Gus’s Quilt and The Chickadee

Gus Quilt

I was in my studio, on the phone with my friend Jackie, when I heard the unmistakable thud of a bird hitting my window.

Outside I found a small chickadee on the ground.

His tiny feet were clutching an even tinier root popping up from the earth.  I broke the root and cupped the bird in my hands.  He was stunned, eyes closed, breathing heavy, his little beak rapidly opening and closing, but otherwise I couldn’t see any damage.

I’ve never had luck with rescuing birds, ever since I was a kid, everyone that I ever brought home died.  Now I tend to leave them to nature when I find them.

But my friend Jackie, knows about rescuing wildlife.  Last year she saved an owl that flew into her car. I rarely talk on the phone, mostly I text my friends, but I thought it lucky that Jackie was there to tell me what was best to do for the bird.

After a few minutes, the chickadee opened his eyes and I got him to perch on my finger (I do know it’s a good sign when a bird can perch). Jackie said to keep him warm and contained.  This way, if he does recover he won’t hurt himself when he tries to fly.  And if he dies, at least he was warm and safe when he did.

I got him to perch on a branch in a dog crate and left him alone.


I had gotten to my studio early that morning.  And as soon as I looked at the patchwork of fabric on my floor I knew it was time to make my Gus Quilt.

I made the three patchwork pieces from the scraps in my scarp box a few days  before and after Gus died.  It was a  creative act that kept me focused without having to think. It occupied my mind and kept my hands busy.

The Gus patchwork piece

Sometime between finishing the third piece and yesterday I had looked at it on my floor and above it I saw Gus.  I knew it held his energy.  The joy and the sadness of his life reflected in the colors.   A life time of emotions.

I had seen Gus above the Patchwork, but I didn’t know how it would manifest.  Then, last week,  I found the piece of fabric someone had sent me with the patten of Boston Terrier heads on it.  I had forgotten about the fabric, because for some reason, I never brought it to my studio.

Jon has written a lot about Gus since he’s died.  It’s one of the ways he processes his feelings.

I’m not sure exactly how it works with me.  I have no urge to write about him or look at pictures of him or talk about him, except to Jon.   I feel like whatever is happening in processing my feelings about Gus is going on inside of me and I keep it there.

Until yesterday morning, when it wanted to come out.

And it did, in the form of the quilt.

I knew it would have a black and white theme, like Gus himself.  With big splashes of color, bold and alive.  The few subtleties soften and add a touch of the unknown to the straight lines and hard edges.  I’ve had that pink dragonfly fabric forever. This is what I was saving it for. As soon as I pulled it off my self, I was reminded  of Gus’ sense of freedom and fun.  It made me smile.

I worked on the quilt all day, and just put the finishing pieces on it this morning.

When I did, I thought of the chickadee.  How, when  it started flying around the dog crate yesterday, I reached my hand through the door and he hopped on my finger.  Outside, I held up my arm and he flew off my finger into the high branches of the giant maple in the back yard.

It wasn’t until the chickadee flew away,  that I thought about  Gus and the quilt.   How the chickadee came to me when I was working on the quilt,  how, unlike Gus,  I got to nurse it back to health and watch it fly off to live its life.

I felt as if Gus had come back, or the chickadee came as a message from him.  A message from the Universe affirming the continuity of life, no matter what form it may take.

Like Gus, the Chickadee was not yet full grown.  And he had the black, white and gray coloring of my quilt.

7 thoughts on “Gus’s Quilt and The Chickadee

  1. Maria,
    I believe in our dead ones coming back in a animal’s spirit or in the actual animal. This came true when my Father in law passed and for no apparent reason a German Shepard came to his home and is an old soul and know the entire farm and how to handle the animals. And I am sure you noticed that the chickadee resembles the color’s of Gus. With love Irene

  2. Dear Maria, The quilt you made in Gus’s remembrance is beautiful! And I have never seen a wild bird sit calmly in a human hand before!! Such a lovely story. Thankyou, Annie

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