e-mail tom wolf :

Quanta Graviton

December, 1996

I feed, or have fed, nuthatches (two types), chickadees (two types), dark-eyed juncos of the Oregon race, evening grosbeaks, finches (several types), Steller jays, scrub jays, pine siskens, red-winged blackbirds, spotted towhees, starlings, northern flickers, golden-crowned kinglets, downy and hairy woodpeckers, and a covey of 30 or 40 California quail who live in a nearby meadow and walk comically up the road to eat seed which has fallen from our third-story feeding stations to the ground.

I have raised up a sizable and diverse local population through the efforts of my own hands and the peanut-butter vats, 50-lb bags of corn and sunflower seed which Cat hauls home (sometimes as frequently as weekly.) Jays have taken food from my hands, and chickadees land on my hat when I'm outside painting. At least one local farmer has taken to calling me "birdman," and the girls downstairs come to me when they find sick birds.

The winter kills here. Those born too late in the summer season have no strength to withstand the freezing rains and snow. They fall to owls, hawks and neighborhood felines (Cat's is belled, now.) They weaken slowly, across several days, losing their sleek shape and falling into looser, round configurations of feathers--once again taking the form of fledgelings. Their breath labors, their anus swells red and they vomit mixed phlegm and seed. This is when they come to me.

Cat brought me a cage, which has been converted into a terminal ward for my friends who have become to weak to fly. Our efforts have become increasingly sophisticated over time--now we have antibiotics and vitamins, which, if they will not or cannot drink themselves, I feed to them by hand through a small glass eye-dropper. When they manage to bring up some of the fluid which drowns their lungs, I wipe it from their beaks and feathers gently with a dampened cloth. I stay with them until they die, sometimes I hold them and cry. Without exception, the last thing they do in life is to try and fly. Spirit is not subject to Gravity.

This has happened too many times, my heart withers at the thought of how much winter is yet to come--how much death. My friend Troy reminded me that the painter Morris Graves once said birds inhabit a space without Karma. He told me that an early death may be a price paid for the gift of flight.

I am not a bird.

wolfhome (any den of my pack . . . )

Some Accumulated Impressions