That magpie out in the garden there, he’s as strong and fast and sharp as you. He’d kill you. You know that, right? He’d peck out your eyes, rip open your belly with his talons, and dive bomb you to obliteration. You know that, right? He’s every bit as strong and fast and sharp as you, my pretty little kitty. You wouldn’t stand a chance. But he’ll always keep his distance, and he will never start anything with you. So, pay attention to his warning clicks and whistles, to the cracking whacking of his black beak, and be a sensible little kitty, yeah. Stay well away. Because he’ll be sure to end you if you start on him, even if it ends him too. Chatter from a distance if you must, little kitty. Hiss and scream behind his back if you like. Stretch and flex those fearsome claws. Scratch and bite the fence. Bare your teeth. Raise your haunches. Stare him down. But never make a move on him. He’s as strong and fast and sharp as you. You wouldn’t stand a chance, little kitty. Just leave him be.
Every day you are the only finch who visits the bird table at my feet. All the rest of them stay on the feeders up at the top of the garden. If I move while you eat, even just a little bit, I see your tiny body tense ready to jump/fly off. But you don’t. You fix an eye my way and pause. I slowly nod or blink. Then you carry on with your quiet feast. How brave you are, I think. Occasionally you do go to join them up at the top of the garden. But I see it’s always a struggle for you, little one. I watch you take your time, carefully choosing your approach. Hopping slow and dodging, I see you take the smallest space at the feeder. I notice how you glance around at them all, like they’re strangers. And I see them turn their tails, edge away, raise their wings and peck at you till you leave their group and swoop straight back to the bird table at my feet. I see it all. Cut out. Nowhere else to turn. I see you trying to get back in, again and again and again. How brave you are, I think.
Sorrow lands quietly on the edge of my path. He is an old bird. His smooth blacks, frayed and cracked by the pull of earth and time. His pure whites, grey-yellowed by damp winds and harsh light. He limps. His eyes shift everywhere but where he's going. His splintered talons and chipped beak set about the hard ground over and over. He is an old bird. He is alone. I stop and turn, and slowly stoop to connect with eye contact. Sorrow hops away. Not like those tiny birds. Frantic, sudden clouds of fear. Winging it from anything that looms near. To the rooftops and lamppost tops, and the high wires spun between, to Twitter and preen in disarray. No! Sorrow just hops away. No further than two arms’ length, to where he knows he could escape. Stands still, cocks his head, shakes out his wings and tail a bit, and looks right back at me - while, for a moment, I reflect on our similarities. He is an old bird. He is alone. He is unafraid. Sorrow seems happy to watch me walk away.