Thursday, 11 July 2013

At My Window With A Broken Wing

Do you recognize the quote?  If you do, odds are that you belong to a certain generation, one for which the words of Bob Dylan speak for a surprising number of situations.

When I awoke yesterday morning,  here in my little house in the heart of Shrewsbury, I found a bird on my window sill. Upon closer examination, he wasn’t the raven of Dylan’s ‘Love Minus Zero, No Limit’ [well, to be honest I could see that straight away], but neither was he an ordinary Shrewsbury bruiser of a pigeon.  He was too small and dainty - dove-grey with a slightly pinkish breast.  He had an air of dignity about him too - and that's not anything I've noticed in the local pigeon population.  No, whatever his species, this was a noble bird. You see what I mean by the way he holds his head. 

Later in the morning, setting up my bits and pieces of weaving equipment  on the front door step [so that I could take advantage of the sun whilst I worked] I discovered the bird down amongst the rose bushes.  The moment I brought out my big stripey sunshade, however, and opened it out, the 'raven' [I've decided to call him that out of deference to Dylan] fluttered up to perch in its shade on my railing, where it remained all day. 

One of the things I love about Shrewsbury is that immediately behind its main shopping streets, you'll find bees and flowers and every sort of bird from blue tits and dust-bathing sparrows to blackbirds who sing day and night, cormorants [down on the river ]and kingfishers - and now this tourist of a 'raven'.  I wonder what he makes of us all.  For most of yesterday, the two of us were only a foot or so away from  each other.  Occasionally I’d look up from weaving and there he would be, looking back at me.  I’d stop what I was doing and the two of us would take each other in.  I wondered what he saw.  I wondered what he was doing here. I wondered what had happened in his past to make him so comfortable with human company.  He didn’t look worried about anything. He didn't look sick.  His wings appeared to work. He hadn’t been shot.

At one point, wondering if he might be suffering from heat stroke, I brought out a bowl of water and put it down amongst the roses.  Then I broke up some bread and scattered it around.  The ‘raven’ ignored both.  Occasionally he would ruffle up his feathers, stand up, take a stretch, extend his neck, turn his head.  Then he would hunker down again.

At the start of my day's weaving, I worked quietly, afraid of startling a wild creature that had somehow lost its natural habitat.  But gradually I realized that sounds didn't  bother my 'raven'. Cars, radios, people walking, running, shouting as they passed – the most the ‘raven’ would do was occasionally peck its wings, as if pruning itself, but even then it didn’t look particularly bothered by the world around it.

Wouldn’t it be great if all wild birds were like that, and wild animals too – comfortable with our company, not startled by our presence, taking us in, happy to share their days with us, happy to do their own thing whilst we do ours, a companionable silence between us that speaks volumes for mutual respect?  Instead of which, no self-respecting wild bird or  creature will come within a mile of us, and the mere scent of a human sends them flapping and screeching off the other way.

In the evening the ‘raven’ dropped down to the rose bush, where I’d placed the water bowl, and flapped about. Then he flew up to where his day had started on my window sill.  His head went down, his feathers ruffled up and his neck disappeared into them.

That’s how I found him when I came downstairs today.  Still on the sill.  Eyes still open - but to all intents and purposes still asleep.  I made myself some coffee.  Cleared up last night’s meal.  When I looked again, the sun had risen over the rooftops and the ‘raven’ had gone.  Perhaps he had had the rest he needed and was heading home, like all those other tourists who come for a break to our beautiful old town and return home refreshed.

PS. In case you’re wondering, here’s Bob Dylan’s Love Minus Zero, No Limits, last verse:

The bridge at midnight trembles
The country doctor rambles
Bankers’ nieces seek perfection
Expecting all the gifts that wise men bring
The wind howls like a hammer
The night blows cold and rainy
My love she’s like some raven
At my window with a broken wing


  1. Showing my age here by immediate recognition of your title, as that song was one I used to attempt (badly) on the guitar in my, alas, insufficiently-misspent youth. I still love it and its rush of images and still know all the words (although I could no longer do the chords from memory).

    I wonder if your pigeon had flown into a window - that does daze them for a while, poor things. Although they usually recover and fly off - presumably having learnt a lesson. I hope yours maintained its chosen character by departing with a loud "Nevermore!"

  2. If he whispered it I never heard. But I've been missing him today. My railings seem surprisingly empty.