October 24, 2023

Did you know:

Toronto is located at the convergence of the Atlantic and Mississippi “flyways,”which are important routes for migrating birds in the spring and fall.  It is estimated that more than one million birds die from window collisions in Toronto every year. 

It started with the pigeons.

Arturo didn’t find he could walk so far anymore — not like when he first moved to Toronto many years ago, and could walk up and down the Harbour for hours.

So, as he got slower, and his bones began to creak, and his knees started to betray him, he would simply take the elevator down to the park in the summers, sit on the closest bench, and throw out seed for the “rats with wings” that held a special place in his heart.

The winter came, and his knees ached far too much to sit out in the cold, so he was stuck on the couch, with his heat turned up high. 

40 years in this city, and the one thing he’d never learned to like was the cold. 

So, the haunting started with a pigeon — the strangest looking one he’d ever seen — long necked, pink chested and soft blue feathers, sitting on his tv stand — just sitting on his tv stand — one morning. Basking in the heat of the radiator.

And I don’t know HOW he did, but Arturo knew this bird had once belonged here, in this place, but had been gone for a very long time. But the ghost pigeon seemed friendly and pecked at Arturo’s seeds — and loved the heat as much as he did — so they carried on.

And then, the next morning, Arturo awoke to a spectre of a hummingbird silently flitting around his face — so without question he mixed a little sugar water and set it on the kitchen counter.

The next morning, he was rudely awoken by a warbler, trilling from the bathroom.

The next morning, a sparrow flying around his ceiling fan.

And the next, and the next, and the next — until his whole home was a flyway of birds, monarchs and the occasional bat, swirling creatures and their memories, of the route south, of flashing windows, confusing lights, missing milkweeds and hunting parties with a taste for fowl.

And, I don’t know how he knew these things, but Arturo did, and more importantly he understood — about how hard it can be to leave your home, and to find a place far away to nest and live your life. And, how hard it can be when that path home is blocked — for who knows how long, for maybe forever.

So, Arturo turned up the heat in the winter, and he opened the windows in the summer, and although they would leave him to flock in the sun, the birds would always came back, and there he was, waiting.