My office is located on the 2nd floor, in Lutong, East Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. There I spend a large part of my life drinking coffee, chatting with my colleagues, driving the mouse around and hammering some digits with my digits into the PeeeCeee. At the bottom of my cubicle, there is a large window that opens toward a kind of empty patio, peeled-off yellow paint, with a number of ventilation shafts and AC outlets. Higher up the walls, swallows build their birds nests and speed around in the patio to catch flies and mosquitoes.
Yesterday I sat behind my workstation, as usually. But this time, Olaya, our technical focal point, sat next to me. I had some difficult mapping to do. I needed her help.
It was about two in the afternoon, when we heard a dump sound from the patio.
A bird had fallen down, presumably hit a window or so, and lay sputtering on the concrete floor, beating its wings in spasms. It made attempts to fly but couldn’t. It tried to walk, but always fell and rolled over. Then it ramped into the shade to seek shelter from the tropical sun.
Olaya had a sad look on her face, and said with a calm voice. “What a sad view. The bird won’t make it. Sometimes they fly into the window, or hit the wall. Then they die very quickly. If you believe this view is sad, you should see what bird rescue missions feel like. True, I‘ve saved so many birds in my life, but I saw so many dying, too.”
I felt very compassionate for the bird that huddled against the wall of the patio. I just strongly wished that somehow we could help to make it survive.
Meanwhile, Olaya seemed to have changed her mind. “Help me up to the window,” she said. “I’ll have a look and see what we can do. Try to find an empty shoe box.”
I happened to have one in my drawer, filled with CDs. I dumped the CDs, and pocked air holes into it, with the help of an envelope opener. Then I saw Olaya coming back. She carried the little bird on her hands.
I opened the window, and she back climbed back in.
“It’s a baby swallow,” she said. “Can’t fly yet. It fell out of the nest.”
She placed it carefully into the box, with a loving smile. I put the lid on, and we continued to work on the computer. Then she left.
I finished my job. It was four-thirty P.M, when Olaya came back.
“Are you committed to help this baby bird?” she asked with a mild voice. Her hazel eyes looked mellow and beautiful.
“Sure,” I said.
“Come to my house at six,” she said. “We need to catch insects. Worms won’t do. I just checked it out on the internet.”
I managed to collect half of a dead wasp, and a living spider from my apartment. Then I drove to the camp and met Olaya at her house. The little bird was doing better. But we had no insects. Flies are like cab drivers. When you don’t need them, they buzz around. But when you need one for once, there ain’t be a single one around.
“Let me go to the supermarket, and check out the angler’s corner. They might have some live bait,” I said and jumped into my old Mitsu Pajero.
I couldn’t get any bait, and ended up buying some food for canary birds. Life is strong, I told myself. If the bird is strong, and wants to live, he will catch on with this stuff, too. I left the bird food with Olaya, and went to see some friends in town.
This morning I saw Olaya in the office. A broad smile was on her face.
“You know, what?” she said. “This morning the baby swallow made attempts to fly. I helped it two, three times. Then I raised it on my hand as high as I could. Then it spread its wings and flew away.
Saying this, she made a gesture with her arm, and I felt that a bit of her beautiful heart had flown away, too.
© 2004 by Franz L. Kessler