Some writers have to rent a getaway in the woods so they can spend a little time writing in a quiet, peaceful setting. Not me. I live in a bucolic setting that could be regarded a writer's paradise. My home is situated in an area called The Rural Crescent and I am surrounded by acres of trees and lots of wildlife. (I am mainly referring to the wildlife outside my home.)
My environment is utterly silent except for the tiniest bit of white noise emitted by my computer and the sounds of nature leaking in from the great outdoors when my windows are open.
But sometimes my windows aren't open and then I must contend with the sound of my local cardinal hurling himself at my window for fifteen minutes at a time. (A bird, not a priest. When priests begin hurling themselves against my windows, I usually move.)
Anyway, the cardinal attacks occurs daily! The poor fellow is suffering from PTSD due to a horrible snake incident involving one of his offspring a few years ago and now he desperately wants to live inside my house.
Mr. Cardinal always sits on the window ledge and pecks to get my attention. When I look at him, he gives me a look as if to say,
"Let me in will ya? Don't make me dive bomb you!"
And then he proceeds to dive bomb the window over and over and over. It's a bit maddening—not unlike Chinese water torture—but like I said, he has PTSD, so I do my best to ignore his pesky behavior. (He's banging the window as I write this . . .)
I have a harder time ignoring the flock of woodpeckers that want to pound my house to dust in this little "writer's paradise" of mine. I frequently have to run outside and yell at them to make them leave.
And I can't entirely ignore the owls, who like to make weird sounds before it gets dark. In fact, we can't let the cat outside at twilight because she looks like a large bunny and could get snatched up for dinner.
My bunny cat.
Yesterday was a beautiful spring day, so I had the windows and french doors open to enjoy the cool breezes sweeping throughout the house. I knew it was a bad idea, because birds usually fly inside when offered that kind of access (except for our shell-shocked cardinal who only attempts entry through closed windows). Our ceilings are 28 feet high so, inevitably, I end up running through the house and catching birds with a butterfly net that my husband attached to a 12ft. telescoping pole for such indoor pursuits.
All day long, the bird activity was fierce, likely due to the good weather and the recently filled birdfeeders. By mid-day, I was marveling at how much of a racket the birds were making. All of them seemed to be communicating something of great importance. It was an absolute cacophony of bird noise. It made me start thinking about the movie The Birds. What on earth would I do if they all suddenly turned on me and flew into my house?
Then I got curious about what inspired the 1952 book The Birds. I abandoned my manuscript-editing to google around for an answer and I found two Birdspirational sources.
The book's author, Dame Daphne Du Maurier, once observed a flock of seagulls following a plow on a farm. Suddenly she found herself thinking "What if the birds attacked?" and a book was born.
Alfred Hitchcock optioned her story for his film after a freak bird incident in California in 1961. Poisoned by toxic plankton, dying birds began falling from the sky and frantically flying into people's windows and homes. (Like I said . . . Inspirational!)
One police officer, Ed Cunningham, was caught in a hailstorm of falling birds and waited it out by staying inside his squad car.
"They were big birds and they were falling so fast and hard they could have knocked me senseless. I thought I had better stay in the car and that's just what I did."
That story sounded almost as creepy as the movie. Nevertheless I was undeterred by the possibility of a bird attack, leaving my windows and doors open as I returned to my work. Miraculously, I had no winged trespassers.
Until . . .
Late in the day, something swooshed by my head but it was moving so fast I didn't even notice it whizz by me. But I did notice a loud wing-flapping commotion on the handrail from the loft above. I looked up to see a pair of outstretched wings that looked distinctly hawk-like, but I immediately dismissed the notion because the bird appeared to be too small.
I sighed and made my way up to the loft to catch yet another bird.
The poor thing panicked upon my approach and dove for the window. But our windows are three stories up, so we have safety railings. Hence, the birdy trapped itself.
I had my trusty butterfly net in hand, but I couldn't use it because of the bars. The bird escaped a few times but it kept flying back to the window and getting re-snagged in the railings. Finally I decided to scoop it up with my hand. I momentarily considered gloves, but what could a little beak really do?
Apparently, remove a thumb!!! I found that out later.
I scooped up the left wing, clasping it gently against his/her body. I spoke softly and stroked the top of its head a couple of times before reaching with my right hand to untangle his other wing.
And that's when it BEAKED me! But not fiercely. It was more like a "Hey! What the crap are you doing? Be careful there!" kind of a peck. Fortunately, I think it sensed that I was trying to help, so it decided not to rip my finger off. So I tired again. I re-approached its right wing from a rear angle, far away from the beak, and scooped it up to carry downstairs. Its little heart was pounding in my palm, but it didn't struggle. (I think it liked me.) Then I snapped a photo or two to text to my husband and kids before taking it outside and setting it free.
My text was met with immediate responses and phone calls. My son called and screeched, "Mom, are you crazy? That was a HAWK! It could have ripped your thumb off with its beak. So cool! You should have kept it!"
My husband texted to let me know that he had sent the photo to a friend who was a bit of a bird expert. The verdict? Our hawk was actually a Peregrine Falcon, capable of reaching speeds of over 200 mph when it dives for prey and thereby holding the title for Fastest Member of the Animal Kingdom.
And I caught it with my bare hands!
It was probably a good thing that I didn't know the birdy was a falcon because I had always been a big Fan of that awesome George Harrison-resembling Medjai warrior, Ardeth Bay, that Oded Fehr on The Mummy. I mean, who doesn't want to ride around on a horse in the desert while wearing a live falcon on their arm? And, more importantly, be able to send messages to people without having to make a trip to the post office. So had I known I had a falcon in my hand, I might have kept him/her.
Anyway, I'm pretty impressed with my falcon-wielding, even if the bird was (I suspect) a juvenile falcon. I'm just happy it wasn't a juvenile delinquent falcon because it might have torn my face off.
And the cat? She and I are now wondering if she is safe even INDOORS because, apparently, birds of prey will fly right on in without knocking first!
Days like these illustrate why it is taking me so long to finish editing my book. It's the constant banging of beaks and winged interruptions!
It's all THE BIRDS' fault people!
And if I never get a publisher for my book, I'm gonna become a falconer. I'm kind of a Fan now.
And clearly I have a gift.
Yes, he/she was still a baby!