virus: Sparrows

Reed Konsler (
Tue, 15 Jul 1997 13:28:01 -0400 (EDT)

For Elizabet and Michelle,

Submitted as evidence that I understand:


I was in a pretty good mood, so I decided to pick up some food at
Dean's truck and spend a little while thinking by myself. I justified such
a waste of time by referring to it as my lunch hour. Food in had I wander
kind of aimlessly around Harvard's campus until I find a secluded spot
which is more or less green. I looked around--found a tree--circled it
with my eyes a few times, and took my seat. I sat there for a long time, I
can't tell you what I was thinking. I was staring off at no place in
particular and I noticed something.

Sparrows. They were everywhere--dozens. Their movements defined a
complex pattern.

One of them was perched, alone, on top of ancient iron sewer vent,
presenting a profile. I assume it was a he due to the pattern of his
feathers. His head moved in rapid and precise saccades, giving him an
energetic and quizzical air like an eager child in
a world of new experience.

I looked at him for a long time and began to wonder if it might not
be possible, despite lack of scientific evidence, to achieve some sort of
rapport with sparrows--to speak with them. While I was thinking this I
noticed that his head had stopped moving, and he was motionless; listening
to a distant, but still familiar, sound?

And he hoped off his perch and jumped a little closer. Still
presenting me his profile. I thought on this for a while...and you
know...given the shape of a sparrow's head and the way their eyes are

I can't prove this sparrow was looking at me. If he had been, he
would have presented me his profile as he did, and not looked at me
directly, as a human would. He was a beautiful sparrow. I wanted him to
come closer, so that I might admire him in finer detail. I know this
sound's silly but I thought:

"Why don't you come a little closer?"

And he hopped! For a while he bounced around, his head moving
excitedly. He approached me to a distance of, say, 6 feet--which I
estimate to be about twice the distance
I could have reached in the position I was sitting. He stopped and "looked
at me" some more. This was my lunch hour, right? My brain was off duty,
so I asked:

"Why don't you come a little closer?"

This time aloud, though in a low voice to avoid attracting the
attention of anyone, although there was no one here except for me and the
sparrow. For a long time I looked at him and he hopped back and forth.
His motions began to show a pattern, defining an arc around me at that same
distance of roughly twice my reach. I began to get the impression that he
was teasing me, and anger began to well in my heart.

But why on Earth should a sparrow tease me? I decided it was
foolish to get angry over such things--I was, for the moment at least,
deeply in love with him. For a long time we were like that, separated by
twice my reach. And I began to get the feeling he was trying to tell me
something...I believe that sparrow really was trying to talk to me, in his
own avian way. But, before I could figure it out he was joined by his
companions, two females and another male. They all stood there for a while
arrayed around me, and I got the impression that they said to him something

"All right, it's time to go now."

And they flew away. I watched them for a long time. Their
movement through the air traced a complicated pattern. Then they were

I sat there for a while and pondered this.

Then I finished my chicken sandwich and went back to work.


Reed Konsler