One of my students said she was walking around the UMF campus recently when suddenly an adult bird dropped out of a tree and landed on the sidewalk in front of her, dead. She's not particularly a birder or environmentalist, but it freaked her out and she didn't stick around to try to figure out what might have happened. She said she thought it was a crow. She rushed away and left it there.
I thought of that incident last night when I opened my Flint Journal. I swear, in the melancholy department it's not safe to open the newspaper anymore. The first page headline cried out "Dying Birds" and said the West Nile Virus is decimating bird populations in the U.S. -- particularly American crows, but also robins, chickadees, bluebirds, blue jays, house wrens, and tufted titmice.
Damn it, the tufted titmouse? I love that bird -- not just its hilarious name, but its perky little topknot and the way the cheery birds sweep onto the back yard feeder in small bouncy cadres, dropping down from the neighbor's cherry tree one by one to grab a seed.
Should we be getting ready to lose everything we love? I'm thinking of Elizabeth Bishop's gut-wrenching villanelle, "One Art": "The art of losing isn't hard to master," and wondering if I have the intestinal fortitude for what sometimes feels like a looming environmental collapse. I remember that no matter what people say about the underlying acceptance in Bishop's poem, written after the suicide of her longtime lover Lota, the last word, undeniably, irrevocably, is "disaster":
"...the art of losing's not too hard to master though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster."
I don't want to lose the tufted titmouse. Is it too late?