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Enter Flag

Sunday, December 5, 2021

I wrote a blogpost with lots of video of a certain tufted titmouse doing all kinds of hopeful things: picking at terrycloth out of boredom, glugging down a big chunk of hard boiled egg yolk all by himself; picking up some special food I made for him out of a dish. And then everything suddenly went south and the next morning his head was upside down, and he was helpless again. Nothing I did made any difference. I kept feeding him and gently manipulating his neck, hoping to ease him out of it, but he faded before my eyes. He had a seizure and died at 8:14 AM on December 3. It was hard. I was very sad. I was mad at myself for telling you all his story before I knew how it would end. I'm not usually that rash. I usually protect my readers from the worst stuff. I wanted to spread some joy, that this little bird was going to have a fighting chance. And in the end, he didn't. That's how it goes in rehab, and especially with head trauma. Recovery is anything but certain. Those birds that hit your window, lie there for awhile, and fly away? There's always more to the story, and sometimes it's a story you don't want to hear.

Early that morning, right at daybreak, I was sitting in my recliner, staring out the window at the slowly lightening meadow. I was putting off checking on the titmouse because he'd been noticeably weaker when I tucked him in the night of December 2. I didn't even want to peek at him, so I sat and wrote in my journal and watched the meadow taking shape in the rising light.

And a doe came walking across the meadow, along the edge where I stop mowing the yard. I grabbed the living room binoculars (there are also bedroom binoculars, kitchen binoculars and studio binoculars--lots of binoculars) and studied her. I recognized her face instantly. My God, it was Flag!

                                                                             29 Oct 2017

Now, it was too dark to get a photo, but my binoculars picked up every detail as I scurried from window to window. I will say I recognized her from the first glance. The first thing I noticed were oversized buff eye-rings. The next thing I noticed were her smallish, rounded ears. I checked her body type: long, with rather short legs. Then I checked her bib--large but indistinct. Oh my God, she had big white flashes between her toes--bigger on the hind feet! It's Flag-it's Flag!! The last thing to check was her tail. When I finally got a good look at it, it was pale red on top, with no black on it--which is unusual. Put those six features together and my often muddled but occasionally marvelous brain spits out one answer: It's Flag!


                                                                           1 Feb 2017

It was Flag. I had not the slightest doubt. I had not seen her since March 2018! Where had she been?


 6 Mar 2018--the last time I saw her.

She'll never tell. Flag is very special to me. She is, as far as I know, Ellen's last surviving offspring. Ellen was the crooked little doe I followed for nine years. Ellen was killed by an arrow right along my driveway early on the morning of November 2, 2016, wasted, left for me and the coyotes to find.

Her twin fawns, Pinky and Flag, were only five or six months old. God bless Buffy for taking them on. Buffy had been Ellen's closest companion; I always suspected she was Ellen's sister. 

Here's Buffy in back, and Flag in front. 

Now, Buffy's in the lead. See how Buffy's legs and pelt are suffused with ochre? She was buffy all over, hence the name. 

                                                                             29 Oct 2017

This is my earliest photo of Flag, 14 Dec. 2016. What jumps out at you? For me, it's the white between her toes. What a gift that little marker is. 


Her twin brother, Pinky, had white toe flashes too.

         12 Jan 2017

By October 18, 2017, Pinky had grown his first spikes. You can see the pink nose for which I named him. 

I lost track of Pinky after that fall, as one loses track of bucks. It's not that I wasn't looking for's that he never turned up again.  But Flag, being a small doe, survived. 

                                                                            17 Oct 2017

                                                                         9 Dec. 2017

                                                                              11 Dec. 2017

Here are those small rounded ears, that unmarked tail showing well. 

                                                                            17 Jan 2017

She reminds me so much of Ellen in these shots. Man, I miss those deer coming around. 

                                                                             4 Nov 2017

To have Flag come walking through the backyard, on the very morning when another soul had to leave, was such a gift. I had bonded pretty fiercely with that titmouse, and I was determined to see him through. I thought what I'd be seeing him through to was release, but it didn't work out that way. So it goes some of the time, too much of the time. Seeing Flag helped so much. She spoke of  persistence against all odds, of hope, just as my own hopes were being dashed. 

17 Oct 2017

Look at what remains, she said. Look at all you still have that brings you joy. My mother and brother and Aunt Buffy are gone, but I'm still here. I have fawns you haven't met. And that might have something to do with the cur-dog you brought here, mightn't it? 

                                                                            30 Jan 2018

Yes, Flag, it might. I am going to keep watching for you, as I have every sunrise since I saw you. Like seeing a ghost, it was. I need a fresh portrait of you, little short-legged Garbo among does, small like your mother and your aunt, and so dear to me. Oh my gosh, I have just noticed the two small white dots atop your shiny black nose. I've looked, and they're in every photo. Attention. Attention. Attention. Nothing is too small to notice. Everything is important, everything is a clue.

I came in from a long morning of sawing sumac and hauling honeysuckle around 11 AM and was out on the deck tracking  Curtis when a big chocolate-colored buck emerged from the newly cleared area. Nice to have a way through the honeysuckle, innit? I had neither binoculars nor camera, and I raced through the living room, cursing, to get the closest pair of bins. The living room binoculars had migrated to the foyer. One can't have too many strewn around the house... I knocked over a hand-made end table in my rush, atop which, as it happened, was a box with an antique porcelain elephant inside.  (I had to stop to laugh for a minute while writing this; it's sooo Zick.) The table and box went flying. All this I noted as I streaked past, but Job One was to get the binoculars. Nothing else mattered. Happily, neither the table nor the bubble-wrapped elephant in its box were hurt in the least, while I have another spectacular bruise forming on my thigh, to join the bruises already there, from the butt ends of branches and cruel rose canes that I fight every morning in my "daily practice" of mano a mano combat with invasive plants. By the time I raced back, jumping over the fallen table, binocs in hand, the buck had leapt across the meadow and was but a dark tail disappearing into the pines. See, that's what deer do to me.  They make a blur of me. I want so badly to know them better, to trace their arcs, as I traced Ellen's and Buffy's. I will knock myself silly in pursuit of knowledge like that. And the only way to get it:  Be. There.

As I sit here writing, I'm thinking of a bit of Robert Frost's poem, "Birches:" 

So was I once myself a swinger of birches.
And so I dream of going back to be.
It’s when I’m weary of considerations,
And life is too much like a pathless wood
Where your face burns and tickles with the cobwebs
Broken across it, and one eye is weeping
From a twig’s having lashed across it open.
I'd like to get away from earth awhile
And then come back to it and begin over.

One of my eyes is indeed weeping from a twig's having lashed across it open. (God, the beauty and precision of Frost's wording).  It hurts, but I expect it'll be all right. The other eye isn't weeping; it's watching five brand new blue jays who have come to the yard at long, long last. They've finally arrived, weeks later than usual, and it's time to pile up the cinder blocks and build a new Cyanocity jay feeder for them. Hope I don't drop a cinder block on my foot, but I hold the possibility open. 

Right off the bat, I don't recognize any of them, but I'm peering, Popeye-like,  at the camera playback and sorting through each tiny feature, because this is how we learn.


  For those who wonder, yes, Flag is named for the fawn in The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. A formative book among many formative books. I might have identified with Jody, who raised Flag, just a little bit.


So sorry to hear about the tit mouse. You are compassionate , skilled and I appreciate your caring

I’m so sorry about the tit mouse. I’m amazed by the time and care you give to all. Glad Flag made you smile

All of this is why I love your blog.

What a wonderful visitor to have right as the dear titmouse left you! So nice that she came back, especially after the blog post about gun season and the decreased numbers of deer around you. Thank you so much for posting, sharing, even when it doesn't turn out the way we'd love it to, Julie. Sorry it didn't work out for the lil guy.

My first reading of your blog (recently keyed into you by a friend Susan McKinley) and must say that I will be back. In part because of your note about sharing the story of the titmouse . And how it was not the desired joy you meant to share. As a foster of dog and cats, I share my journey with them, both the challenges and the victories and find the sharing of the losses the most difficult. As it is hard enough to deal with the loss personally but to have to finish the story by telling others of the bad news, well it just adds to the burden. To the pain. But know you're not alone. Know that even in the sharing of that which is not joyful, it is real. It is truth. And there is something necessarily beneficial in the sharing of that reality too.

So glad to hear about Flag. My Mom named me Jody because she was reading The Yearling when was expecting me 🙂

Posted by Jody Zamirowski December 5, 2021 at 1:41 PM

Jody!! That's amazing. And so sweet. I love knowing that about you!

@Carroe, sometimes the hardest part of having things go badly is having to own up to it publicly. I had a lovely little dog
pass away in 2017, and I sat right down and wrote the post the next day, because I had to do it and get it over with. Awful.Thank you for fostering animals. You're a hero.

I'm so sorry about the titmouse. But the Universe gave you back Flag!

Speaking of bad news... I am wondering what happened to your skunk. I wish for the best, but I am a realist. And if you do not wish to tell about it, just delete this comment. I will understand.

Posted by mimimanderly December 5, 2021 at 5:49 PM

@Mimimanderly, spring and warm weather came and SugarBean wandered off. It was too hot to live in a mailbox any more. I've no idea where he went, just as I've no idea where he came from. And that's fine.

I am sorry about the titmouse. I could barely read about its saga as it made me too sad. But, I honor and appreciate the work you do for animals. And, usually it is happy, funny or just plain informative news. I get a kick out of Curtis! And,I am glad SugarBean wandered off on his own accord. I hope he healed and is still out there.

I did introduce my friend, Carrie, to your blog. You are both heroes!

As usual, I read Ellen's name and started crying. Now I'm so glad to have something happy to cry about. I love knowing that Flag is still around and came to see you on a day you needed a positive experience. Please excuse me while I go wash my face and clear my sinuses. Love you.

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