Just a Thought: May 24, 2017
A catbird flew into our window the other morning. I heard its horrible glassy thud and hurried to the back window, only to find it writhing in agony on our deck. A grackle on the deck rail chittered angrily, either at me or at the poor suffering catbird.
This would have been gut-wrenching regardless of species, but I happen to adore catbirds. Their songs are so mellifluous and expressive, and their meow-like whines crack me up. Plus, they're just plain lovely, with deep gray bodies, black caps and fantails, and a little brown accent on their undersides, like they're dressed for a Manhattan jazz club.
This catbird twisted and roiled from its trauma, its beak opening as if in a silent scream. How horrible to watch the poor being suffer in rare silence. My instinct was to cradle the bird and talk to it comfortingly, but I knew that my version of comfort and its differed considerably. I also knew that if it stayed like that for five, maybe 10 more minutes, I'd have to humanely put it out of its misery.
But soon, the bird righted itself. Its eyes remained at half-mast, but it gathered its body back into normal nesting form, perching lightly and looking to be catching its breath. I let out the breath I'd been holding and waited.
I kept checking on the bird, and it just sat there, progressively resembling a meditating sage.
After an hour, I stepped onto the deck with a shoebox, hoping at least to protect the little thing from neighborhood stray cats. It saw me, fluttered a bit, and managed to fly mostly evenly toward a spot in our back garden. Encouraged, I moved slowly in its direction. It got the hint and flew a few feet up our lilac bush, where it gained strength out of harm's way. It rested there for a spell, then eventually rejoined its singing brethren.
I haven't been able to get the image of that traumatized bird out of my head. It was dramatic, for certain, but also reminiscent of the sorts of things we encounter daily in this complicated world of sensory ambush.
Maybe we're not hurtling full speed into hard surfaces, but we are pummeled by terrifying news, delivered in horrifying ways, by talking heads schooled in us-vs.-them snark. Even car commercials sound like battle cries.
And, we live in a country where the average person struggles to meet the simplest of human needs; where ideals often become mere slogans. It's enough to make you want to bang your head against something.
Is it any wonder we flip each other off behind the wheel? Or fight over frivolities of opinion? Or vote for the candidate whose vitriol on the podium reflects our own resentment? Or snidely await the next numbskull tweet or status update to add fuel to our hateful fires?
All of this lashing out at each other, from petty put-downs to violent rage, seems like an attempt to deflect the pain we're dealing with as immediately as possible.
And so I'm struck most by the catbird's response to its trauma: To pause. To wait until it had gathered its wits about it. To take its next moves slowly, after testing its resolve.
What if we responded instead like that catbird? Had the courage not to "comment," but to wait? To react to stunning realities in the only way that's truly reasonable: by sitting with that stunned feeling. With the pain, the fear, the bafflement, the hurt and betrayal. By awaiting wisdom, and trusting our enlightened selves to know when it's safe to fly – just not off the handle.
This is a world that will break your heart. We can plop gobs of asphalt into the broken places like streets departments, hoping that temporary fix will at least keep us from crashing. Or, we can let our broken hearts create more space for understanding.
Not such a birdbrained notion, eh?
I'm taking my leave, dear Reader readers, but will occasionally be writing "Just a Thought"-ish missives at aneditedgarden.com, where you're welcome to visit and/or contact me. Thanks very much for reading!