I’m someone who feels deeply. That’s what makes me a great friend, listener, girlfriend, and a decent writer. I don’t think I am incredibly unique in most things in life, but one thing I think I do better than most is feel empathy.
The reason I say I feel too deeply is that I sometimes let other people’s feelings dictate my own. Those feelings aren’t always even necessarily real; for example, if I see someone eating lunch all alone, instead of immediately realizing that they might be enjoying some time to themselves to think, I make up a story in my mind about how they are unhappy about being alone because of the way they look down at the table when they take a bite of their sandwich. My heart immediately tells my head that I want to give that person a hug, and wish that it was socially appropriate to do so to make other people feel better.
There are many times in my life I have prayed to God, begging him to take a friend or family member’s pain and transfer it to myself instead. I hate seeing others hurting in any capacity, which is why my ultimate goal of writing so much is to help people feel less alone in life. I want everyone — even the people who read my blog that I haven’t met in real life — to feel like they always have me around to hold their hand through tough times.
Warning: If you don’t want to hear a sad story, stop reading now!
There, I said it. You’ve been warned.
The past ten days had been really exciting for me. As most of you know, Robert bought his first home soon after he got back from his deployment and I spend a lot of my time hanging out over there. About ten days ago I found a nest on one of the beams of his top deck. He told me excitedly that a Robin had been building her nest there for several days now, and that she had been gathering ribbons, pieces of hay, twigs, and grass to construct her little home while he worked on his yard.
I’m a huge animal lover, so I was elated to hear that we had a new little pet — and would soon have little babies to watch grow up! This was such a special gift from God, and I was going to document all of it. After all, my yard back home has a lot of baby squirrels and chipmunks, but I’ve never seen a bird’s nest so close to the ground before.
Every time I went to Robert’s I looked forward to seeing my Robin friend. She was so beautiful and sweet, and I couldn’t believe how dedicated she was to her little unborn babies. She would only leave her nest for ten minutes at a time to go out for food or to patch up her bed. I took pictures of her whenever I’d go over, and seeing her little tail feathers always made me so happy. Even though her back was to me, she would turn her head to the side to watch me out of the corner of her eye. I liked to think that she knew that I was kind too, and that she appreciated the little snacks I would sometimes leave her. After all, I was like a member of her little family, and I wanted to take care of her and her babies.
About a week after meeting our Robin friend I woke up with a start. I was at home, but my thoughts weren’t there with me. I heard the rain pouring on our roof, and I immediately felt sick. My sweet girl and her eggs don’t have any shelter from the rain, I thought. I need to fix this.
I got out of bed and hurried to get my POTS symptoms under control before I made the trip over to Robert’s house. It was a work day so he wasn’t there, but I knew I needed to go take care of our little friend. I grabbed some potential things to create a shelter with, such as a rain poncho and an oversized trash bag, and set off.
When I arrived to his home I rushed downstairs to see if she was still there. Low and behold, she was still sitting diligently on what I had imagined was a trio of light blue eggs. I smiled at her, but I knew I had work to do. A little bit of rain was coming through the cracks of the porch, but I was even more concerned with the cool temperature mixed with the dampness.
I hurried upstairs and began rearranging the deck furniture by pushing it around with my butt since my arms aren’t much of a help for heavy objects. As I was doing this, I knew I would hurt immensely the next day, but I was determined to help this innocent little animal and her family. Her needs were greater than my own, and I would rather feel like I did everything I could to help her be comfortable than have anything happen to her.
I ripped through the poncho to make it expand to it’s greatest possible size, and began sticking little objects on all four corners of the plastic to keep it from moving. I tried to place it directly above where I suspected the nest was, but it was hard to tell, as the slats were so small and it was difficult to see through the pouring rain. I was cold and wet even through my rain jacket, but all I could think about was our little pet.
After adjusting the poncho several times, the Robin flew over and perched on the fence, almost as if she was asking me, “What the heck are you doing up there, Krista?! Stop frightening my babies. We’ll be fine in the rain; God made us so that we can survive through it.”
That was when I realized my efforts, though they were well-intended, were unnecessary. I figured if it was still raining later that evening I would get some help placing the canopy above her so that I didn’t have to keep disturbing our guest.
After Robert and I saw a late showing of Guardians of The Galaxy, we trekked back to his house to relax and check on our friend. I was worried about her. I was wearing sweatpants and a windbreaker and I was cold. Cold and wet are never a good combination, and I was concerned about the possibility of hypothermia.
“Can birds catch hypothermia?” I Googled. The answer was yes, and I wondered whether or not the nest our Robin had built was as good as a typical bird’s nest. Somehow it seemed a bit strange to me that she built it on a man-made object, rather than high up in a tree, and I hoped that our bird was smart enough to trust her animal instincts.
Robert told me that we could take she and her nest into his basement if it seemed like she really needed it. I smiled at the thought, and was happy that he was either willing to humor me or genuinely wanted to take great care of this bird. Either way, I felt like I had a really great boyfriend.
We made it home and I rushed downstairs to check on her. I noticed that her tail was facing toward the door still, but she turned around to peek at me as soon as the back light went on. I smiled at her, told her she was a beautiful little bird, and to sleep well. I felt good that she looked warm and taken care of. I would be able to rest easy, and her eggs would hatch in the next few days when the sun came out again.
They didn’t, though.
Two days later as I was preparing to go to Robert’s house he texted me a heads up that he hadn’t seen our Robin in quite some time. We knew she was only supposed to leave her nest for ten minutes at a time, so it was suspect that he hadn’t seen her for 12+ hours. He said he didn’t want to tell me sooner because he had hoped she would come back home before I went back to his house.
My mind darted from one scenario to the next. Maybe she was just out searching for food? Maybe she was watching her nest from afar? Maybe Robert had just been checking at the wrong times? Deep down in the pit of my stomach, though, I knew something bad had happened. I wasn’t sure if it was only to the mother, though, or to everything that was in the nest.
I told him to peek inside the nest to see if there were eggs there. He couldn’t see, as it was too high, so I told him to take a photo with his iPhone. As he worked on that, I hung up and called the local animal shelter to see if they would have an egg incubator. Something told me that the mother bird hadn’t come back to the nest because something had happened to her while she was gone searching for food.
“Hello?” a friendly voice answered.
“Yes, hi, I know this is probably a really goofy request, but I — well, actually my boyfriend — has a bird’s nest in his backyard and the Robin who has been sitting in it has been gone for a long time and I’m afraid her eggs are going to get cold and the babies are going to die so I need an incubator to take care of them. Can you help me with that?” My sentences barely made sense and all ran together like mush.
“I’ll transfer you to the right people to help you with that,” she said, still happy despite the fact she probably thought she was speaking with a crazy person. “You’re going to be speaking with the fire and rescue department.”
I’m still not quite sure that was who she actually transferred me to, as I was feeling a bit overwhelmed at the time, but it was something to do with the fire department. I felt really bad inconveniencing them, and hoped that they had enough people manning the phones that I wouldn’t get in the way of a real emergency, but they immediately helped me get into contact with “animal control.” After explaining my situation a third time, they said that the mother would hopefully come back, but that there wasn’t really much humans could do to help in this instance. We just had to sit back and wait.
I figured this would be the case, but I wanted to make absolutely certain that I had done my part. I even went as far as to create a Facebook status asking if anyone had egg incubators, and was prepared to drain my bank account to make these fragile little eggs turn into tiny bodies that I could care for if the mother was gone for good. I would do whatever it took to take care of these birds.
That was when I got Robert’s text, accompanied by a picture.
“The nest is empty!”
What? How strange, I thought. I had considered that something might have happened to the Robin, but somehow the nest seemed safe since there were no signs of an intruder on the ground. Maybe she was just confused, I thought. Could she have been a little bit crazy and just thought that she was sitting on eggs in the nest? Maybe this Robin was a first-time mother and had just done something wrong.
My heart felt so much relief. Our girl is okay, and we didn’t lose any babies! I was happy. I would surely miss our beautiful friend, but she was probably just off to bigger and better things.
I arrived at Robert’s house a few moments later. I had been rushing over to his place because I wanted to be there to help in any way I could once we had reached the proper authorities.
I parked my car and walked happily up to his home. Even though we didn’t have any of our guardian duties left, I told him I would come wait at his house until my best friend came to pick me up for our lunch date.
When I walked inside, I greeted Robert and his friend who were just getting ready to play Madden. We had a friendly conversation, and I distractedly went to the kitchen to prepare for mine and Audrey’s best friend date. I had created a little box of presents for her and wanted the presentation to look nice when she opened it, so I rearranged everything.
“I’m going to go see if the Robin is hanging out somewhere close to your backyard!” I said as I started toward the basement stairs. The look Robert and his friend gave me was unnerving. I immediately knew they had found something that wasn’t good. In true male fashion, they went back and forth about how bad the scene was in the yard, and warned that I did not want to go back there. I felt tears behind my eyes, but I didn’t want to cry in front of them, so I said I had to meet my friend and rushed out.
I went to my car and cried. Like, the Kim Kardashian, “I just lost my $100,000 diamond earrings” kind of ugly cry. I buried my face in my hands and didn’t try to make myself stop. I called Audrey, as I knew she would understand — after all, she was the person I had left dozens of messages about our Robin to, and share everything with.
She offered some comfort, and told me she would be there soon enough so we could go out and have a better day together.
Overall I realize that losing a few baby birds isn’t an “end of the world” moment or even something that will define the rest of my life in any way. It’s unfortunately just part of the circle of life, and things like this happen every single day. I do think it’s really beautiful, though, that human beings can feel so connected to little creatures that don’t have anything to showcase except their beauty and innocence. It’s amazing that we want so desperately to protect little lives that seem so fragile and how our hearts can care so deeply for creatures that we really don’t even know very much about.
The way people treat animals and show compassion and care toward others can be one of the most incredible things life has to offer. A gentle heart can be a world-changer, even if it’s just the world of a small animal or a stranger you will never see again. For these little reasons, I think that it’s so important to give a compassionate heart to everyone you meet and always be kind. You never know when just a tiny bit of your love will offer someone the hope they need to keep pushing forward and working toward a better life.
The last thing this little bird reminded me was that life is such a fragile thing and we should appreciate every second we have with our loved ones on this earth. It may sound kind of strange, but every time I see a bird now I think of what a little miracle he is. He has overcome all of the crazy obstacles life throws at him — like inclement weather and predators — and continues to fight every single day to take care of himself and keep himself alive. The circle of life can be sad, but it’s also one of the most inspirational things I could possibly think of.
Robert has since seen our Robin sitting on his yard’s fence. He said that she looks happy, but she hasn’t made a trip back to her nest. We decided that we are going to discourage any other birds from building there since it is probably too low to the ground to really be safe from predators, but I know our Robin is going to be the mother of some sweet little red-breasted babies one day, and I’ll surely always think of her when I see a robin in the wild.