It was a Saturday like any other, except for the fact that my husband had a house renovating bee in his bonnet. I was assigned to drive to town to pick up supplies, and find a carpet remnant to complete his vision.
Glad to leave the chaos and paint fumes, I drove to the carpet warehouse. I had only a half-hour before it closed, so I hurriedly started scrunching my fingers into the rolled-up remnants, trying to find just the right one. With a startled squirk, a small brown bird fluttered up out of the 12-foot rolls, stacked loglike against the wall, and disappeared again. Oh, dear. A Carolina wren had found its way into the warehouse, and it wasn't going to be easy to get it back out. I glanced around, and saw the garage door, now closed tight, where it must have gotten in.
There were still so many carpets to consider. I moved up and down the rows, absorbed in decision-making. The wren fluttered out in front of me again. And then it flew up to a strut on the wall, cocked its tail, and began to scold in a rich, melodious voice. BBBRRRT! BBBRRRT! It looked right at me, tilting its body right and left. I stood under it and spoke to it. Yes. I will get you out of here. You hang on.
I made a snap decision on a straw-colored roll, and stuck my head in the showroom. The salesman had heard the bird from the other end of the building. "What's that noise?" he asked. "It's a bird, trapped in your warehouse, and I believe it's asking for help. Could you open the loading dock door?"
The door groaned open, framing the gray branches of a nearby woods against the warehouse's dark interior. Together, we herded the wren toward the next room, no small feat, since it kept hiding in the forest of remnants. Finally, it was in the room with the exit, but it was frightened, and scuttled back behind the pallets and boxes. I tiptoed close, caught its eye and spoke to it. "You've been stuck in this warehouse for two days, and you're dirty, thirsty and lonely. You're going to have to trust me to get you out. Come on. Let's go."
The wren cocked its head and hopped tentatively out of its hiding place, right in front of me. It was a huge leap of faith for a wild bird. "That's it. Keep going. Let's get you out of here." Like a little brown mouse, it kept hopping, paused at the threshold, and launched itself out into the fine winter rain. It flew up to the warehouse roof and looked down at me. Covered in cobwebs, it was a dust bunny with legs. "You did it! I knew you could do it! What a smart wren!" With that, it flew like an arrow across the road to the red maple swamp, to the excited calls of its mate.
The salesman smiled broadly as I did a little dance of joy. "Sold a carpet, saved a bird. Pretty good for a Saturday!"
Julie Zickefoose is a writer and watercolor painter who lives on an 80-acre wildlife sanctuary in the Appalachian foothills of Ohio. She has concluded, through elaborate rationale, that hiking in the woods is actually part of her job. Her latest book is Letters from Eden, to be followed by an illustrated memoir about her life helping birds.