21 February 2021

An 'Other' Mystery

Here’s a sad tale—but an interesting one. A mystery.

Every morning for the past couple of weeks I’ve been woken up by the sound of a small bird banging against my bedroom window. It flies into the window, smashes into the glass with its beak, then settles back onto the ledge, and tries again. It happens over and over and over again. Dozens of times in a row.

At first, I figured it was probably just attacking a mirror image of itself it had glanced in the window, an alpha male attempting to frighten off another male bird that was encroaching its territory. But it kept happening time after time, day after day.

I began to wonder if it was something more. What if our house was somehow blocking its natural migratory flyway? Or it’s geomagnetic navigational system was somehow out of kilter? None of this I can prove. Besides, this is the first time anything like this has happened, and we've lived here for 20 years.

Then I remembered that a couple years ago, a bird made its nest in a coiled hose stacked up in our garage—which is directly below that window and which we now keep closed mostly. That gave me another thesis: this bird was trying to return to the place of its 🐣 hatching. Some instinct was drawing it back to its place of origin to nest, relentlessly. Birds are like that, I hear.

But that theory was scotched this morning. The bird woke me up again today. I decided to take a picture. And when I went out to get the papers, it was still there, and I was able to identify it. It’s a bluebird! (You can make it out in the last photo below) The bird that had nested in our garage, however, had been a sparrow. So that theory was out.

So, once again I'm at a loss. I do not understand what instinct or affect is compelling this particular bluebird to flutter its wings and smash its beak into my window over and over again morning after morning. I cannot put myself in its place anymore than it can break through my bedroom window. I simply can never know what it’s like to be a bird, to be this bird.

Nor is there anything I can do to stop it and perhaps prevent it from hurting itself. It's kind of sad.

Now, some literary types might suggest that it’s some sort of metaphor: maybe it has something to do with the persistence of the natural world no matter how much we do to insulate ourselves from it. Or, it's symbolic: the bluebird of happiness(!) is trying to batter its way into my life, but can’t because of whatever personal—emotional or mental—barriers I’ve erected over the years. Or, there's always the theological spin: my resistance to the inbreaking of the Holy Spirit—though I guess the bird would need to be a dove in that case.


None of that really cuts it. I guess I will just have to learn to accept the mystery of it, the pathos. The best I can do is sympathize with this bird's futile plight and admire its stubborn persistence. I cannot fully put myself in its place, share its compulsion. Cannot fully empathize. It is completely alien to me. It is an OTHER. It is a being that has its own instincts and appetites and affects. Its own mind, its own soul, if you will. A truly mysterious creature, one whose beauty I can appreciate and whose behavior I can observe, but one I can never truly know.

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