Memories: Breeding a Blackird

On the occasion of many requests, for the sake of several personal communications, I once told the story of my encounter with a wild animal, a blackbird, many years ago. It fell out of the nest and Vivian, a friend of mine, had found it and tookcare of it. I was then almost every day with Vivian and helped her with the blackbird. This inconspicuous animal taught me something that no human could have ever taught me: the unconditioned, abstract love, without making demands, without expecting or demanding, free from all self-interest and ego, and this is the whole story…

Vivian and I were sitting in her kitchen and we drank a coffee. The blackbird sat in a cage on the table, Vivian’s black cat lurking and teeth-chattering in front of it. The cat kept staring at every movement of this little bird, and I could well imagine what it wanted. On the right there was a coffee pack, and a large bag bearing the inscription “bird-feeding.” In the following I saw a plastic syringe, a small water container and some small bowls. She had equipped herself perfectly to raise this little bird.

I greeted Vivian with a hug, and after I sat down, she gave me some coffee and told me the story of how she found the bird:

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“I went shopping, and suddenly I saw a small crowd of people, perhaps five or six people standing around something, and at the same time I heard many birds chirping. When I got closer, I saw, that there was a very small bird, a blackbird, and the parents of the blackbird were still trying to feed it, although it fell out of the nest and was obviously too small to come back on its own. I thought, that this little bird would have no chance to survive if it no one would put it back into the nest.”

“You could have put it back into the nest.”

“No, the nest was not visible. I searched for it. It seemed to have been up somewhere on a canopy or a tree,”she replied, “I could not have climbed up there as a human without wings. What else was left for me?”

“And then you took pity on him?” I asked curiously.

“No, no. I guessed that if I stayed longer, I would haven taken the bird with me, so I was about to move inconspicuously away from it. Suddenly I realized in the corner of my eye that an Asian took up the bird, who was also there. But instead of taking the little blackbird with him, he turned to me, and of course among all the people he stopped in front of me and gave me the bird! When I saw this cute little gray ball sitting there on my outstretched hand, I could not help but take it with me. Then I went off, got a cage at first, because of the cat, and collected some information about how to take care of him and nursing in general.”

The Blackbird always tore its head back to her neck and opened its beak when Vivian came closer with the food filled plastic syringe. Sometimes the blackbird chirped to signal that it wanted something more, and also drinking took place in this way.

The syringe was filled with water and was inserted a little into her beak. The water was then slowly injected into her throat. Most of the time, the bird shook itself so that the water was distributed in all directions, but most of it seemed to remain in it. Now I took the syringe, and gave her a little water. I was amazed how easy it was. It was obvious to this little bird, despite the separation from it’s family and it’s warm nest, that it was not willing to give up life. The bird wanted to live, that was clearly noticeable.

Vivian told me, that she had already learned that rearing a blackbird was much easier than other birds. Certainly, she already had some books on this subject. In the course of the afternoon, the little blackbird and I became friends really fast. Somehow it had quite quickly captured my heart.

From now on, I visited Vivian more and more often. To drink a coffee and chat a little, but also to ask for the blackbird and to attend its development.

When I usually came to her living room, the blackbird sat beside the cage on the table. The blackbird was still a round, gray ball with oversized claws. Vivian told me, that the claws had grown quite quickly and the body will catch up until later. Apparently she had researched it. But I wondered where this rearing and nursing should lead.

Is Vivian keeping the blackbird because she assumes, that it would not survive in the wild nature, maybe it does not even learn to fly or did she plan to expose the blackbird at the appropriate age?

“What will you do with this blackbird? Do you want to leave it in this cage for the rest of it’s life? Such a bird is wild and yet belongs to freedom. How do you feel about?”

Right from my coffee cup I saw a dead mealworm, who seemed to wait to spoil someone’s appetite.

Vivian looked at me. For a moment I felt that she had planned something else, but then she smiled and nodded.

“Definitely. I will take care of the blackbird until it can fly. Of course, I’m not as good at flying as its real mother, but somehow I’ll manage it. As soon as I think it can take care of itself, I leave it free.”

I also thought that this is the best solution! Such an animal loves the freedom and should not be held captive for its whole life. I remembered a saying that once a wise Indian said: “Better be a minute free and then dead than a lifetime in captivity…”

I could only agree with this statement.

Time passed, and after a few weeks, and a few attacks of the cat, the little blackbird had now grown quite a bit. It hopped around, picked up some worms with artistic certainty. I knew, that the blackbird should be fed every 2-3 hours. Vivian even stood up in the night to pursue this activity. It was obvious that a loving connection had developed between her and the blackbird. But the same connection happened with me too a long time ago. The little blackbird ad achieved a place in my hearth. There was nothing wrong with it because the bird accepted and loved us the way we were.

After a while Vivian looked at me and said that she was a bit worried.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I’ll go on holidays in two weeks. The blackbird can only make some air jumps and can flutter uncontrollably. I think, it is not ready yet, to protect itself from severalenemies in the nature. I have read, that not only cats attack blackbirds, but also magpies, especially young blackbirds”

The bad thing was, that I also planned on going away for a few weeks at the same time as Vivian. Unfortunately, I could not take care of the blackbird.

“How about leaving her go? We can try it at least. Perhaps it is already developed enough, or other blackbirds come and take her into their care?”

The blackbird rocked its head back and forth, maybe to express its insecurity.

“I think it is the best, if I’ll wait a bit. When the day has come, we’ll see.”

I told Vivian, that I wanted to be there when the blackbird will be released. Scenes from movies like Free Willy and the Livingston Seagull Jonathan shot through my head.

This small, inconspicuous, dark-gray bird had actually managed to conquer our hearts, there was no longer any doubt. The day had come.

Vivian, the Blackbird and I moved to a small, nearby forest. Surely we could have freed it from the balcony, but it was a bit dangerous, because of Vivian’s cat. The cat had already clearly stated, that it would like to take birds as a snack for its regular meals.

This option was something we had to wrest from the voracious cat. Vivian also lived in a high-rise building with forty or even more balconies on one side, all of which looked the same, so the other people would have been happy to get visited by birds.

Once we reached the destination, we quickly opened the cage. We had thought of everything: a small forest, some houses with gardens nearby, some of them even had a birdhouse, and we also saw a small lake with fresh water. What could still happen?

The blackbird, however, looked at us with wide eyes and echoed a few times uncertainly. It was rather a chuckle: “Tuck. Tuck. Tuck. ”

“Hasn’t the blackbird noticed, that the door is open?” Vivian asked, disbelieving, when the cage door had been already open for a few minutes.

“I’m sure it noticed the open door, but it seems like it would still be uncertain,” I said.

The blackbird, however, remained seated and refused to go through the open cage door.

After a while we took off the upper part of the cage. Now the bird looked up into heaven, then to us and back into the bushes. Thenit made a jump from the bottom of the cage to the forest floor. There it ran around a little. Again and again it looked into the unpredictable bushes.

As it did not seem to dare properly, Vivian picked it up and threw it a little bit into the air. The blackbird flew a little and landed about ten meters further on the branch of a tree at a height of perhaps four meters. There it was sitting and looking down at us.

“Unfortunately …” I shouted to the bird like it would be able to understand all of my words, “…we can not follow you or give you flight lessons, so you are now on your own, as far as flying and survival is concerned.”

We were still staying there for half an hour to convince us, that the blackbird had been acclimatized in some way, then we decided to leave.

Silently we went back to Vivian’s apartment. When we had arrived at Vivian’s apartment, we sat down in the kitchen and talked to each other.

Time passed. There were long conversation breaks, the atmosphere was not very happy. Two hours later, this oppressive mood had turned into a definite certainty: our decision had been correct, but premature! We looked at each other and at the same time expressed the same thought:

“That was too early! Surely it is still sitting there and does not know what to do.”

I nodded in agreement.

“I can not take the bird with me on vacation. And I also do not know who else could take care of it.” Damn it!” I saw some tears in Vivian’s eyes.

We got up again and drove back to the forest with our cycles. A few hundred yards away, we decided to walk the rest of the way. I whistled a few times, like I always did it when I visited Vivian and to greet the bird, and suddenly I heard a really upset heart-rending recall, which was louder than anything I had ever heard of a blackbird. One thing was certain, the blackbird had been waiting for us all the time!

When we arrived, we found it hidden under a bush. It was obvious that she had flown from the branch in the tree to the ground and then sought shelter under this bush.

I lured her out there and took her into my protective hand. When I put her on the ground, we felt clearly that it felt much stronger and more self-assured, because her human parents had returned and were now providing adequate protection. The blackbird went over the forest floor to the lake and took a deep shower. Wet and with wings hanging down, it dried itself in the blazing sun and chuckled contentedly.

Vivian and I looked at each other and after it was dry again, we slowly went back. We knew now, that our decision to return to get her back, was the correct decision. And also one thing was certain now: this bird has to go with Vivian, and she has to take the bird with her.

About ten days later we met again. Vivian told me of her impressions in her vacation and the circumstances that the blackbird had made. Actually, the circumstances were hardly worth mentioning and it was clear, that they both had a lot of fun. She told me that the Blackbird had always looked up to the seagulls with respect. It also made friends with another male blackbird.

“It has been running around the gardens again and again. The blackbird hopped around and often flew several meters. It would have been able to fly away, but it never did. I do not get it! Somehow I had the impression, like the bird wanted to be released directly here in our suburb city.”

At such moments, you always wonder how intelligent animals really are: could this blackbird know where it’s true home is? Did it know on vacation on the North Sea, that her actual birthplace is many miles away and therefore it did not fly away? We can never know.

Then Vivian told me another strange incident from her holidays. She said, that this male blackbird, had shown itself there frequently, and one time, even at dusk, it sat on the highest house in the neighborhood. There it sung beautifully, and our little blackbird watched with high respect in the corner of its cage floor. The song of the Blackbird was the most beautiful thing Vivian had ever heard of a blackbird, and she had the clear feeling that this blackbird was going to say goodbye to the world it loved above everything else.

“Then, the other day, my son and I went for a walk. When we passed the house, on which this male blackbird had sat the evening before, I suddenly found it dead on the ground. We could not explain, how it had died, but I got a pretty shudder when I remembered my feeling that this blackbird wanted to say good-bye to the world with the wonderful song.”

There was, of course, no clear proof of this, and this could have been another blackbird lying dead on the ground, but I had the clear feeling that it was the bird from yesterday. This blackbird had known that this would be its last sunset and had spent her last moments with its beautiful song, which it wanted to give to the world out of gratitude.

When Vivian opened the cage, the blackbird hopped on my arm to greet me, climbed up on my shoulder, rubbed its beak slightly on my cheek and chuckled softly into my ear. This was as a very loving reunion!

After all, the blackbird had not seen me for two weeks. So we continued taking care of it, played with it and let it bounce around in Vivian’s living room. We waited and were convinced that at some point we would get a clear signal that it was time to leave it free.

A week or two later, we were intuitively convinced that the Blackbird would soon be ready to go into the freedom forever. Somehow, on this day, I had the clear feeling that you can give someone much more love, if you know you have to leave it someday. For example, in a marriage, you will or may be together with your partner your whole life. After a certain time, however, one person has become so used to the presence of the partner that you are sure that nothing can end this togetherness except death. Love becomes habit and self-evident. But with this blackbird, it had always been different. We had learned to love it and knew that the common moments with it were limited in time. Not death, but freedom would separate us, but it was a beautiful sadness, because we knew that the blackbird loved us, but its freedom was more important than anything else.

Vivian and I were joking about our relationships that we had in our lifes. None of the women I’ve ever loved in my life could counter this love. In Vivian’s case it was similar: “Haha,” she said, “no man could have ever given me what this little bird gave me.”

We had found out through our conversations that the blackbird, had always made a conspicuous wheelbrow at a specific meadow, during a transport from her apartment to my apartment.

Since the transport had always been carried out by only one of us. This meadow were the blackbird always chirped, was exactly in the middle of our apartments. It was huge, undeveloped and unused land. There were many houses nearby with bird houses and water. So we decided to let the bird go right there. At first we thought it was better to expose the blackbird to a remote place, perhaps on a forest border, but we rejected this idea because blackbirds live very close to humans. They are like secret residents of the people, always close by.

In the meadow we spread a blanket comfortably and took out a bottle of water. We had prepared for a longer stay, because we had not yet seen the blackbird flying, so we assumed that we would most likely have to take it back to Vivian. So we opened the cage door and sat back on the blanket.

The blackbird hopped directly into the meadow through the open cage door. Prided a little around and looked up to the sky with big eyes. Then it made an air jump, spread its wings and… flew!

We jumped astonished and watched its first real flight. It gained quite quickly in height, fell again a bit off, and then came up again, until its flight suddenly stabilized and it disappeared after several hundred meters in the leaves of a tall tree. There the bird completely withdrew our attention.

Both of us looked at each other with astonishment. We had expected a lot, but not that sensational first flight of a blackbird, which had never been farther and more unfortunate than ten meters.

“How can it be that it could make such a perfect flight if it had never practiced and never been trained by her real parents?” Vivian asked.

I was thinking about it. Perhaps, so I could well imagine, the blackbird had always dreamed of flying! And for this reason, this desire would at some time be transferred to her body in the everyday world.

After some minutes of enthusiasm and a long wait we could see nothing of the blackbird. It had disappeared without a trace.

“I think that’s it,” Vivian said, shrugging.

“Yeah I think so too,” I replied.

“The blackbird is free now…”

“For sure, we did everything we could, so the blackbird could now go and explore the whole world.”

Shortly afterwards we left the meadow. After an hour, Vivian wanted to check again if the blackbird was maybe still sitting somewhere and harboring helplessly. We went straight to the tree into which the blackbird had flown. The tree was certainly 30 m high.

After a short search we actually discovered our blackbird with another blackbirds on a nearby roof. Certainly, for most people, all blackbirds look the same, but we knew exactly how our blackbird looks like. You can not only seperate them through their movements, but also other differences, through which we could always rocognize our blackbird: a bright, speckled floss on the chest, an exceptionally graceful figure compared to other blackbirds and a bald spot on the neck.

We watched them secretly, without making any noises. She sat there on this roof and seemed to have quickly found a friend who was now flying around with our blackbird and showing it the area. They jumped from the roof and flew to the nearest tree. We were satisfied. She could obviously fly very well and had found connections very fast. What more could we do? So we went back home. We were happy that the blackbird had managed to get along so quickly.

For a long time, we talked about its amazing flight, its unmistakable chugging, the moments in which it managed to enchant all the present people in a very short time, by simply being what it was, a blackbird. A few days later, Vivian called me and asked if I would like to go with her, to go to the place where we had seen the Blackbird the last time. She wanted to know if it was okay. She could not forget our blackbird and told me that she’d been worried about it for some time, because she remembered reading that several other animals like to attack young blackirds. In the following, she told me that she had already been on the meadow a day before and had whirled around. Apart from some other birds that had followe Vivian, she could not find our blackbird. She also told me that her concern had now reached an unbearable level.

I tried to calm her down by telling her, that soon the summer will come and that the dangerous animals for that like to eat blackbirds, would then find other stuff to eat. Besides, we could clearly see from its flying skills that it could fly well and was very nimble. Nevertheless, we went to the place we have seen her lat just to check. We were determined, if we would see it again, we will not take it with us. It had found such a good connection and everything became better than we had expected.

After some time of searching, we discovered an access to a garden where we listened to excited blackbirds. When we got there, we could not believe what we saw: there were eight young, brown, female blackbirds sitting around the blackbird in a perfect circle, and they chirped wildly.

We had to laugh, because it really and independently seemed to us like we had caught a bunch of teenagers at a sit-in.

“It seems to me like our blackbird had told the other blackbirds something. You can think I’m crazy, but it seemed to me like a teenie talk, like a kind of meeting or an adventurous talet. ” Vivian said.

I laughed and told her that I exactly had the same impression, that it seemed to me like or blackbird would tell the other about its adventures among its human parents.

When the group of blackbirds saw us, they flew away quickly into all directions, except one of them remained intrepid. Then this blackbird came right up to us.

It was very excited and Vivian conjured up a water bottle and a bowl. First, it jumped into the bowl, drank and showered. When it had finished, it jumped out of the bowl and hopped excitedly and wildly chirping around the bottle.

We were once again and inexplicably deeply moved, especially because our blackbird immediately recognized us and greeted us so warmly! But one thing remained clear: We had to leave the blackbird here, since it is  pretty safe here. Such a favorable opportunity would perhaps never come back: Our blackbird had survived all the time and even achieved connection with other blackbirds. It had also found some friends and was certainly integrated into the social system – at least we believed it at that moment. We were not allowed to interrupt all this and simply take the blackbird back with us. We played a little with it and went away quickly.

Vivian decided not to go back again to look after it, because she wanted it to get used to its new environment as quickly as possible and not to be distracted by her or irritate the other blackbirds so they would avoid our blackbird.

So we said goodbye to our blackbird again and went away without even looking around. The months passed and the winter came. It was a cold winter and it snowed a lot. In the first week so much snow had fallen, that we sometimes caught ourselves as we thinking about the blackbird. Was it strong enough to go through such a hard winter? Several times we had already gone to the place where we had last seen it the last time and we were distributing bird food.

One morning I was invited to breakfast at Vivian’s apartment. We sat in her living room talking to each other. Outside there was still snow and even her covered balcony and her garden furniture were full of snow.

Suddenly, two brown blackbirds landed on the balcony and one of them chirped in a strange familiar tone.

We looked at each other. It was simply not possible! That could not be real! Was that really our blackbird?

We stood up and went slowly to the balcony door. One of the blackbirds immediately flew off and found space in the tree. The other blackbird did not flew way, instead it hopped from the balcony to the garden table and danced wildly like it wanted to greet us joyfully.

It did not fly away, even when we were only half a meter away from it. But it had changed a bit, its bald spot had disappeared, but otherwise its movements, sounds and behavior were unmistakable our blackbird. It came really back, presumably to get a portion of food from her human parents while this cold period. Our blackbird also brought a friend with it, that was still sitting near a branch in the big tree in front of Vivian’s balcony and watched suspiciously every movement. It seemed to be in the same age. We greeted it friendly.

When Vivian wanted to grab our blackbird, it dodged. We should obviously not touch it. The blacbird wanted to say, that it do not want to stay, but had only come to visit us and dust off some food.

We gave it a bowl of bird food. As we went back into the room, closed the balcony door and watched everything else through the window, the other blackbird came and started eating some bird food as well.

For a few more weeks, the now-grown blackbird always came back to strengthen itself with food, while we were still speculating about how it could even find the right balcony among all the other fifty or sixty balconies of a high-rise house. But when the snow had disappeared, we never saw our blackbird again.

The years passed. Neither Vivian nor I ever saw the Blackbird again. We always had the feeling, that it was doing well. Certainly it had once found a male blackbird, with whom it had begotten its own children, but perhaps it also flew on adventurous paths to the south.

One night I managed to reach the middle astral plane in a dream. There was a huge bazaar and it was wonderful to walk around there and look at the many strange dream objects and books. Although I did not know how to acquire such an object and take it into its reality, but just looking at everything was already exciting.

After I walked past a booth with an oriental-looking man, he suddenly shouted at me:

“Hello, Jonathan!”

Actually, I had already been at the next booth to look at some of the strange objects and interesting books I saw but now I stopped.

“What’s wrong?” I replied.

“One moment please! I have something for you!” he shouted, and his head disappeared completely under his stand and rummaged into one of the boxes-only his white turban was still to be seen.

Suddenly I saw a bird flying under his stand and flying up into the air. I thought about why he would hide birds under his stand in boxes and I did not understand the meaning. So I followed the bird path with my eyes curiously… It flew steeply up, then in a circle over the whole bazaar and then directly at me!

A moment later, this bird was sitting on my left shoulder, chirping, while rubbing his beak against my cheek at the same time! There was no doubt: it was the blackbird Vivian and I have upraised! It had not only found us in a high-rise apartment in the deepest winter, but now again on the infinite astral plane. This was a wonderful reunion with the blackbird and while we were both so glad to have finally found each other again, I slowly awoke from my dream.

When I opened my eyes, I was happy about the fact that I met our blackbird again, but at the same time I knew that the blackbird was now not physically alive anymore…


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