Hope For the Harm We Never Intended

Building fence in the last bit of shade
on a triple digit heat index day 
in northeastern Kansas,
I guide a load of poles
through the edges of a dense cedar
at the corner of the horse pasture.

Interlaced branches catch at the ends,
bend and twist in their resistance
then give way to the push of the tractor.

A few minutes later,
B.J. spots a baby bird on the ground.
Purple and blue and wretched,
the sparsest bit of early feathers
on mostly naked skin,
gangly and helpless.

A moment later he asks,
“Isn’t that a female cardinal?”
pointing through the tangle of limbs and branches.
It takes me a while, bending and leaning
to trace along the line of his arm extending beyond his finger.
I finally see the adult bird and respond,
“Well, that, or a cedar waxwing.”

We look briefly to find the nest
but see no trace of it in the thick lacing
of needles and branches.
I slide gloved hands as gently as I can
beneath the baby bird and move it
to what I hope is a safer place near the trunk of the tree.
I find pieces of a broken nest and take the best I can of that
and wedge them into the junction of two branches.
I lift the hatchling into that and hope for a better outcome than I expect.

B.J. and I move on to wrapping nine-gauge wire
in a double-loop diagonal to connect the corner post’s base
to the brace posts on each side,
ending with heavy twists that will help resist the pull
of high-tension wire in a more permanent fence.

A few hours later,
in the slightly lower heat of dusk,
I take a saw to reduce the outer husk of the cedar
so that we can pass through on horseback
without the scratching itch of cedar branches
roughing against rein hands and slapping us in the face.

Working my way into the cedar’s own thicket,
I see the baby bird has fallen again.
It stirs at the sound of my approach,
stretching its ridiculously skinny neck
and lifting gaping beak upward.

I trigger the saw and set it close 
against the junction of trunk and stem,
trimming a few of the lowest limbs
that extend out toward the near corner of the pasture.

Moving around the felled cluster,
I am dismayed to finally find the nest,
lodged in an inner junction of the longest limb,
stems and strands interwoven,
still hosting three siblings of the fallen bird.

I go back and tenderly lift once again the lonely one,
set it back into the nest with the others.
About two feet past the fork,
I cut the branch that holds the nest
then move the whole over to the trunk.

Carefully keeping the nest horizontal,
I push the largest end into the junction of other branches,
wedging it in as gently as I can and then twisting it once again
to make it as secure as I can.

It is as much as I can do
to undo the harm that I never intended.

A half-hour later, I watch a male cardinal
with a large grub in its beak
pause for a moment on an outer branch
then disappear into the midst of the cedar.

It feels something like absolution, 
and I will take my chances with hope.

H. Arnett

About Doc Arnett

Native of southwestern Kentucky currently living in Ark City, Kansas, with my wife of twenty-nine years, Randa. We have, between us, eight children and twenty-eight grandkids. We enjoy singing, worship, remodeling and travel.
This entry was posted in Farming, Metaphysical Reflection, Nature, Poetic Contemplations, Spiritual Contemplation and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.