Henkersteg Brücke, Nürnberg

March 1, 2018

The woman who feeds the birds has either come and gone, or else she is yet to arrive. But the birds still seem to be waiting, you can see them in the water downstream of the Henkersteg Brücke, and also on the peak of its roof. I had heard the story of the bird lady, and then by chance I met her one day while she was feeding the birds. As she pulled the feed out of a cardboard box she explained that she used inexpensive seed as this was better than bread, which would get soggy and sink and was always harder to distribute among the flock of eagerly waiting birds. The birds arrive when the temperature gets cold, they know the bird lady will be there. Though to speak of bird knowledge is to attempt to understand something that must look and feel and be organised quite differently from human knowledge. It has been freezing the last week and a half in Nürnberg. The bird lady has been feeding the birds for 25 years now, and explains that before her there was a fisherman who would distribute his scraps to the birds. The human/non-human relationship apparently goes back to when the medieval butchers once set up their stalls on the eponymously named Fleischbrücke upstream, from which, once the day’s trade was done, or so I assume, they threw their refuse and scraps into the stream where the birds would flap and cry to get their hungry fill. When I first laid my eyes on the birds, and wondered why so many were gathered at the bridge, at the one location, I thought they were seagulls, and wondered how that would be possible given that the sea is over 600km away, whether you go north, south, west…and as for the east, well the sea is a vast distance away in that direction. Though, of course, birds do cover many migratory miles. Birds can become exhausted when flying to their breeding grounds, especially when faced with long winters or extended and unseasonably cold spells. I will have to discover what kinds of birds these are, and perhaps return to Jonathan Franzen’s many essays on bird watching. When I encounter her, the bird lady seems to be suggesting it is time to pass on her task to someone else, she has done her bit for the last 25 years. The feed I buy, she explains, really does not cost so very much…

 

Hélène Frichot

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