Of dogs and birds

Last week during the Christmas holiday I woke up and went to check on the garden. Our little fire-escape garden out the kitchen window had done well for us over the season, producing thyme, rosemary, and even a few cherry tomatoes as well as a bunch of nice plants and flowers. Of course, when the weather started getting cold we started moving everything inside that hadn’t died yet. I wanted to save all the excess dirt and dead leaves and roots, because I had a crazy vision that it would be even more fertile next year. I even bought a bucket from the hardware store and put all this dirt and organic material in it and left it out on the fire escape to serve as a sort of compost heap.

My first indication that this wouldn’t really work was last week when I checked it and found it had first filled with rainwater and then frozen. Fearing this might crack my bucket, I brought it inside to melt, and when it had, I was left with a big bucket of dirt water. Wanting to rid myself of the water, but keep the dirt (ever persistant), I considered how this might be accomplished. I have no backyard. No private outdoor area whatsoever, and no real access to the earth, as when I go outside I am surrounded by concrete, metal and wood. I couldn’t pour this water down the drain or the toilet, as I worried the dirt would clog the pipes unmercifully. So I thought I would just slowly dump the water out the window. Hey, I figured, this is what happens when it rains…

So I dumped a bunch of it right onto the fire escape, after I took a quick look down and didn’t see anybody. I didn’t see much of anything, really, as the iron lattice blocks most of the view straight down. I wondered what kind of backyard Tom on the first floor has. Were those the bricks of a patio I spied down there? Was that his dog that started yelping as the water hit the bricks with a splat? I stopped pouring and closed the window. I’d have to get rid of the rest of this water on the street, but I waited a few days before attempting it.

***

Lately I have seen a lot of birds in the PATH train. I wonder if this is a winter phenomenon, or if they are always down there. I believe they are sparrows, or anyway they look like sparrows: small, quick, powerless.

I was sitting on the train as it was docked in the Hoboken station, doors open, waiting for passengers. Through the door I saw one of these creatures standing on the platform, hopping about, picking up crumbs. It then hopped up the stairs, one by one, slowly cleaning them of any edible debris. I wondered where his nest might be, whether in the station roofing or outside. Did he bring his family down here for the winter, knowing that it would provide extra warmth? Does he do it every year? Or maybe he was born here, and has never known the outside world. Perhaps his wife was sitting on their eggs up in the rafters. But then a group of commuters bounded down the stairs and he flew off to safety.

In the 33rd St station I saw a pidgeon flying over the heads of the commuters, then land near where the cops stand and bounce around, looking confused. It was anyone’s guess as to how he ended up in this underground world. But rather than wonder about his family, I wondered if he would figure out the way back up top – as he was not welcome. Pidgeons just don’t rate as high as sparrows in my book.

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