Seven Love Stories in Seven Days – #3: Birds


September 21, 2016 by Katia


I immediately loved the birds.

I’ve seen sparrows and doves back home, but when I moved to Canada, I was fascinated with the decorative colourfulness and newness of other birds I’d never seen before. I now know just how common robins are. I’ve had those “first hear then see” encounters with woodpeckers as I walked down my street, and I’ve occasionally noticed a little red spot in the tree which turned out to be a northern cardinal or even a rainbow-coloured bunting, if I was very lucky, but back then, almost ten years ago, it felt as if I was walking within the confines or a very large urban zoo and among all the unsettling newness this kind of novelty was welcome.

We moved to Canada with a dog, some books, some linen and knick-knacks that were meant to contribute to the sense of “home away from home”. Some of our other belongings deemed valuable (I should mention I was a newly-wed and a recent Art History graduate)were a camera-tripod and a pair of binoculars, purchased on our trip to Southern France, where we used them to examine the sculpted capitals of the Romanesque church of St. Maurice de Vienne, the subject of my thesis. When I was sorting through our things in Tel-Aviv and decided the binoculars would make the cut (probably as a memorabilia item) I don’t think I ever suspected I’d be using them for bird watching. No less surprising was the subsequent purchase (once in Toronto) of a field guide to birds and several trips to a nearby ravine armed with the mentioned objects, my husband and our dog. No special birds were observed on any of those occasions but somehow bird watching or even just the hope of seeing one – a new kind of bird – served a deep need in me at the time and carried me through.

The bird we saw on our first visit to the Toronto Zoo must have sensed that.

In the very first pavilion we visited, I found a sign. I believe we were looking at a large animal, maybe a Malayan tapir, but instead we kept getting distracted by a very tiny creature, clearly demanding our attention. “I think it was trying to tell us something” I told a friend on Facebook later when I posted the photograph of the blue bird that followed us (the same photograph that’s attached to this post). The tiny turquoise bird landed on the railing separating the visitors from the tapir at the other end of the pavilion and it travelled up and down it following our movements through the room. It sat still and posed for me and it flew when hopping alongside us on the railing was no longer an option. I was touched and reassured. I knew this meant something, and I knew that it was something good, what exactly, I couldn’t tell. Having moved to a new continent, leaving our families, friends and jobs, language and neighbours, familiar contexts and our well-defend spot in the fabric of society, this was a time of uncertainty and uprootedness. This was a time characterized by one word – “away”. Social encounters that did occur only seemed to emphasize the big, giant backdrop of isolation and here was this bird that sought us out, chose us and wanted to follow us, and wanted together, and wanted close and it was so meaningful at the time.

We’ve gone back to the zoo on numerous occasions bringing our firstborn with us as a baby, then a toddler, then a preschooler accompanied by his baby brother and so on. I never saw the bird again, but I will never forget the grace it extended to us.

9 thoughts on “Seven Love Stories in Seven Days – #3: Birds

  1. Lizzi says:

    These love stories are a beautiful idea, and I LOVE that you love birds. One of the things which perplexed and frustrated me in America, was that no-one seemed to know what the birds were! Here, I know which ones are local, and have guides to help identify the ones that aren’t. I love hearing the woodpeckers and knowing how the blackbird’s song changes when summer returns. I love our cheeky little robins which sing liquid gold cascades into the sharp winter’s air. I love the mewling seagulls circling and squabbling in the sky overhead, and the sleepy burbling of the pigeons. MAN, I love knowing all about the birds.

    • Katia says:

      “I love our cheeky little robins which sing liquid gold cascades into the sharp winter’s air.”

      I am SO glad I found your comment, even if JUST for this one beautiful sentence! Back home there wasn’t a huge variety of birds (granted, I’m basing this observation on the urban area where I lived) and I knew each kind by name. Maybe identifying the birds here in Canada by name was part of an effort I was taking without realizing to not feel so uprooted.

      Thank you, friend, for shedding new light on this as usual. When you come join me on this part of the planet one day we’ll go looking for birds together. ❤

      • Lizzi says:

        I would LOVE that! I’ll need to borrow a bird book, because I’ll want to know all about them!

        I’m very lucky because the city I live in is really green – we have lots of parks and trees and gardens where birds thrive, so even though it’s very urban and industrial, it’s also thronging with wildlife.

        I want to start learning the American birds. They have some CRAZY calls! Noises I’ve never heard before! I love that, and I love knowing it’s an entirely new experience.

      • Katia says:

        Well, you know I’ve got one you could borrow! I don’t know nearly as much as I should, but I’ll occasionally look them up (when I remember to look) but several of them, which I saw at the very beginning with fresh eyes have stuck with me. It’ll be a lovely experience for you learning those birds. The loon has the craziest and loveliest call.

      • Lizzi says:

        Is a loon black? I’ll have to go and look it up now! There were these BIG black birds that looked kind of like stretched crows (ok that’s weird but they did) and they sounded like they were doing this really weird laugh-type-thing…it was amazing! They were outside a mall in OKC, and Hasty didn’t know what they were and I’m dying to know 🙂

        Here’s to bird books and the hope that one day we’ll get to share it, and a walk through bird country together 😀 ❤

  2. I love that the bird made you feel grounded and happy 🙂

  3. sara says:

    I totally believe that animals come as messengers, and birds often come to me as well, probably because I am also a bird lover. I Google ‘symbolism of…’ and get some great insights.

    • Katia says:

      I love your suggestion to Google it next time. Somehow when it happens in a dream we’re more likely to look up the symbolism, yet when something puzzling like that happens in real life we’re more dismissive.

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