She didn’t mean to write about hopelessness

She meant to write about the white-crowned sparrow in the neighbor’s driveway, stunned to stillness by a window-strike, easy pickings for any curious dog or cat. Darkness falling and the raccoons coming out, the unmoving bird helpless in the cooling air. She gathered the feathered warmth up in cupped hands and carried it home, put it in a box in a quiet place and left it, she supposed, to die of its invisible injuries. Was the terror of the human hand, the strangeness of the cardboard, better than swift execution by a prowling cat or raccoon?

She went about her evening ways, resisting the temptation to peer into the silent box, to confirm that the little bird was dead, as it must surely be. She climbed into bed, her heart heavy with wild creatures colliding with the human world. The deer with their dead eyes on the side of the road. The skunks and possums and raccoons smeared red across the roadway. The hawks in the wind turbines, the lead-poisoned condors, the oiled pelicans and murres, the propeller scars deep in the flesh of the whales.

She didn’t mean to write about hopelessness.

She meant to write about getting up the next morning to the silent box, readying herself for the end of this sad, familiar story. She meant to write about carrying the box outside, how light and still it was, about opening the box to a feathered explosion, the sparrow rocketing to the oak and disappearing, a miracle, back into its unknowable life.

Gwen is a quantitative researcher using insights from data to improve social service delivery at Code for America.

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