The Pigeon + The Nox: On Awareness, Responsibility, and The Most Fragile Of Loves
It has been a long week. Finally it’s Thursday. Finally, it’s almost over.
The weight of my Nike bag made the walk up the stairs a teeter-totter, and I was planning on creating the kale salad to end all kale salads. And believe you me, I know a kale salad.
I gym-tote-hobbled to my car on the third floor and immediately saw a pigeon no more than 3 feet away from my little silver car. And as I walked closer, it wouldn’t budge. My first thought was that it was wounded, but as I inched closer it slowly centimeter’d away to reveal something even worse: a round white egg.
There it was, sitting on the cold concrete saturated in car exhaust and caked sweat, surrounded by no more then 10 to 15 twigs: a last attempt at some sort of shelter, some sort of home, some sort of safe haven. I stopped in my tracks and gasped. Careful not to move, I watched the mother bird, this little creature probably both on guard and terrified. Slowly, literally by millimeters at a time, it eased back on top of the egg. It fluffed its feathers, just like in a Pixar movie*, and slowly, so slowly, settled back down on its baby.
I broke down.
My first thought was to call the Wildlife Waystation, even though it was 8 PM and they were probably closed and they are out in Temecula or something ridiculous. I called anyway – visions of my field trip in first grade and the baby bunny fiasco of 1995 (story for another time) came flooding back to me as I thought, it’s their job to be empathetic. It’s their job to know.
They were open – yay! – and a guy no older than me answered with no clue what was about to be spewed out on the other end of the line. I explained my scenario – parking lot – pigeon – nest – Equinox – and judging by his silence, he probably thought I was clinically insane. He directed me to animal care services, whose voicemail directed me to their emergency hospital, whose voicemail directed me to a recording about birds, which mentioned absolutely nothing about a nest, an egg, or a parking lot in the middle of Sepulveda Boulevard on the third floor of a luxury gym. I called my parents (who are used to my empathetic cries) and Jen (who I knew would empathetically cry with me). There was nothing I could do. I sat there, scared of how unaware everybody is around me that nobody would probably even notice; that the man hired to clean the gargantuan garage overnight would hose the nest and egg and bird away; that a car would run it over early the next morning; that someone who didn’t know any better or think to know any better would try to move the egg and the mother would never come back.
Jen texted me her friend Lynne’s brilliant – BRILLIANT – idea that I should get cones. I went down to the first level by the maintenance closet and found three cones, then one upstairs by a pile of trash and broken plastic bins. I sanctioned it off, startling the mama in the process, yet she never went more than four feet away, watching me with untrusting beady eyes.
Then I saw him: the security guard. I walked up to him, tear-stained and tired, prefacing with the fact that I was probably clinically insane. When he told me the cleaning man was coming in an hour, my heart sank. I wanted to stay there all night.
But major kudos to Equinox, you’ve hired a top-notch security dude: I don’t know if it was his kind heart or the pressure of the tears running down my makeupless cheeks, but I’ll be damned if that man was not invested after twelve seconds of talking with me. “You should put up a sign!” and next thing I knew, he was handing me scotch tape and assuring me he would tell the maintenance crew not to mess with it. I waited for the scared shitless pigeon to return to her egg, and slowly, deep breath, one hour later, I drove away.
I don’t know why I had such an intense emotional reaction. Crying harder than I had in months, uncontrollably, just sitting, just waiting for I don’t even know what. I felt an obligation to this mama bird and its baby; who else would notice? Who else would think of their safety, of preserving their connection, of their tiny heartbeats? If I left, maybe no one. If I left, I would have this nagging feeling I had let another living being down. That I could have done something but didn’t.
That moment when I hovered so close to the haphazard twigs I feared the mom would be scared off for good, that little eternity when the security guard (Ray; I should be respectful and call him by his name) unrolled a strip of tape long enough to wrap around the metal-wire fence, he watched me with awe: “Most people wouldn’t even notice.”
Is it pretentious to reference my own writing?
Because here’s the thing:
We run things over and call them roadkill. We say it’s just how life is, it’s just how this world is, it’s just what happens. But guess what? It’s not. It is but it is SO not. Things get run over and we keep going and we forget. I just can’t help it. I feel like I am walking – driving – through a ghost.
Just because we don’t understand doesn’t mean they don’t hurt. Just because they got in our way doesn’t mean there was no fear.
Why have we not been able to fix this yet? We’ve displaced these little guys. It’s survival of the fittest – we’ve evolved in ways that allow us to build freeways, commission strip malls, lop off whole chunks of mountain to develop a community of condominiums. Most of these tiny creatures are born into it.They did not know the trees, the acorns, the Disney-esque thickets. They just know the concrete and the luxuries of our world. The light posts are their trees – the moldy Subway their acorns – Sepulveda Blvd their thicket. Our asphalt world is not where they are supposed to be yet we just expect them to be there. And they don’t know how to adapt. They don’t know that an airplane is not a bird and a car won’t just leap over them like a rabbit. They just don’t know.
It made me so sad, like with roadkill, like with the squirrels I see running up the light posts and the rat traps in the garage. This sweet little bird – and I don’t even like birds! I saw the way it hovered closeby even when it got scared. It would not fly. It would not dart. It took careful steps, it kept one eye on its egg and one eye on the impending danger; I saw how she fluffed and pillowed her feathers and how as she sat down ever so carefully she cocked her head down to the side to check that everything was just.right.
We all have something to love. Something we protect, something SO. FRAGILE. it is worth the risk of the careless drivers and the leaf blowers and the hoses that water everything down so it looks immaculately innocuous; it’s safer that way. We might not be able to understand it all, but we can still respect and revere.
No love is too small, no nest is too careless, no responsibility is too insignificant.
At the very least, we can be aware.
*P.S. I named it Kevin.