By Bill Wilson
One day, on your way to the garden, an Eastern Phoebe sits atop a metal post. Bobbing tail and tell-tale song, you pause while she waits for food to emerge from within the rows. Another day on the familiar path, you watch her labor to gather a nest, mud-splattered window ledge measures her work as back and forth she dashes with her mate, hurrying to build a nursery. Days later, you stroll in the quiet morning and she sits stoically on her eggs, head and tail visible, vigilant body neatly tucked down and away and out of view. Another day, commotion; dawn broken by piercing cries of barely-feathered hatchlings bellowing newborn hunger, and you steal a closer look while mom gathers their meal. This continues until one morning you edge along and sense the silence is too soon. A few steps ahead, scattered brown feathers litter the grass along the fence, and you pause. And your heart skips a beat, and you take a deep breath, and you close your eyes to convince yourself, but you open them to the hard truth of this otherwise perfect day, and you remove your cap as if entering a sacred space, and slowly, oh so slowly, walk the difficult walk to five orphaned, lifeless nestlings, gaping beaks screaming silently, necks straining skyward as a gentle breeze tickles their fuzzy little crowns. And you gently place them in your hand, and return to your familiar walk in a different way, and you open the garden gate, and you open the earth, and you bury them in the shade of the weeping willow, and you begin to breathe again.