Kirsten Mustain

Editor, Grove Sun

Yesterday I received a text from my mother, who was at my house meeting a repairman, “Call me before you go home. I need to tell you about the bird in the utility room.”

I though she must have hit the wrong keys. I thought “bird” should have been “sink,” perhaps, or “laundry.”

I know first hand that iPhones are sensitive. You might think you typed lollipop and discover later that you offered to buy your friend a lilliput. But she really meant to type bird.

“Well, it was chirping really loudly,” she explained.

I guess I should have known it would happen sooner or later. Creatures of all sorts seem to show up on my doorstep when they are in need.

Sometimes I wonder if wild and domestic animals have some sort of secret code with which they mark the homes of humans who feel honor bound to help them when they arrive, wounded and confused and starving.

“Give me your tired, your hungry, your furry and feathered creeping and crawling creatures. I am a sucker. I won’t allow you to starve in my front yard. I will take you to the vet if you are bleeding. I will make a bed for you in the garage until you are house trained . . . ”

My mother found the fledgling on the step in the garage.

I assume it was a gift delivered by one of my cats.

The unusual thing was that it was alive.

I am not equipped to be a blue jay’s mother, and I knew when I got home that it would probably not survive.

Although its wings were almost developed and had lovely blue and black and white feathers, it tilted its head back and opens its mouth outrageously wide when it saw me.

I suppose I was expected to chew something up and regurgitate it into its waiting jaws, but being human, I decided instead to open a can of dog food and drop little balls of it into the blue jay’s gullet. It appeared to be working, but I figured a good night’s sleep would tell one way or the other.

I have to admit that I have never had any luck with birds. They are delicate creatures, apt to close their eyes and slip away at the slightest hint of melancholy.

Once I rescued several wild baby ducks whose mother had been run down on the highway.

My sister, who happened to have just arrived from Colorado for a visit, saw me on the shoulder of the road and stopped her car as I was scooping the ducks into a Wal-Mart bag.

“I knew it had to be you,” she said. “No one else would do this.”

None of the ducks survived, I am sorry to say. One wonders if they might have been happier left on the roadside.

I have never completely been able to reconcile the impulse to help with the reality that sometimes I can’t. Sometimes it is better to let things be. Nature is ultimately neutral about life and death – it allows both in equal measures and I cannot control it.

Several years ago, one of the best mentors I ever had was sitting with me in a teahouse in Santa Fe.

I was telling him about how heartbroken I felt about one of my yoga students who needed the practice more than anyone else and was unwilling to attend class regularly.

“Listen,” my mentor said, looking me straight in the eye. “You cannot save every yahoo that walks through the door. Don’t waste your energy feeling guilty. Focus on the ones who really want your help and are capable of benefiting from it.”

This was, perhaps, the best advice I have ever had. Would that I always took it.

This morning I realized that the baby blue jay would probably not make it. It was no longer hungry. It barely opened its eyes when I spoke to it and poked some dog food at its closed beak.

I won’t say I didn’t cry a little when I took it outside and placed it in the crook of a tree with one last prayer that maybe its mother would find it and know what to do.

But then I looked at the now fat and happy pit bull that wandered into my yard three years ago with three open wounds and his ribs and spine showing clearly through his coat. And the silky Pomeranian who was frolicking in the grass at my feet after spending the first seven years of his life in a cage. And the motley cat that has put on a couple of pounds since he moved into my garage a few months ago.

And I remembered what my mentor said.