At first I thought there was a mouse on the verandah under the covered barbecue.
I'd gone out to move the tray of birdseed near the door to attract Australian rosellas and finches singing and dancing, with me as their private audience.
A pattering sound caught my attention. I spied a soft grey body, little beady eyes, then a flutter and flop barely visible under the edge of a green canvas cover. I moved closer; a flurry of tiny wings stilled me.
Hesitant, I tiptoed forward and gently lifted the cover. I spied a little bird. It twisted and turned, frantic to take flight; its leg was caught in a crevice of a double wheel.
I called to my husband, Steve. He gently held the house sparrow. He felt her little heart beat a tattoo under his palm. Her foot was caught, held fast in the wheel's grip.
Several years ago I battled depression. A "house sparrow," I stood one morning in the bathroom of our second story home in a forest in Washington state. Gazing out the narrow window, I contemplated the death of my nearly 20-year marriage. It was late autumn and most frost-bitten leaves had pirouetted to their end, carpeting the forest floor. But one lone, yellow leaf caught my eye. It hung on a bare branch, stubbornly refusing to fall. It spun in the breeze, hanging by a tendon. Despite the grey drizzle and cold winds, it stayed suspended between its summer haven and a loamy grave.
Sometime later, I looked for that stubborn, yellow leaf--it was still there. In fact it stayed for quite awhile until a severe, wintry gale knocked it loose. I was disappointed when it fell. I'd taken a few baby steps to change my future and had so much hope from such a little thing; I was on my way up, instead of falling down and rotting.
As Steve carefully handled the frightened little bird with one hand, he pried open the wheel with a tool in the other. The sparrow's mangled claw dangled, useless. She peered at us through the top part of his fist and we discussed what to do. With tears in our eyes, we decided that neither of us wanted to put her out of her misery. I remembered some time ago seeing a bird hop around on one leg, and told him so. He amputated the claw cleanly. He sent the tiny bird soaring over the verandah rail. As she took flight, I prayed.
Perhaps I'm still a bit like that house sparrow; maimed by life and a little crippled.