We all respond to certain sounds.
Down the street from us, the village fire station blasts a siren for emergencies. Like it or not, we hear it loud and clear, as volunteers race to their post. Hardly front-line responders ourselves, our hearts beat with concern, nevertheless.
Our neighbors Rob and Beth also stand ready, listening.
But their siren call is a chirp.
While the sound seems innocent to us, it’s a hotline appeal to them.
Something about their house is a beacon, although I think they are the true lure.
Rob appears ordinary enough in his standard knit shirt and jeans, but wildlife senses him attired in shining armor, clinking his way to their salvation. Recently he rescued a young downy woodpecker that slammed into the window. After picking it up, the bird clung to him for all it was worth until it caught its breath and flew off.
And Rob gallantly escorted the local peacock across our busy street after it wandered into his yard. When the bird needed to return to the other side, he did not refuse Rob’s watchful presence.
Although Beth typically wears jeans and a sweatshirt, the animal kingdom reads: bonnet, apron with big pockets, and a reassuring voice that sets things straight, no matter what. In other words, Mother Goose.
A cardinal once flew into the window where Beth usually sits. It collapsed into the bush below. She rushed out and picked him up. He was breathing but dazed and rested in her hand while she carried him to the fence, placing him safely. Eye to eye, Beth waited until he collected himself and flew away.
Beth often drinks tea on her porch and was surprised when a hummingbird decided to join her–flying straight into the screen, lodging its tiny beak. His panicked wing flapping simply could not loosen him, so she slowly slid the door open and stepped outside. Placing her hand around the delicate body, she eased it free, softly explaining that all would be well. Ever so gently she tossed him up and off.
One spring, a robin repeatedly hit their dining room window. No amount of chirping or crashing could convince him that his plight was hopeless. “It just breaks your heart,” Beth said. So they hung sheets on the inside of the window to save him from himself. No longer able to see his reflection (?) or some appealing interior thing (?), he finally flew on.
One April 1st, Beth heard something definitely alive and large in the chimney. She called Rob at work, and he hurried home. They determined by the sound that it was a duck. Stuck, unable to fly upward. Beth draped the opening with a blanket; Rob opened the flue. Reaching up, he caught a flustered female wood duck and released her outside. To assure his co-workers that it was not an April Fool’s Joke, he returned with evidentiary feathers.
But squirrels chirp, too.
Beth spotted a baby one, all alone in the yard, when her cats alerted her. They desperately wanted out to investigate it. She stopped cooking dinner, cautiously approached the frightened squirrel, tucked it into her sweatshirt front pocket, and returned to the kitchen. With dinner prepared, she took the animal outside, settling it safely in the crook of a tree, adding a handful of seeds. A few days later, wearing the same sweatshirt, Beth stood in the yard with a neighbor. Suddenly that little squirrel appeared, scampered up Beth’s leg, and grasped her sweatshirt.
And why not.
Cliff and I have lived a lot of places and had many neighbors, but none have ever been like Rob and Beth whose lives are a whirring 911 call from outdoors.
They did not sign up for this duty.
They could ignore those tiny eyes and flailing feathers.
But they don’t.
Not Rob and Beth.