The area we live in is rural. It seems like it shouldn’t be because the Trader Joe’s is less than two miles from the house, and the nearest Target only ten minutes by car. There is a Starbucks down the street. But our neighborhood is bordered to the south by a fancy drainage ditch dug in the 1820s called the Mill Creek Zanja that is rimmed with eucalyptus. There’s an empty field beyond. To the west, we’re bordered by the orange grove side of the University of Redlands campus. Add that to the manicured but still wild hiking trail, and it’s prime territory for critters.
We had gophers in the yard all last summer until I put chicken wire under the raised beds. There is a hawk that makes his home in one of the eucalyptus trees nearby. We had a family of doves try to nest in our tree last spring until they decided they didn’t like how often we used the front door. Birds both brown and blue hop on our backyard fence. The hiking trail is forever littered with berry-filled coyote scat, and occasionally a white-tailed bunny will hop ahead of you into a bush. House cats roam the streets. Occasionally you can hear the coyotes hunting one.
When I went out to go to work on Friday, I noticed a feather near the grapevine in our yard. It was vibrant blue. In fact, there was a stack of them, a pile of tiny down underneath. No body, but obviously something got caught and torn to pieces in our yard – a bluebird.
I don’t know if it was a cat or the hawk, and there was no actual body to contend with nor any blood or gore. But what struck me was how beautiful it was, that blue, blue pile of feathers. The tips were striped black, and the ridge in the middle was pristine white. They fluttered just a little in the breeze, scattering out of their neat pile and moving into hieroglyphics across the cement walkway, exposing the gray fluff underneath.
The detritus is still there. I don’t have the heart to pick it up, and some small part of me likes to see the blue feathers, cheerful and not at the same time. It makes me realize that even a small and unknown bird can leave something behind after it’s personal end of all things.