Many people dream of small pets, small babies, and big larvae, and specifically of the difficulties of nursing them including the bad conscience of having forgotten and abandoned them – or, or including, the bad conscience of accidentally crushing them. In my daily life, I am childless and petless, but I regularly dream about rediscovering homes I have abandoned, with pets (especially but not only reptiles) who have not been fed for years. Very often they have miraculously survived, sometimes by transforming into another animal or just another way of absorbing nourishment.
But I am not going to explore that genre of dreams here, instead focusing on something that seems more odd, my dream fear of small birds. Which I have been unable to notice in my waking life, where I love to watch wrens and rubycrowns, I have tried handling and ringing tiny warblers, I enjoy the entertainment provided by ducklings, and I also don’t mind being surrounded by large insects, bats, sparrows, pigeons or crows, and my suspiciousness against hornets and parrots does not go beyond the rationally justifiable – just to emphasise that this is not part of a regular phobia against flying animals in general or of some special kind. It’s just those creepy tiny dream birds… Three examples from the past few years.
I am trying to find my way to the house of a friend through a dense coniferous forest, or more like an abandoned garden overgrown with fast-growing spruce. It is difficult to discern the footpath, and requires strength to push one’s way through the branches. Various titmice are scurrying around there, but the winter has been difficult, and they seem all dying. One tiny bird (a willow tit) falls down on me, softly bouncing down into my palm. Can a bird actually be that small? It’s like a black-and-white marzipan chicken. It’s horrifying. And the bird is dying.
As I am wading along the shore waiting for permission to leave by boat, I am haunted by small birds. On two large stones, there are hundreds of them, they seem unreasonably small. This is metaphysically wrong, I am complaining loudly to the schoolteacher who is wading with me. On the one stone it is wagtails, and actually I have to admit they’re fairly normal-sized when I demonstrate them. But on the other stone, they look more like tiny dolls. It was bird dolls but now they look more like superhero action figures. In legions. Like a big christmas nativity scene or a war boardgame. They are still intensely disturbing.
There is a distant opening in the forest that I always wanted to explore, and coming there I find two small farms, with chickens running around all over. I ask for lodging and they offer me a room. I am very comfortable in this room, and in one corner it feels like there is a waterfall of hidden voices showering me. However, another corner, facing the porch, has an open door. This seems unpractical with all these fowl running around. They explain to me, it is important that the animals roam freely. I am getting angry, no, I am not going to have them in my bedroom at night. As I am saying this I become aware there is a big turkey just outside angrily gazing at me, and I try to quickly brush away the quails and bantams and close the door. But as I am closing the door there are birdfeet clasping onto my arm, claws digging into my flesh, I can’t even see the bird they belong to, perhaps there is a tiny ball of down there in the middle, a very very small chicken with large feet.