Make me a stone

Standing on the patio.  Wind pushing me about like an atmospheric bully.  Sunshine in my eyes.

I want to squint.  I want to wipe the sweat from my brow.  I want to steady myself by shifting my weight.

Yet my mind keeps saying one thing to my body: Make me a stone.

I hear the titmouse before I see it.  On the ground.  Just on the other side of the patio wall.  And moving fast in my direction.

Make me a stone.

The bird hops around the brick wall and moves quickly under the shrubs toward where I stand.  Here and there it stops to pluck up some bit of fur left by the menagerie of wildlife that traipses through here regularly, like skunks, foxes, coyotes, raccoons, bobcats and opossums.  Each leaves behind a bit of themselves, a tuft of fur from a tussle or a few strands of hair from scratching an itch.  The titmouse wants that fur.  For a nest.

Make me a stone.

The feathered beast reaches the patio fence before I see it clearly.  It flits between the slats and perches momentarily to look at me, to determine my threat level.  For you see, a good deal of that wanted fur rests upon the patio floor.

Make me a stone.

All the while the little creature speaks in abrupt words I don’t understand but that still seem comprehensible to me.  I watch bits of fur plucked up here and there when it finally hops to the patio floor and continues its collection.  Always coming nearer.  And always watching me.

Make me a stone.

Within the confines of a single step away, the bird pauses, notices, takes a moment to realize the possible threat—me—looms over a sizable bit of raccoon fur that just so happens to be pinned beneath my foot.

It skitters toward me, little movements that can scarcely be measured.

Make me a stone.

Only my eyes move to follow the titmouse as it nears me.  Even with a beak overflowing with hair both coarse and soft, it wants that upon which I stand.  I hadn’t noticed the bit of hair before, but I’m now eminently aware of it.

If I move, the bird flees without the bounty.  If I don’t move, it must take the fur from beneath my sandal.

Make me a stone.

Then it happens.  With little more than a gesture of its wings, the bird is atop my foot.  Head cocked sideways to look at me.  I feel jittery nerves where avian feet clutch my skin.  I feel the bare wire of escape waiting to be shocked into action.  I feel only the slightest weight, hardly more than a breath against skin.

Pluck!  The fur is retrieved and makes the titmouse look like an unshaven beast, clutched fur spread all across its face.

One more glance upward, then gone.  Back to the fence.  Back through the fence.  Back into the sky.

Thank you for making me a stone.

8 thoughts on “Make me a stone”

  1. What a great post, Jason! My co-worker watched a titmouse pluck the fur off a sleeping raccoon’s bottom that was tucked in the fork of a tree. Pretty brave little critters.

  2. Great story.

    I once encountered a couple of hermit thrushes in the deep woods during winter – while they didn’t get on my foot, they hopped around and between my feet as I stood there. I was simultaneously elated to see them so close while struggling to maintain my frozen stance to allow it to happen. Such moments are the spice of life!

    1. Funny you mention breathing, Amber. Because I held my breath for those few brief seconds that it was on my foot. And yes, living here does have its advantages when it comes to nature.

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