It’s bad to be a birdbrain.

We know this. Birdbrain has been a term of abuse since at least the 1940s, bird-brained since at least the 1920s. Sure, some birds can fly halfway around the planet and find their way back. Others can spot a fish below the waves from hundreds of feet up and nail them in a dive. Small birds have brains that are fully 1/12 of their body weight (compared with 1/40 for humans). But – with mynah exceptions (ha ha) – birds are not known for being creative problem solvers.

Take this little one here (see it on the counter?).


It was in the coffee place I was working in this afternoon, Versus. It flew in the front door and then, for hours, it fluttered and flapped and batted and bounced up in the pipes at the ceiling and against the high windows. It would take little rest breaks, then rally and make another go at it. There were two doors open; it could have flown out of either one. But the doors, from its position, were down. At one point it landed on the lintel above an open door. Then it spent the next five minutes beating its wings against the window above the door, not once going down the extra ten centimetres to duck under.

Finally, after many misadventures and much fluffing of bits of feather into the air (onto laptops and into coffee cups), it landed on a counter a mere two metres from an open door in clear line of sight. And then… it flew up again for another assault on the high glass.

I left after two hours. It was still tilting at windows. The staff were planning to chase it out after closing time if necessary.

But I have some understanding of that bird’s problem. Hey, if you’re a bird, you expect escape to be up, right? But the way for the bird to get out of that coffee place was the same way I got in there. I don’t mean through the door, though yes, that too. I mean that for years I was in a job where I had gotten as high in the company as I could. I wanted a way out, but I didn’t want to take a cut in pay. So I kept trying to head out upward, or at least without going down. I could see the opportunities, but dang! Finally I let myself lower my sights enough for long enough to get out.

And now I’m free as a bird with the sky as the limit, happy to land on whatever tree suits me. And to do my editing and writing in whatever coffee joint – but I know how to get out.

One response to “birdbrain

  1. This is a lovely story and a great analogy. It’s nice to feel free, isn’t it?

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