I’m pretty sure I killed it.
Of course, it wasn’t intentional.
I remember hearing an expletive (and I was alone in the car, so it must have been me) when I watched it in the rearview mirror, a tumble of feathers somersaulting, the momentum flopping it sideways over and over when it hit the ground, and finally, lying still in the gravel at the road’s edge.
An orange-red flash, of robin or thrush, I imagined it again: arcing and spinning out of control after the kamikaze dive that didn’t register in my lulled driver’s mind until it was level with the car grill at the centre line.
I’d been watching for bigger animals, vigilantly scanning the tall grass on each side of the route ahead, ready to brake should anything long-legged or fur-covered appear.
I’d forgotten that twilight brings a feeding opportunity for all sorts of creatures winging above roadways in this season of plenty.
Me, a wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve, presumed-guilty-just-for-being-human vegetarian.
I safely usher spiders from indoor window sills.
I re-locate slugs from the garden rather than bating them with the promise of a drunken last bath.
I steer around migrating frogs to avoid popping them.
I brake for butterflies.
And now I live with the knowledge that I am a driving menace.
Yes, I was pretty sure I’d killed it, and then, lily-livered, I didn’t stop.
I opted instead to settle for a self-soothing cop-out: I couldn’t help by stopping, couldn’t change what had happened, couldn’t comfort the bird during what I imagined were its last heartbeats. Guilty, brief and private were those thoughts.
I drove on, and focused on the bird’s departing energy. Wishing it a farewell, I hoped its young had fledged.
Then I re-wrote the scene, imagined the bird shaking the roadside debris from its feathers and lifting off into easy flight, safely plucking gulps of life from the bug-rich air until it was dark enough for headlights.
And maybe the re-write was reality after all—because I didn’t see a body when I passed that part of the road on my bicycle the next morning.
It was a small relief, and it occurred to me that covering the distance to work by pedal power was far less likely to result in carnage.
After all, on my bike, I regularly swerve to miss snakes, slugs and salamanders. I make way for fuzzy caterpillars and glossy millipedes that travel the pavement. I’ve even dodged great big bees seemingly intent on colliding with my helmeted forehead.
And now, when I’m looking for an excuse not to ride, the vision of that bird’s doomed flight is a strong motivation.
While it’s impossible to do no harm in my lifetime, I can do less harm.
And that must count for something.
Julie Ann Luoma is happy to share quirky conclusions drawn from life’s little dramas.