retrieved a small shovel, the tool of choice for scooping up and disposing of small, dead animals. (By the way, I can tell you’re envious of the wild and decadent life I lead, full of mysterious deaths, garbage collection and lawn care.)

To my surprise, when I arrived under the tree, the bird was gone (cue dramatic organ music), and once again, I found myself standing there, looking at the ground. And once again, I had two thoughts.

The first thought was, “Maybe that bird wasn’t dead after all,” though I remember looking at it for some time to make sure it wasn’t breathing.

My second was, “If it was dead, and I’m pretty sure it was, who or what took it?” That, to me, was the interesting part. (The simple fact that “that was the interesting part” of the story confirms what I mentioned earlier about this account having little to no plot or reason to be shared.)

At that moment, I was interested because now I was speculating about what had come through our yard during that hour I was away. Or more to the point, was the killer in the tree but hiding until I left the scene so it could scoop up its victim?

What I concluded as I fired up the lawn mower was that Nature has a plan, and while we’re part of it, we don’t always have to understand how it works, and sometimes, maybe it’s better if we just keep our noses, our shovels and especially, our plastic bags out of it and let it do its thing.

© 2020 David R. Haznaw

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© 2019 David Haznaw