It all started with the crowd we had for dinner on Father’s Day.
And it culminated last night with the death of two babaies.
In between is a series of simple activities, when cause and effect are unknown to each other.
But, back to the beginning…
For large family dinners, we have an extra table that we put up beside the dining room table to make a big square so 16 people can sit down to dinner. It works. But the makeshift table with its folding metal legs and its pine board planks is pretty rough.
So I get this big idea that I’ll sand the boards, stain them the same shade as the dining room table and then we can set the table with fancy placemats and it’ll all be the same colour.
It’s one of those things… it didn’t HAVE to be done, but it would be nicer. I’m sure you know what I mean.
I dragged the table out to the covered deck off our living room and got out my palm sander, some hand sand paper, a mixture of mahogany and oak stain, some quick drying varathane, essentially everything I’d need to do this job.
It felt like a half-hour job to sand and stain with a few coats of varathane over a couple of days.
However, the pine planks were full of black tire marks (don’t ask!), some grease, some paint, a ridge or two of varnish and the palm sander just didn’t cut it. I needed my belt sander and some 80 grit paper. Back down to the workshop.
Now, it is at this point that I made my tactical (however innocent) error.
When I started up the belt sander, it screeched like a banshee and took off like a jackrabbit down the table, ripping across the planks and stripping off everything in sight. Very very loud. Then I got out the palm sander and it smoothed things out quite well.
What I didn’t know is that down below, in the rafters of the deck floor (which forms the roof of my father-in-law’s deck below ours) is a cheerful robins’ nest. Mommy and Daddy robin have been for weeks plucking succulent dinners from our lawn for their four baby birds.
Now if I look at the event from the baby birds’ point of view, it might sound like this.
They live in their cozy home, tucked into a corner among the cedar rafters of a quiet neighbourhood. They look over the vegetable garden and the baby apple trees. Now and then they hear the family above, sitting on chairs and visiting, but not very often.
All of a sudden, our of onowhere, is this shrill, horrible, crunching, screaming, terrorizing sound. It’s loud. It’s shaking something and the vibrations are filtering right through to the rafters holding the nest.
“Let’s get out of here. This is frightening!” So the baby birds, who can’t yet fly, try to.
Fast forward, if you will, later in the evening as I head across the street with flowers to see my neighbour who’s home from hospital. My father-in-law pauses mid-lawn-mowing.
Two birds fell out of the next. They died. I picked up the other two and put them back. I don’t know if they will live.
We puzzled as to why these birds would suddenly leave their nest. I ask where the nest is. I learn that it’s underneath where I’ve been working. I realize that it’s given one elderly gentleman hours of enjoyment watching this busy, emerging, growing family.
And I realize that my zeal for an improved dining room add-on table for special events has likely caused the demise of this little family.
With so much uncontrollable strife in the world, I’m focussed on these baby birds and feeling guilty about my role in their plight. Unconscious, but nonetheless very real.
It gives me cause to wonder how often this happens, in the wake of everyday human activity.
I sure hope the other two make it.
I’ve put away the sanders.