heurter (euhr tay) verb
: to bang into, to knock against, to run into
heurter à la porte = to knock on the door
un heurtoir = a door-knocker
Le petit oiseau a heurté la fenêtre.
The little bird crashed into the windowpane.
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Over The Rainbow, Bluebirds Fly
The other night I noticed our golden retriever standing very still... nose-to-nose with wild creature.
"Smokey!" I shouted, in time for our dog to run into the house, only, the little creature remained....
Slowly, I approached the motionless visitor, getting close enough to identify it. Un petit oiseau... From the way the little bird stood perfectly still, it was clear it had been through some sort of trauma.
A collision? I looked up to the window above the front door, then back down to the bird. Meantime, Little Blue Feathers stood staring at the wall.
"Ça fait de la peine! It's heartbreaking," my friend Pascale sympathized, from the wooden deck beyond. She returned to her telephone conversation with her daughter, the subject now being "Comment aider un oiseau blessé?" or "How to help an injured bird?"
Lying on the ground beside the little sparrow, I noticed its dashing plumage: navy blue feathers which contrasted with the lighter blue and brown hues of its covering. How exquisite its design! I resisted the urge to photograph the beautiful bird. Reason whispered into my ear, saying: All creatures are owed dignity in suffering.
Surely the creature was suffering? Eye to eye with the bird, mindful not to touch it, I studied its behavior. My head resting on the cement porch, I studied the bird's beak, which opened and closed automatically. Open, close, open, close... Not a peep! It would seem Little Blue Feathers had seen a ghost... or a giant monster which, come to think of it, from the bird's perspective, must be what the giant, worried eye beside it looked like. I blinked. The bird blinked. "N'aie pas peur, petit oiseau. Don't be afraid, little bird."
I scooted back a bit, and studied the overall picture. No blood, no crooked, might-be-broken wings. Just a perfectly beautiful, if stunned, bird.
Now what to do? "Don't touch it!" Pascale suggested, transferring a message from her 13-year-old daughter, Alice.
I went in search of a small branch. "Qu'est-ce que tu fais?" Pascale wanted to know.
"I'm going to coax the bird onto this branch, sans le toucher!... then I'll... well, I'll...." (Well then what would I do?)
Pascale looked doubtful. Meantime, the sun set. I resisted the urge to set a basket over the bird, to protect it from predators. It seemed the best thing to do was not to tamper with Mother Nature (perhaps the bird, if left free, would fly off in time? under a basket it would not...). I trusted that our dogs had left enough of their scent to ward off any cats and, with that, we left the poor creature on its own beneath the darkening sky... into which the winged bats flew out to spy....
That night I said a Thy Will Be Done prayer and the next morning, on waking, I said another before opening the window shutters and looking down at the front patio.
No bird... It must have flown off. Could it be?!
I ran downstairs but my heart sank on opening the front door and seeing the little stranded sparrow... which had managed to move forward during the night, finding shelter between the chipped flower pot and the old Sicilian chair.
I knelt down, level with the little bird, and noticed its feathers were all puffed up. I hoped this wasn't a sign of distress!
And just when I thought my heart could not handle the worry of it all, I gave up and decided to trust. That is when the miracle happened: the little bird flew up... and into the tree just behind me!
I swirled around, amazed. Looking up into the mulberry tree, I found Little Blue Feathers looking back down at me! Well there you are! I thought. There you are!!!
After our silent, grateful bird-to-human exchange, le petit oiseau turned and hopped from branch to branch. Higher, and higher, and higher... in step with my thankful heart.
Post note: I named the little bird "Alice", after Pascale's daughter, who had cared so much about the bird's outcome. Only, I had a doubt as to whether the bird might be a male... in which case, Alice would seem to work, too... (for in my home state of Arizona, we have a famous man who goes by "Alice". For this, our feathered surviver will be called, for the records, "Alice Cooper" (and hereafter, affectionately known as Alice (Ah leece).
P.S.: Little did I know, when dragging that chair back from Etna last summer, that its most noble incarnation to date would be that of sauvetrice, or héroïne...
un petit oiseau = a little bird
ça fait de la peine = it's heartbreaking
comment aider un oiseau blessé = how to help an injured bird?
n'aie pas peur = don't be afraid
qu'est-ce que tu fais = what are you doing.
sans le toucher = without touching it
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Garden update: Voici, here is my first attempt at lasagna gardening. I am doing things backwards (having gotten a late start). The idea is to build up layers of plant material that will eventually break down and amend the soil. It is also an effective way to control weeds! Suzanne, if you are reading, I will be trying to get my hands on some of that straw... meantime, I am collecting tiny twigs and building them up around the tomato plants. A suivre... to be continued...
I need mulch!!! The old vine stalks are only there to hold down the cardboard... I need to find a lot of tiny twigs -- plenty of them around here. Now to get out and hunt for them! Any other mulch suggestions? Stuff to be found around one's garden? I hear one can even grow her own straw. Pourquoi pas?
Thank you for the time you've spent reading my column. If you have learned more than a little vocabulary here and find yourself looking forward to the next story, please know that ongoing support from readers like you helps me continue doing what I love most: sharing these missives from France. Your support is vivement apprécié! Donating via PayPal is fast and easy when you use the links below. Merci infiniment! Kristi