Small moments

My roommate came home this afternoon and asked when the bush on the corner had been removed. I had just been downstairs and when I looked out the window, the small, sickly bush on the corner of the dirt in front of our place was still there; still stubbornly hanging on, even if the management had taken no care of it this summer. We’d watered it, but it never looked great. The birds like it, though, as well as the squirrels.

I was surprised and said I’d just seen it when I came upstairs. “No, not the small plant. The big one on the side of the building.”

I was suprised, shocked really, and ran downstairs and outside. Where once was a big bush, three formed into one covering the cable box and overlapping the corner, there was now stubs cut low to the ground. It was awful, but what was worse were the few finch standing on the stumps looking bewildered. When I came out they took off, one female flying in circles in confusion before making a beeline for a car and hiding underneath it.

This was the habitat for our finches, those we had been feeding for over a year now. This was their home and their protection from hawks and other predators; their sanctuary. The only reason we felt we could feed the birds was knowing that they had the safe shelter of the bush in case of danger or dog or people walking by.

It was also a sanctuary for the rabbits as they made their way up the lawn from the street below, and provided a dark green accent to the brick of the building — about the only one this summer since the lawns died from the drought.

I came storming into the house and called the management office and asked why they removed the bush. The young woman who answered didn’t know but checked and came online to tell me that the maintenance was ‘removing some of the older, bigger bushes’, why she didn’t know. Maybe there was a paranoid idiot who was afraid of the shadows, because lord knows Americans jump at shadows, and hack and pick at nature until there is nothing left unknown, uncontrolled, and free.

I am ashamed to say I yelled at that young woman, though this is something I rarely do. I am a quiet person by nature, regardless of what you might think from these pages. But I yelled at her. I told her about the generations of finches who had made their home in the bush, and since they had removed the shrubs in front of our place last year, all that’s left now for shelter is the big trees–home to the hawk and the eagle. I yelled at her and said that all they do is cut down and take away.

Later I called to apologize–yes, I apologized. If I were made of the same cement that seems to pass for ‘ground’ in America nowadays, I may not have gotten so upset when I went out and saw the birds unsure of what happened to their home. Perhaps someone got annoyed because the birds shit on their cars. They rarely did, though; they were content to hang around the corner, safe in their bush. When I apologized and tried to explain why I was upset, I could hear the girl think, “they’re only finches”. Common as dirt, small, brown; you never see them unless you really look; or hear them unless you listen.

But this summer I found out that finches are a wonderful little bird–rich with personality and spirit. I could go out on a sunny morning and stand by the door and listen to the birds in the bush, and no matter how sad, feel uplifted by their sound. We had created a living, viable space in this little corner; filled with simple lives and simple sounds. And now it’s gone, and all that’s left is dead stumps and dirt.

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