V Mc B

Where the birds go to die

Women have interesting relationships with their hairdressers. Once you’ve gone to someone for a few years or so, they tend to know more about your life than many people who see you every day — like coworkers, for instance. My history with my hairdresser has outlived my relationships with plenty of people who have worked at my company. And she’s known me longer than most who work there now. Hell, she’s known me longer than my boyfriend.

So, having known this woman for almost ten years now, I probably shouldn’t be too surprised by conversations like this. (I’ll spare you the excitement surrounding my new “Aviarium” birdfeeder, though. Just know that’s where it started.)

ME (re: the Aviarium): It sucks that the cardinals are afraid to come in.
HD (razoring away): Yeah, they’re skittish.
ME: But the blue jays are skittish, too, though! And they come in all the time!

[snip, snip, snip!]

HD: Oh! So, a duck laid some eggs in my boyfriend’s yard.
ME: Does he have water?!
HD: Yeah! He has a little pond.
ME (dreaming): That’s awesome.
HD: So I’ve been watching the eggs for a few days, and something got a couple of them. A raccoon, probably. But there are still a couple there, and I don’t think the duck’s coming back.
ME: Really? Can you do anything!? I’d call Audubon!

[And I would call Audubon — even though they never gave me my windbreaker.]

HD: No, I looked online, and I know you’re not supposed to touch the eggs. I guess the ducks lay a couple of eggs a day, and they’ll only stay with the final batch.

[I think about this for a moment.]

ME: You know, birds can’t live for very long.
HD: Ducks’ll sit on their eggs for a while, though! They’ll sit there for like, a month!
ME: But still! Think of how many birds you see all over the place. They can’t live for very long … so why don’t you ever see dead birds all over the place? Where do you think birds go to die?

[At this point, HD is halfway across the room in search of product, and she whips around to look at me.]

HD: I know where seagulls go to die.

[I had honestly considered this a hypothetical question.]

HD: YES. On Block Island. There’s a marsh where I was walking once. I just happened to find it. And on one side, I saw a graveyard of dead ones, just lying there —
HD: YES! But on the other side of the marsh, I saw the old ones …
ME: … No …
HD: … and the old ones just stand in the water, looking toward the sea.

[I think of them for a moment. Old seagulls, wizened warriors on the wing, pondering the most memorable meals they stole. My Cape Cod chips, perhaps? On Good Harbor Beach in 1999? I should certainly hope so.]

ME: That? Is unbelievable.
HD: I know. It’s really eerie.
ME: It’s eerie … but also incredibly cool.
HD: Oh, it’s totally cool.
ME: Clearly I have to do some research on this. I’ll let you know what I come up with.

I have, in fact, done some limited research, and it indicates that birds do what most wild animals do when they die: When they’re feeling “not right,” they go to a remote place to either wait it out or succumb to it. They won’t be in their usual haunts.

If I ever stumble upon the place where cardinals go when they die, I’ll be devastated.

But I wish it could be so simple for us.

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