the day we decided to hatch an egg
alleys are not where you want to drop your egg. alleys, being back-of-the-way ribbons of potholed pavement, are where kids learn to ride bikes, where cars and pickup trucks rumble along, where trash is dumped into cans (except when the wind blows, and the trash up and escapes from the cans, tuck-pointing the backways in detritus). alleys, too, are the connective tissue between one block and the next. in our alley, we have the occasional gathering. we swap tales of tomatoes. we chase runaway cats and fluffy dogs. we’ve even had summer theatre, right there in the alley.
truth is, the alley is very much a place of everyday business.
and so it was, as i was ambling down the alley the other day, to catch up on neighborhood news, when down i glanced and saw what at first looked like a mushroom. a mushroom sprouted right there on the dark gray asphalt. how very odd. what a curious mushroom. thank goodness, my first impulse wasn’t to kick, but rather to squat and inspect.
the mushroom, i soon realized, was something i’d never before held in my hand. ever. it was a wee tiny egg, a bird’s egg. not cracked, not one little bit. (an astonishing fact, considering it had plopped from the sky to the hard plane of the alley.) it was perfect and whole and, by the relative weight of it, enfolding the start of a little bird life.
right away i looked up, scanned the limbs and the heavens. figured a mama bird must be searching high and low for that egg, that egg i had suddenly, unsuspectingly, come upon. the egg that — i swiftly decided — now depended on me. like that, i scooped up the orb, all spotted with paint dabs of earthy brown. i marveled at the backwash of palest blue, a blue i quickly decided only God would have in God’s paint pot.
and then i ran, cradling that shell that harbored a wee little life. i ran and did what i do whenever there’s a nature emergency: i dialed the original mother nature, my very own mama.
days later, and i am still chuckling about the first words that spilled and the instructions that followed. in the annals of my mama’s story, there will be long litanies of these tales, the times she all but insisted we make like a mama rabbit/bird/squirrel and save the poor darlings. get up through the night. find a small dropper. lay rags in a shoebox, make it all soft.
and so it was with this latest dropping from heaven.
her instruction unfurled without pause. it went nearly verbatim like this: “you’ll have to pretend you’re mama bird. make a nest. get something soft, a rag, a towel, an old shirt. go outside and get some grass. oh! this is exciting! get a lightbulb. it’ll need to stay warm. oh, but will we be able to feed it once it hatches? but, oh, just to watch it happen!”
while i whirled about the house, grabbing soft rags, dispatching the boys to fetch grass by the fistful, my mama got to work identifying said egg. at first, she suspected a brown-headed cowbird. “they don’t build nests,” she informed, “they drop their egg in someone else’s nest.” or in the alley, apparently. then, she revised her hypothesis. decided it was probably a sweet little house finch, as i have droves of those flitting about my yard.
and that’s when the kid who’s 6-foot-3 wondered aloud if he should make like horton, the elephant of dr. seuss fame who faithfully hatches an egg. the elephant tricked into incubatory role when mayzie the mama bird flits off to palm beach, leaving behind a tree-top orphan. horton the elephant who famously intones: “i meant what i said, and i said what i meant. an elephant’s faithful, one hundred per cent!”
alas, we can’t claim 100-percent faithfulness at our house (nor did my firstborn decide to squat on the egg), i am chagrined to admit. we stuck with it for awhile, an admirable while. but then, night fell, and with it, shadow. we couldn’t figure out how to rig up a bulb, without frying said egg, so we’d been skootching the egg, and its makeshift nest, from sun spot to sun spot. i felt my heart drop, more than a wee little bit, when i finally surrendered. when i realized i’d not be the adopted house-finch mama.
and while i now have a beautiful breathtaking wonder tucked on my nature tableau, i also have this: one more lesson from mama nature, the very one who birthed me. the one who all my life has been trying to teach this one holy truth: be vigilant. be undaunted. be the caretaker of wonder. it’s all around. and every once in a while God will tap you on the heart, and ask you to be its midwife.
midwife of wonder, one blessed calling.
what are your favorite tales of times you heeded the call, to be midwife, co-pilot, first lieutenant of wonder?
You are Mother Earth
Andrea Lavin Solow Sent from my iPad
merely a pupil thereof……
Highly doubt that your first impulse is ever to “kick” rather than “squat and inspect.” I love that you called your mother. The egg is so very beautiful, indeed, the color “only God would have in God’s paint pot.” I am sorry it didn’t hatch, but glad you have saved it in your treasure-altar.
The only time I was called upon to save a wee life, I was driving when something THUMPED hard against the car. I stopped and got out to have a look. It was a bird, stunned … had hit the side of the car. I didn’t know then that if you just move them to a safe place, they often spontaneously recover. So I scooped it up in a towel from the trunk and drove her/him to the nearest animal hospital… where s/he did, indeed, recover.
Now when I hear a bird ka-thunk against the window, I watch to be sure nothing eats him/her until his/her get-up-and-go kicks back into gear. 🙂
and i LOVE that you scooped up the stunned little bird, and tenderly carried him/her to the animal hospital. there is a special line in heaven for those who ferry the injured — be it feathered or scaled or hard-shelled or clothed. can you imagine flying into a car, and being able to once again take to the updrafts? xoxo
Oh goodness, what loving care you lavished on that tiny, perfect egg… Bless you, you did everything humanly possible to rescue it. Some things, alas, can never be…
Last spring, a momma cardinal raised her brood in the Japanese maple outside our kitchen window. After discovering the nest while trimming branches, Jeff peeped in to count three eggs. We watched with delight as one, then two nestlings appeared and fledged. After the nest had been abandoned for several days, I wondered and wondered what had become of the third egg, so I climbed a ladder to have a look. In the empty nest was the forlorn little unhatched egg… I tenderly scooped it up and carried it inside to show Jeff. I keep the lovely blue-green egg in a little nest on a high shelf and consider it one of my treasures. Who knows what caused it not to hatch? Even in Charlotte’s Web, the goose had an egg that didn’t hatch… Nature’s ways are a mystery to me.
Would love to see a snapshot of your precious rescued egg. Thank you for trying to save it! xxoo
Oh I love that you saved your little treasure. Ours is pictured up above, the speckled orb inside the dinner napkin. Do you see it amid the folds of the blue damask?
Silly me — I galloped so eagerly into your words, I failed to register the image! The egg is beautiful. xoxo