The Killdeer sound the alarm at the end of the woods, and their noisy nervous screech follows me for more than a mile: Over the railroad tracks, past the house that recently burned and has since been bulldozed, past goats and horses on one side of the road and manicured lawns on the other.
It’s not the same bird. They hand off their distress call like a relay baton, the same nervous fretting over and over.
I wish I could reassure them, so they didn’t feel the need to go through this pointless routine: Attention, birds! I’m not going to trample on your nests or steal your babies. I’m not going to leave this pavement, though I do wander over to the edge and run on the narrow strip of gravel from time to time.
Oh, and I know you’re faking that injury, by the way. If I suddenly leaped over the ditch to the tall grass – which I would never do because I always assume there’s a snake lying in wait – that “hurt wing” you’re squawking about, your automatic decoy system, would suddenly be miraculously healed and you’d fly away.
But I can’t reassure the Killdeer, or adjust the volume. All I can do is tune it out, which is harder with no earbuds in place. Maybe what I could do, though, is outsource my own nervous fretting to them.
Here you go, little birdies: Take all my worries about this run. Will I make it in this heat that I still haven’t adjusted to yet? If I have to slow down – or even worse, walk a bit – will I get back in time to shower and be ready to pick up the kids from all their various events?
Speaking of the kids, why don’t I hand you all my worries about them as well? They’re all doing fine, occasionally soaring and sometimes stumbling as kids do in the process of figuring out who they’re going to be. But I can’t help fretting, as you birds do, every time I glimpse a potential threat.
You killdeer sound like the inside of my head sometimes, all that silly pointless yammering. But I think what I’ll do is, on this run, I’ll let you guys do the fretting for both of us. When I come back past here on the way home, you let me know if you’ve figured out any solutions, OK?
In the meantime, I’m just going to enjoy my run.