For the Birds

Where’s all that Peace and Quiet I was Promised?
April 3, 2012

Writers can back me up on this; you need to find yourself a suitable spot to write, where your creative juices can flow undisturbed. Not necessarily a quiet place, but one where your thoughts can linger on a good idea, a clever element of plot, a character’s response to their latest setback – whatever – long enough for you to write it down. Well, as one who occasionally writes from my home, I can tell you, that’s not always easy to do.

For instance, yesterday things got a little nutty around here. Soon after my wife and youngest son departed for their respective schools (my wife is a teacher), I pulled out the old laptop and was getting down to my first writing tasks of the day when I heard a fluttering, knocking, tapping sound coming from our dining room. I chose to ignore it. But soon it was joined by a similar commotion outside the window of our family room where I was working. This noise was accompanied by a flurry of shadows on the curtains, which I couldn’t ignore. Upon further investigation, it turned out that birds were violently attacking our windows.

We faced a similar situation a couple of years ago. Back then it was a single bright red cardinal, sitting in a bush outside our dining room window, attacking the glass in crazed bursts of feather and fury. We figured that the morning sun was at the ideal angle for the bird to see its reflection in the window which it foolishly, but understandably, interpreted as another bird encroaching on its nesting territory. It was simply doing what it could to dispatch the brazen intruder. But yesterday it was robins, a small flock of them, attacking our house en-masse. Odd. I’d always thought of robins as such good-natured birds.

As with the cardinal, I was concerned that these robins might hurt themselves, because they were crashing with, what seemed to me, undue force against the hard glass. After all, birds are delicate creatures, right? I tried several times to shoo them away. I even drew back the curtains trying to minimize the reflections. But the silly things wouldn’t be deterred. When I stood at the window yelling at them, they would simply land in the bushes and glare back at me with an indignant “Who asked you to get involved?” look. So, after several unsuccessful attempts to scare them off, I figured, what the heck, it’s their beaks, and went back to my work. There’s only so much a guy can do.

I had just gotten settled again when the dog darted past our window. Now, we don’t have a dog, so that caught my attention. Seems some neighbour’s beagle had found its way past the gate and into our yard, and was now chasing the birds around, barking and leaping at them with joyous abandon. So I went out to our sunroom, still in my housecoat, opened a window and started yelling at the dog to go away, get out of my yard.

Well, didn’t he get all offended at this rude interruption. He stopped in his tracks, spread-eagle, dumfounded, and stared at me with wide-eyed defiance. Then he commenced to barking and yowling as only a beagle hound can, like he thought I was a bear or prowler. I was worried he was going to wake up the whole neighbourhood.

We were still yelling and barking at each other when the little kid showed up. He started gleefully toddling after the dog as it returned to chasing birds around the yard, probably thinking this was a great game. Crazed birds swooped and darted everywhere.

For a moment I considered going after the kid, but then it occurred to me that a 3 or 4 year old would have a mother nearby. So I headed to the front door and, sure enough, there was a woman on our sidewalk out front searching around with that panicked parent expression on her face. I went outside (still in my housecoat) and said that if she was looking for a lost child and dog, they were in my backyard. I told her where the gate was. She was relieved and grateful as she headed back. I forgot to tell her about the birds.

I returned to the sunroom to find the woman in my backyard waving one arm frantically over her head to fend off the birds while following and reaching out desperately for her child who was still happily chasing the dog as it bounded after the birds, of which some 5 or 6 were now flapping and squawking in feathered terror. It was surreal – as if Alfred Hitchcock had made a comedy.

Eventually the dog and kid were rounded up and carried out by their respective collars. And for a few minutes, in the ensuing silence, even the birds looked too stunned to know what to do. But, they soon recovered and went back to attacking our windows. So I gave up on them. Stupid things.

Sometimes it’s not easy being a writer.

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