Saturday, July 11, 2020

The Chimney, The Bird and The Secret Agreement

Where's Waldo? Gray tail at 6 o'clock.
Have you ever made an agreement with someone without even knowing it?

Meaning … have you ever created some form of commitment with another, without involving the other person at all and without using one word?

Meaning … have you ever altered some of your normal behaviors believing that this shift would also elicit a shift in another person?

Meaning … have you ever held an expectation that was not fulfilled, leaving you feeling pissed and betrayed?

Meaning … well, you know what I mean?

A common example of this is when someone changes their personality and pretends something is permissible within a romantic relationship with the unspoken arrangement that the other person won’t leave or abandon the relationship. Once the relationship ends, the person who altered “who they are” is routinely irate! They think their anger stems from the other person leaving or behaving as they did, but the upset may actually arise since they changed themselves, thereby betraying their own identity, needs and terms.

I call it the “secret agreement,” an arrangement so secret in fact, that people don’t even know they are making it.

Case in point – this darn bird that ended up in our house’s fireplace.

What? A bird? A fireplace? Yes, you got that right.

After 15 years living here (or anywhere for that matter), it’s the first time I’ve had a bird dive down through the chimney, ultimately bypassing the flue and residing in the fireplace.

There it was yesterday – a smallish, long-tailed brown bird – flapping its wings trying to escape, visible barely beyond the glass doors of the fireplace. At first the sounds in the chimney had us believing it was a rat or mouse. Then after seeing the flapping wings we knew, oh man, we’ve trapped ourselves a bird.

Now what?

We knew we had to do whatever we could to free it. That was a given. A non-negotiable. Not like we were gonna just turn on the gas fire and see how long the “canary in the coalmine” could last.

So putting on our thinking caps, we considered a few ideas:

·      Contact the Chula Vista animal control to come and get it.
·      Try to catch it ourselves with a pillowcase or towel – not that easy of a scenario with the fake logs it would sneak behind and under.
·      Call friends who we knew a thing or two about birds.
·      Text Jennifer’s friend Dawn, a member of the National Audubon Society and one smart bird herself.
·      Open the fireplace glass doors and let it fly right out the door, a sure impossibility and a prospect that would freak out the wife, and possibly endanger our health and the health of our dog. Yes, wild birds are not the carriers of pristine health.
·      Find out how to keep it alive and set up a sanctuary where kids and adults alike could visit … for a fee. (OK, this was only a passing thought).

After a few hours of working through ALL these options – all but the sanctuary and the “let it fly” ideas – we were really scrambling. We didn’t want it to die in there, from the heat or any faint gas smells. We were spending all this time for a bird we never met before, one we didn’t share hobbies or interests, and one who was actually – on some level – costing us some valuable work time.

Here is where the “secret agreement” came into my mind … my SUBCONSCIOUS mind.

Without realizing it until later, I had this agreement with the little wild thing. Basically: “OK, I’ll spend all this time and effort, even offer some bird food, as long as you are compliant, allow us to find a way out for you and then fly free and happy into the blue yonder skies.”

Well, without even waiting for an agreement – verbal or otherwise – I thought we were good.

Yeah I was wrong.

Somehow as we were contemplating some more game plans, it GOT OUT of the fireplace. Creating the tiniest of openings SO IT COULD BREATHE, the little bugger (obviously with a pretty squishy vertebrae body) somehow squeezed out of the enclosure and was just sitting there on our sacred altar.

Jennifer happened to glance over in its direction, seeing it sitting on a picture of Ammachi, and said, “Oh my god, it’s out. It’s out.” 

Springing into action, I instantly searched for that “agreement” we had made with the bird. You know the one where I’d spend valuable time and effort on this project as long as it was a good bird and didn’t cause any trouble. (OK, I JUST threw in the part about “not causing any trouble,” but IT KNEW what I meant.).

Guess what?  THERE WAS NO AGREEMENT. Even if there were a contract it wasn’t signed. And even if the bird made a mark on it, you think it would hold up in court? NO!

So we must JUMP into action now. Get the dog into the side room! Open the door! Wife upset. Pray the bird just flies through the air towards the open door. Well it flew but not through the open door. No, that would be too easy. It made a right into the kitchen, pooping along the way, landing on the pots and pans. Wife upset. It made a return trip on back towards the fireplace. Sure – why not? Home sweet home! Then onto the couch, feathers flying. Then somehow down the darkened hall towards the back room. Why not? Take an entire tour of the place, will ya?

Wife really upset.

And so she should be. Jennifer is pretty darn smart about health factors and what keeps bodies vibrant and disease free. And stray, wild birds, pooping in flight in the living room AIN’T it.

Finally, in the back room, our fine-feathered friend appeared to be in rest mode on the floor near the closet doors. I quickly opened up the back doors to this room, got a bed sheet, covered the bird, scooped it up and shoed it out. Taking the sheet away, the bird just took off into the air, soaring over Berry Street Park.

My first thought: “WE HAD AN AGREEMENT!!!”

Well, we didn’t have an agreement.

I did.

And it was all in my head.

In the end, you do what you gotta do. You clean up the poop, you vacuum up the feathers, your wife creates two concoctions of thieves essential oils, and you take an extra hour working together to completely sanitize this home.

In the end, you let go of what would be expectations, and rest in the knowing.

We knew we had to do whatever we could to free it. That was a given. A non-negotiable.

At times like these, there really is no agreement at all. Especially with a bird. There is just the right intention and the right action.

And no matter the outcome, or the cleanup required, you can rest in that. You did the right thing.

James Anthony Ellis is a writer and producer living in San Diego. He can be reached at

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