'There’s a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 't is not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. Since no man has aught of what he leaves, what is 't to leave betimes?'Chris Chester, author of Providence of a Sparrow: Lessons from a Life Gone to the Birds, a meditation on his life with B, an English Sparrow which he raised from a hatchling fallen from the nest, died suddenly early this past Spring. His nephew Marc Mowery has created Chris Chester - born May 14, 1952 died April 17, 2007 to his memory and has posted 6 of 8 short videos of Chris and Rebecca Chester and the sparrow named B on YouTube.
Mornings begin with "war bird." usually. sometimes he's not in the mood or I can't deal with it, drugged as I am from too little sleep, trying to reacquaint myself with the rigors of consciousness, confused by sunlight flouncing through the windows. But B's desperate when it's spring and swoops the room, turning, as Yeats would have it, in a widening gyre. Up to the mirror, tail flicking he checks, I think, his look. I move to the bed and he to the top of the towel-draped television. That tail: flick, flick, flick. Wings akimbo, beak parted a little, he assesses my opening gambit in a game that is our first rite of the day. "Bad, messy bird," I say, sweeping my hand back and forth across the bed. "Toss him outside; that's where he belongs. Just look at this room; germs, poop, and seed everywhere. To hell with birds, especially house sparrows." More flicks, a quick evacuation to lighten his load, and down he bears in a rush of wings, chirping, nipping my fingers, following quickly and precisely whatever reversals and arcs I make with my hand. I surrender at last, chastened for my slander. B struts atop my lifeless fingers, savoring his win. He dances and bows, chirps and pants. "Fierce, brave bird," I say, "you've slain your enemy, you've bested the foe."
He flies to his water dish to drink, and I sit on the little couch by the window. He'll join me presently and preen, working wing feathers first and then his black bib. Every few seconds he raises his head, scanning for cats and hawks that will never come. Small creatures are cautious, the burden of being prey seldom laid down. During his first
year he would flinch when light, glinting from a passing car, moved across the ceiling stirring racial memories of death from above. He has since learned to ignore it. He stretches his wings and combs them with his toes, wing and leg extending completely-a movement that has about it a sense of tai chi forms perfectly rendered. Often he sits on my shoulder to do this, just as often in the palm of my hand or perched on a finger. I can see his tongue, a pointed, triangular affair, working the plumes into the svelte vanes that form each contour feather. His beak reseals the barbules by zipping them together.
His grooming habits are as fascinating to me now as when I first became privy to them. Since his arrival as a naked blob of flesh in my flower beds, he's claimed my attention in a way that few other things ever have. I may be adrift in a limitless universe, but this bird on my shoulder drifts with me. At least once a day I catch him looking at his feet as if he's noticed them for the first time. Three toes in front, one in back, they seem (measured in human terms) large for his body. He looks at his feet, and I look at him, a circumstance more remarkable to my here-and-now than a billion galaxies spiraling outward to some
unfathomable denouement. Two citizens of a shared reality eyeing one another's improbable fortune.
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