Several weeks ago Kathy came hurrying into the house where I was taking a break from staining an overhead trellis on our deck. She’d been working on the hillside clearing the blackberry vines that migrate through a hedgerow at the edge of the woods and down towards a swath of heather that she likes seeing bloom in the early spring.
She told me that a Steller’s Jay had hopped up onto a rock just feet from where she was working and in that it wouldn’t fly away when she moved that it was perhaps hurt or sick – maybe “asking me for help.”
The jay was still in the same spot when we climbed the hill. It looked full-sized but roughed up a bit like fledglings appear when they have been clumsily flopping about while learning to fly. At my approach – that put about four feet between my steps and the jay’s brilliant blue presence – it stretched forward and grabbed a wild cherry that had fallen to the ground. The cherry in its beak the jay rose to a one-legged stand, turned, and flew into the hedge and the blackberries behind it.
With a wide smile, Kathy said, “Oh good. I was so worried it was injured. Thank you for coming to help.’
The following afternoon the jay reappeared, even more, rumpled than the day before, only this time squatting on a lower rung of a railing on our deck just under a birdfeeder. Two hours later, rain predicted, I approached the motionless bird hoping to gather it into a box and protect it from the unknowns of the night and the elements.
Within reach of the jay, it suddenly became animated as it had on the hill, jumping from the railing onto the deck and then hopping on one leg for several feet before launching itself into flight.
In the weeks that have followed, the jay has arrived squawking at a small pile of walnut pieces that we’ve put under the feeder every morning; one of its legs is used as landing gear while the other is held close to its body and only tentatively extended from its chest at it feeds.
It’s early in our friendship with the jay. Apart from being walnut dispensers, we don’t know where we will fit into its life, why its leg doesn’t seem to work, and if it will survive very long into the future.
Having lived a long time, Kathy and I have come to sense that survival often depends on the relationships one develops and the ability to reach out to someone or something at just the right time. It can also depend on making the right choice of which rock to land on, certain phone numbers we might choose to call on a particular day, and almost always on having the ability – whatever our species or circumstance – to hope.