An Essay By Kevin Brian Dowling, Pennsylvania
A brief shower left a misty fog in its wake, as an orange sun dipped to the horizon. Around 8.00 pm, a bird alit on the ledge outside the second floor window of my death row cell. Normally, birds would quickly flee as soon as they saw movement inside my cell, but this was a special visitor. I slowly advanced my face until I was inches away. Not a young bird, I reckoned. A brownish-grey female finch, I think, member of the oscine family.
My cell window is a narrow 16 inches wide separated by two wide bars on the inside, and three narrow bars outside the glass. A bright security light illuminated my ledge during the night, offering the bird some sense of warmth, I believe.
She turned to face me, our eyes met, as she cocked her head side to side. She flew at the window and made several futile attempts to squeeze between the bars and glass. Perhaps she thought the bars were branches in some strange kind of tree, as she sought shelter for the night.
She eventually faced out as she preened her feathers for a very long time. We watched the sun set together, before she hunkered down and closed her eyes. Featured by the security light, she stood like a sentinel in the night. I assumed she would leave, but she remained when I went to sleep at 11.00pm.
The next morning I awoke at 5.30am. I was pleasantly surprised to find ladybird still there. I again pressed my face to the glass as she turned to stare at me. No, dear friend, this is not an aviary. You live amongst the trees of life. These brown bars are part of the tree of death.
All told, ladybird stayed nearly eleven hours. As the rising sun burnt away the morning fog, she sang her song for a special someone. Shortly afterward, a male bird landed. obviously her mate separated during the rain last evening. After a short conversation, they flew off together.
I had studied ladybird’s weather-worn face and confident manner. I am glad you have a companion, my avian friend. I thank you for your visit.
Kevin Brian Dowling, Pennsylvania