BLAG:  DAN'S BLOG
I'm not sure why I've started a blog.  Perhaps it is to see if I can write anything non-technical worth reading.  Or maybe give an alternate view of the world, or at least a view of my world.  "blag" is British slang meaning to use well-practiced blarney to acquire something, e.g., "I blagged my way into the Oysterband concert".  So while many have a blog, I have a blag.

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DIGNITY
November 1, 2009

This is a true story.  (I have to say that because otherwise I'd be accused of being a nutty animal activist, making stuff up.)

I went bicycling today.  It's a precious thing this time of year because the weather in Northern Illinois isn't always so good, and for it to be mid 50s and sunny on a weekend in November is good fortune.  In Fall, the sun lies low in the sky, and sundowns are brief.  So, afternoon rides are short.

Now, riding in Northern Illinois isn't the same as in some nearby states.  Getting to the country takes a while, and if one's ride is short there is little option but to ride on some heavy trafficked roads.  It's something I'm used to.  Yet, there are some nice roads with a little more natural setting about five miles to the west of where I live.  A series of forest preserves stretches south/north just west of I-94.  Along the edge of one preserve is Riverwoods Road, which is freshly paved and has a three foot edge--something rare.

As I peddled south along Riverwoods Road at a fairly good pace, I came to an area with groves of leafless trees thirty yards from the road.  Nearer to the road was thick prairie.  I saw a bird lying on its side in the road's edge and, as usual, altered my path to miss the animal in the road.  The bird was fairly big so as I passed I watched near my foot to see if I could identify the type of bird.  The bird's breast was nearest my view and was brown/cream colored with black speckle running the length of its belly--most likely a wood thrush with solid, light brown cover.  What struck me is that the bird appeared to raise its head as I passed.  Usually when a small bird is hit by a car, the demise is swift, so this caught my attention.

After letting cars pass from behind, I turned the bicycle around and headed back to see if what I saw was true or whether the wind had caused the illusion of the bird's motion.  The wood thrush was, in fact, still alive... barely.  Internal injuries were clear as there was some blood near the bird's long beak.  Time was running short for this creature.

The wood thrush seemed to realize my presence, blinking its one eye that wasn't to the pavement and occasionally struggling to move.  Appearing paralyzed, it could only manage to raise its head slightly.  I wondered what the bird's thoughts or imagery might be at this stage, done in by a world it can't understand--as opposed to, say, a hawk circling nearby or some other suspect wildlife competing for survival--and me standing nearby.  In a short while, the thrush's belabored breathing would falter, its carcass lying on its side near the road's edge.

Five minutes had passed, and the bird's breathing became more intense but at longer intervals, now more of a strong, audible huff.  At this point, bubbles of blood ran outward along the bird's beak.  No more than ten huffs.  That was it.

The surprising ending to this story is that my original assessment of paralysis was wrong.  With its dying breath, the thrush fluttered its wings in a brief flurry, enough to upright its body with its beak tucked neatly beneath its chest, no longer lying as though flattened helpless.  One last attempt at flight--what it was born to do.

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