When I was in highschool in Aurora,CO we lived in a house with a chimney. I feel that if you are a true Coloradan, your house has a chimney. It’s a comfort after traipsing in from the icy blast of winter wind. You stop at the doorway and after kicking the snow off outside, pick apart your shoelaces that are iced together. This usually ended up with me plopping on the floor with a mild thud and peeling off my inevitably wet socks. These are laid out flat on fireplace where they will dry out and harden before hitting the washer.
Staring into flames was one of the nicest times. The pop and crackle. The lovely smell of sap from the Christmas tree mixed with wood burning.
During the summer our fireplace was ignored. One day it would be freezing and next, the lilac bush would have fat little bees bumbling around. The smell of the fireplace would change from sweet to a more acrid one. I had come home from school one day to hear a mysterious scratching noise in fireplace. I paused doing my homework and listened hard to the noise. Scratching and soft scraping. Shit. Shit. Ok. It’s a squirrel. Or raccoon. Or a bird.
“Mom, we have a problem. Something is trapped in the fireplace and it’s probably going to die.” Always a cheerful disposition. I worry about things that haven’t happened. Tender hearted with a death complex. My outward attitude at 15 is typical. Moody, outbursts of happiness that are blamed on drugs(nope, no pot yet), and worry. The worry has plagued me my entire life. When I wake up in the morning so does the Eye. It searches every nook of my brain for a crumb that I can worry over.
Mom is busy. “Amber, you know I’m at work. What do you want me to do?”
Well. She’s got me there. “I don’t know! Should I call the Wildlife conservation?” In my mind I see a bald eagle struggling within our chimney.
“Ok, you’re being ridiculous. I will deal with it when I get home. Shut the flu. That way it will go up. I’m hanging up now. I love you.” Our conversations always end with I love you. It’s a special thing and I know I take it for granted.
I hang up the phone and look apprehensively at the fireplace. Scratching is still emanating from the bricks. I head for the kitchen and grab the flashlight from the top of the fridge. Ok, let’s see what we have here. I sit in the edge of the white washed brick hearth. I immediately see my mistake. My hands are black and smudged with soot as soon as I lean in. “Fuck it.” I aim the flashlight into the darknes above and see a flutter of movement. Just then the door bangs open. I crack my head on the ledge of fireplace. Ow.
“Hi!” My little sister bounds in the house and flings her backpack in the chair. “What are you doing? Your hands are dirty. It’s too hot for a fire. Mom will be mad.” She is dedicated to stating the obvious at 8 years old.
“I’m not making a fire! Duh! Obviously it’s too hot and there is something stuck up there for your information and I’m trying to save it!”
She comes over to take a look. We hear more fluttering and scratching.
“Get the broom!” I feel like this is the answer. Poke at it to force it’s fear up. My sister heads off to grab the broom. Within moments we start flailing the red O’Cedar around in the chimney. Clang! Clang!
“What the hell are you doing?” We both turn around and stare. Dirty with soot and holding a mangled broom.
“I was trying to get the bird out.” I feel dumb now.
“How? By beating it to death?” She sighs and walks over. “Ok, first off, the flu is closed, so you’re just making a bunch of noise, secondly you owe me a broom. Let me get changed and I will look. Now go get cleaned up before you stain my carpet.”
We head to the aqua green bathroom. The previous owner went all out and sprang for a matching tub. Classy. I try to help my sister but she’s having none of it.
“She can wash her own hands, Amber!” Mom yells this from her makeshift bedroom in the living room. We have set up a divider giving her some semblance of privacy. Us kids got the bedrooms.
I leave Jordyn to wash her hands and go to investigate. “Well, who should we call?”
I am aghast. What does she mean no one?
“How will it get out?”
It’s at this moment, just as she is preparing to tell me how the flu is open and a light is on to draw it out, that the little sparrow comes flying out. She immediately slams into our small West facing windows. They are not just small. They are slits meant only to catch the light from Colorados amazing sunsets. She lays in the window sill, stunned. Dead?
“Quick! Grab the colander! ” I race into the kitchen which is my least favorite room. Nothing in here appeals to me, but I know where the colander is and grab it.
I rush back to my mom and hand her the colander. The bird is still and I feel woozy. Mom starts tip -toeing and I burst out in a giggle.
Suddenly the bird is a light and flying again.
“Dammit Amber!” She is smiling and I know she sees the humor.
I’m still laughing, giddy, looking for the bird. Jordyn is hidden. Probably for the best. Scanning the room for movement, we finally see the bird sail past into the kitchen. Landing on the table is so odd but it’s been an odd day. I stay behind mom and she tells me not to move at all. I hold still. She starts the tip toeing again and I suppress a giggle. She shoots a glare over her shoulder. So far, so good. The bird is just be-bopping on the table. With a sudden rush of movement my mom lands the colander on top of the bird.
“YOU GOT IT!” I’m so excited. It feels like war has been declared and we won.
Now though, we have to get it out. The poor thing is panicking and could hurt itself. I grab the cookie sheet off the stove.
“Here, put this underneath. ”
We head toward the door. A rush of warm air and the smell of sage. Mom lifts the colander and the bird flies. A little worse for wear, but man what a story!
When I’m having an anxiety attack sometimes I feel like that bird must have felt. Not knowing which way is up. I’m much better at not beating myself up, but I definitely worry about what people think. Unable to recognize that the thing I’m so scared of isn’t that terrible at all. In fact, in the end, it could help me. It will be terrifying to get out of that dark place and out in the sun, but if I can open up and stay calm I might get to meet some cool people and have a really great story. It’s worse to wonder about flying and never do it than giving it a shot. Maybe needing a little help navigating the path isn’t bad.