and how we forget ourselves
Hello. This post is about Death & Birds.
There is a Blackbird who frequents our garden. David is an early riser, and so typically tends to the morning distribution of seeds and worms, and this Blackbird has become very fond of him. He’ll flutter down, right by David’s feet, waiting with fervent gaze for breakfast to be served. He is one of many characters who grace our days.
Last year, we had a family of Pheasants who spent most of their time in our garden. Initially just a Mr & Mrs, and then one day three babies—two male, one female. The pair were skittish at first, as Pheasants tend to be, flapping away and squawking dramatically when either of us appeared; though after a month or so this turned into a cursory stepping away as we put food down, before charging back once we’d turned. That quickly progressed to them coming to the house at dawn, and screeching their Pheasanty calls whenever we’d had the audacity not to feed them as soon as the sun came up.
When the babies arrived, their parents, sensibly, tried to teach them to be wary of people and back away when the humans appeared—but, the little girl just couldn’t get the hang of it. She knew that I equaled food, and would run towards me, like a puppy, each morning. There would always be a moment of push-pull in her, where you could see her recognise that the rest of the family had backed off and that she should do the same, but the lady with the seeds was right there—creating a conundrum. The seeds always won out, in the end.
Our garden co-inhabitants are an integral part of our community, here. We’ve come to know so many individual personalities, despite the lack of a shared language. Even the trees have told us their unique sets of needs and preferences, over time. You and I, and all beings, grew most miraculously out of this planet, this universe, and as such we are all inherently connected.
The illusion that I am somehow entirely separate from the animals and plants that we share our home with is just that, it’s an illusion. We are beings from and of this earth—we are siblings, we share a home. When we forget this, we forget who we are. When we do not show kindness to other beings, we deny ourselves kindness. When we fail to see ourselves in others, we fail to see ourselves at all. When a child is carpet bombed, the inherent sacrality of all children is denied, and to deny the sacred is to become machine.
I felt a persistent sense of anger as a child, partly to do with always feeling so different. It irritated me greatly that my teachers assumed everyone had at least one parent, and would say, “Ask Mum or Dad this” or “Have a parent sign that”. I had neither, and would sometimes voice “Or a legal guardian!” in effort to correct them, though turning attention to that empty space only increased its sting.
I remember storming out of my childhood home, once—absolutely enraged. At what, I don’t know, it didn’t take much. I think I was 11, or 12. It was pouring with rain, and fierce winds howled through the valley. There were endless fields around the house and I stormed through them, the storm itself meeting my rage with its own. I was drenched, fists and teeth clenched, getting muddier and muddier as I stomped, away from something, towards nothing.
A deafening crack of lightning ripped through the sky, and brought me to a standstill where, soaked and breathless, I surrendered to what was and stood alone in that muddy field crying, loudly. When I picture this scene, now, I so wish that my young and lonely self could have known that she was anything but alone—the storm that witnessed her, the rain soaked earth supporting her and the wind which held her face, were all family. They were the parents I so longed for. It is a deeply human thing, to yearn for what we already have, but cannot see.
My inner critic keeps a ledger of all my perceived sins and failures—sometimes it even reads them aloud as I try to fall asleep. Often, it berates me for feeling too much, for being ‘overly sensitive’. An internal battle ensues, as another part of me counters that were everyone to experience the suffering of others as though it were their own, our species might be considerably less fucked.
The other night, after dinner, David announced, apropos of nothing, that he was “worried that Daniel Radcliffe is lonely”. After briefly being stunned by how truly random a statement this was, I asked him to elaborate. He explained that he was worried that Daniel Radcliffe (who we do not know in any way outside of his role as Harry Potter) had, having spent most of his young life on films sets, been denied the opportunity to develop the necessary social skills to form close friendships.
We spent some time discussing David’s concerns before I, eventually, thought to google ‘is Daniel Radcliffe married’. “He’s married! He has a wife and child! Look, my love,” I said excitedly, turning my laptop, “they seem really happy!”. David’s whole body relaxed, as he let out a sigh. “Well, that’s a relief” he said, before picking up the plates, and saying no more on the matter.
When we fail to see ourselves in others, we fail to see ourselves at all.
Yours in aimless flight,