94: Through the Windowpane

94: Through the Windowpane

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grand and Great

Through the Windowpane

If you look for a way to lend a hand,
you will be lifting yourself as well.

~Source Unknown

Riding the crest of a desert arroyo, our property becomes a passageway for wildlife. We keep our eyes open for the animals and birds that come to visit. One season, a mother quail nested on the ground of our open atrium, where we could eavesdrop on her developing brood through the windowpanes.

When our Midwestern grandchildren came to visit, it was seven-year-old Hannah who pressed her nose against the glass and became resident companion to the mother quail. Hannah sat on the tile floor, guarding the nest from inside the house for long stretches of time. Whenever we wanted to find Hannah, we knew just where to look. I sat there a fair amount, finding the tranquil time often not available when grandkids’ visits are brief and energy rides high. Sitting together and watching the quail family cast a special aura around us. We were inches away from the birds, yet we didn’t frighten them because of the glass that separated us. If we were still, if we were quiet, we could see the chicks bob and scratch around their mother as they learned the ways of nature.

Hannah and I were watching together on the day the mother quail began to lead the chicks over the four-inch ledge out into the desert. Hop. Skip. Up and over. Hop. Skip. Up and over. Each little bird did the calisthenics required to leave the protected nest and proceeded to conquering the unknown. The mother called to each one softly, offering encouragement. All went according to the designated plan until the turn of the tiniest chick. The little bird hopped again and again but couldn’t make it over the concrete ledge to reach the rest of the family. The height was too great. The mother coaxed and cajoled, then finally abandoned the last bird in the window well to care for the rest of the youngsters who foraged for seeds nearby. Hannah and I listened to the heartbreaking cheeping sounds of the forlorn, feathered babe. We were upset, too. I’d been told that once quail leave the nest, they do not come back, but I didn’t want to share this information with Hannah. I knew she expected me to solve the problem. Her eyes held mine, searching for my answer.

Then I did have an idea. I grabbed a sturdy piece of heavy cardboard and explained the plan to Hannah. We hurried outside with the makeshift material. I let Hannah slip the ramp into place for the last chick, angling it to present an easy slope to the top of the ledge. We quickly retreated back to the inner window.

When the little bird scrabbled up the cardboard and scooted out to join the others, we sighed in relief. It was a matter of cardboard and common knowledge, sympathy and simple wisdom.

The words of a poem by Emily Dickinson came to mind, and we went to the bookshelf and found her words. Now the lines could be understood in a new light, for Hannah and for me.

Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

On that sunny desert morning, my granddaughter Hannah and I had not lived in vain.

~Connie Spittler
Chicken Soup for the Grandparent’s Soul

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