During the days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (the Days of Awe) a bird came to visit my apartment. She showed up midday on Saturday; she was just there when I came back in from walking the dogs, flapping her wings against the inside of the living room window, inches away from the space where she must have accidentally come in (there’s a space next to the air conditioner that Mom uses to give the neighborhood birds their snacks). I tried to show the bird the exit, as gently as possible, but she ignored me.
I, of course, took pictures of her flying around the apartment, from light fixture to curtain rod to picture frame, thinking she would be leaving at any moment. And when I left to pick up Mom from the train (she’d been out quilting with friends for the day), I was sure the bird would be gone when we returned. But she was still there, and Mom said that she was a (female) house sparrow, based on her size and markings.
We put a few pieces of challah on the window sill in the living room, to show her the way back outside, but the bird picked up each piece of bread and flew it to her safe place (a wooden loom on top of Mom’s bookcase) and ate in peace. Then she took a nap, head curled into her neck, half hidden behind the living room curtain.
We were sure she would be gone by morning, after her meal and a long nap indoors, but she woke me up at seven thirty the next morning with a big squawk. She had ventured out of the living room at some point and found her way into my room. And decided she needed company; and that her company should be awake.
When we all decamped to the living room for breakfast, and the CBS Sunday morning show (Mom watches the whole show just to see the moment of nature at the end), the bird followed. She was very entertaining. She flew back and forth from the kitchen to the dining room to the living room, doing her own version of dog zoomies. She shared Mom’s breakfast (Mom got a picture of the bird eating challah on the kitchen counter), and pooped in all kinds of new places.
Later, the bird even followed me into the bathroom when I went to take a shower (I didn’t notice she was there until too late, but she was kind enough to wait for me on top of the medicine cabinet instead of hanging out in the shower with me. Small favors). Cricket was waiting right outside the bathroom door afterward, horrified.
By the thirtieth hour of the bird’s visit, Mom was getting worried. She’d reached out to her cyber community and was reminded of the health risks of having a wild bird in the house, because of the poop she seemed to drop any and everywhere. So we removed all traces of food from the kitchen counters, and even got rid of the bread for the outdoor birds. But the bird decided to try the kibble left in the dogs’ bowls, and then she checked the living room floor for any crumbs the dogs might have left behind. Cricket started to notice the invasion at that point, because it was one thing to have a bird flying around in the light fixtures, but something completely different to have a bird calmly walking along the floor, trying to share her food. Cricket’s food is sacrosanct, just ask Ellie.
When it was time to go to sleep for the night, the bird set herself up on her wooden loom again, and she was still there the next morning, though she was kind enough not to wake me up this time. I do prefer to sleep as late as I can.
I was seconds away from naming her (Tzippy, short for Tzipporah, Hebrew for female bird) when the bird finally left. Mom plugged the hole next to the air conditioner with a tissue, to discourage her from coming back in, but the bird seemed to have finished her visit by then and didn’t return. There had been a lot of extra squawking outside the windows that morning, maybe from her family or friends, telling her that she needed to come back out to the real world.
The depression I felt after the bird left was pervasive. I felt like we’d exiled her. Yes, she pooped everywhere, and didn’t clean up after herself; and yes, she woke me up too early in the morning; and yes, Cricket was getting annoyed with her. But she made me feel special, just by being there. She made me feel chosen.
There’s a moment in the prayer service at my synagogue where we put our arms around each other to say the Priestly Blessing, as a way to celebrate family and community ties. It took me a few years to get used to all of the touching and closeness involved in that blessing, but for the forty-some-odd hours while the bird was staying with us, I felt like she was holding out her wings to be included in our little family group: singing the blessing with us, arm in arm.
And I felt blessed, and full of awe. We focus so much on self-examination and looking for the sins we need to atone for during the High Holiday season, but the bird reminded me that sometimes there’s nothing to atone for. Sometimes your assessment can tell you that you are on track and you are loved, and that you deserve the visit of a little bird to remind you that every day can be full of awe, if you pay attention.
If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.
Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?
Absolutely, wonderful story. Beautifully written. ❤️Thank you for a true treasure
Thank you so much!
You are an amazing writer. I have downloaded the sample portion of your novel onto my Kindle, based on Mitch Teemley’s recommendation. If it’s as good as this blog, I’m buying it, even though I am nowhere close to being a “young adult.” 😀
A bird flew into our house several years ago, when we were bringing groceries in from the truck. The bird immediately went into a wild panic, flying frantically from one room to another, chirping loudly as she flew.
My husband, who has an amazing way with all animals, stood in the middle of the house and talked softly to the bird, telling her that she would be okay. She began to slow down, she stopped her frantic cheeping, and as he continued to talk soothingly to her, she finally settled down on a window sill, where she stood, trembling from head to tail.
He kept talking gently to the bird as he walked toward her and carefully picked her up in his big hands. He carried her through the house and outside, then opened his hands and told her she was free to fly.
She stood there on the palm of his hand for what seemed like at least a full minute, cocking her head and looking at him. Then, finally she flew away.
I call my husband the animal whisperer. All animals respond to him like that. Even reptiles.
Oh my goodness! That’s amazing! The bird who visited me wouldn’t let me near her. How can I train to be an animal whisperer?!
I wish I knew my husband’s secret. We’ve been married over 15 years and I still don’t know how he does it.
I bought your novel and I’m reading it now. You had me from the first sentence. My father was arrested when I was twelve.
Thank you so much!!!!
Hi Rachel (I want to call you ‘Yeshiva Girl’), First of all, I’m honored that you’ve looked at my blog, now, several times. Like you, I love to write. I also love to take pictures and marry the pictures and the words. Anyway, I really enjoyed your House Sparrow story. Could I have your permission to use it in part in a future blog? As you know, I mostly write about birds, so your story would fit right in. BTW, you may have had a young bird (male or female). Perhaps, since you discovered it around Rosh Hashanah, it was indeed a young bird!
Of course you can use the story! Thank you for the support!
Maybe you could put food on the window sill to help keep the bird going through the winter? I’m just back from Malaysia. We had a visit from a Mynah bird and all we had was some cheese and onion Pringles. S/he ate a little and then wiped their beak on the balcony railings, raised up their head feathers and spoke quite effectively to us telling us that the flavour was not to their liking.
Ha! We have bird seed out, but we’re getting a similar reaction to your potato chips. Lots of birds turning up their beaks!
The experience with the little birdie kept me absorbed. It’s so true. My mother treated a wounded bird until it got better and flew away. But when my mother was a cancer patient was bedridden the same sparrow visited her every morning and sat on the window sill. the day my mother passed away was birdie’s last visit to our home. She never came back again. her visit were gratitude to my mother
You are quite a talent, my friend.
Thank you so much!
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Rachel, Finally made use of your story. Once again, it really is a gem. I keep thinking about your words, ‘She made me feel chosen.’ I thought about exploring them in my post, but, then, that wouldn’t have made sense. Maybe in the next one. All the best, and hopefully you’ll gain some new readers!
Thank you so much!!!!!
Tell me about your word ‘chosen,’ Rachel. What were your thoughts behind that word and why that word.
I think I meant something like lovable and loved. I figured that the bird wouldn’t have chosen to visit someone unkind.
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