• Fred R. Kline

Notes for a Memoir. “Regarding the Death of a Young Bluebird”

Updated: May 13, 2019

Ever since I was seven years old, I have had a deep emotional interest in birds. Their colors, their flight, their song, their spirit of freedom—all of these qualities drew birds to me although I was not able to articulate those qualities then. My fascination was intuitive and that love of birds has always stayed with me, guiding my spirit and teaching my soul to fly. No doubt, birds will someday carry me into the mystical realm, into the cloud of unknowing.


With a little twist of fate, I might have been a field ornithologist following in the footsteps of the great and astonishing John James Audubon. I am pretty sure, if I had done so, I would have spotted the fabled Ivory Billed Woodpecker by now (“The Ghost Bird”)—if in fact the bird was not extinct as many believe. I may yet mount an expedition in search of the Ghost Bird but I would insist on taking my dogs, which would add to the difficulty somewhat. The mighty Ivory-billed Woodpecker—almost as large as an eagle with a huge, sharp, drill-bit beak that could wreck an entire house in a few weeks—would not fear my dogs. In any case, my continuing love affair with birds, extending to a tattoo of a sailor’s Equatorial swallow on my shoulder, may account for a certain emotionality over their beauty, their lives, and their deaths.

Recently, a loud thud echoed thru the house and I wondered if a bird had again flown into my big picture window, mistaking it for another part of the sky. Yet another bird!


Two young finches had, a week before, lay stunned at my feet as I opened my front door. My Lab, Miss Lulu, a sweet and loving beast, ate one of them in a flash, the female, chomp chomp. Ahh…Too late! I quickly picked up the red headed male, a Cassin’s Finch, and I caressed him and revived him. He looked at me calmly (even, dare I say, prayerfully). I set him on a fence post out of harm’s way and soon he flew off straight and true as an arrow to a tall tree across the street. Remember me, I said, you have a friend here.


After that incident, I hung a pretty window decoration to alert future birds. It looked like a shower of multi-colored ribbons that caught the slightest wind and fluttered across the window like strings from a rainbow. I had found it at HAPPENSTANCE, a magical little shop here in Las Vegas. It was a beautiful and perfect object that I hoped could save the birds from crashing into the large clear window behind it.


Who can explain the exuberance of youth, the temptations, the misperceptions: flying into the false sky of a window, the wrong road taken with the hope of adventure--who can explain the truth of it?


When I heard the loud thud that came again, my heart sank, but I was busy and yet wondered if it might be another bird crash. I held back Lulu and Mr. Woogie when I went out later to check, with my hope no bird would be there. But a young male bluebird lay at my feet, in the quietude of his neatly folded wings, at peace. The bird’s blue head, sparkling like an azure gemstone, seemed a broken piece of the sky, and I stroked its head, as if a beautiful lost child found asleep at my door. Wake up little bird! But after a minute of stoking its body, it was clear the young bluebird was dead from a broken neck. I decided I would not bury this child of the sky, but instead I placed him in an old tree, nestled within its crusty bark, to free his gentle spirit to the open air, to the blue sky of bluebirds, where at that moment in springtime, all the birds were flying, all the birds were singing, and it seemed they would fly and sing into the continuum forever and ever.




Who can explain the sentimentality of old age, the elder’s mystical embrace of nature, the wisdom keeper’s dream of eternal return in the death of a young bluebird—who can explain the truth of it?

© Copyright 2019 by Fred R. Kline

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Director & Editor: GEORGE CALEB BINGHAM CATALOGUE RAISONNE at The Riverbank Foundation

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