impossibly tiny feathers
the Ghost Nebula, and hope
Hello. This post is about Death & Birds.
I am, seemingly annually, filled to bursting with hope for new years, smiling quietly to myself during the final weeks of December as I picture the shiny new year, packed with possibility. The New Year is Beethovens 9th, all determination and resolve—that is, until January the 1st. Like clockwork, January arrives and I remember that, fundamentally, nothing has changed. I am still me, the world still the world, the date is arbitrary and many weeks of Winter stand grey and uninviting on the horizon, waiting to be endured.
I tend to feel weighed down, in January. Heavy boots, lead jacket kind of thing, and so it is a time when I must employ my full arsenal of reasons to be cheerful. My beloved reminds me to “orientate towards beauty”, and so, I list the things which come to mind when I close my eyes and summon the beautiful: The Redwings which have suddenly descended, the way my love hums in his sleep, the Ghost Nebula, the sound that baby Crows make when they’re fed, hope, the impossibly tiny feathers around little Birds eyes, the story-rich body of my 91-year-old friend, forgiveness, trees.
The existence of these things, among many others, collectively form a guiding star, a point to focus on in effort not to lose my balance and fall too deeply into despair. There is much to despair over, and much beauty to be witnessed; one does not negate the other, and both require our attention.
Our God-dog has been staying with us this week, her name is Fran. In the mornings we walk along the river to the castle, about a mile away. The castle was built in the 1500’s and its grounds contain some of the oldest Oak trees in Britain. Fran, irreverent, pees on them.
Of a morning, the Birdsong along the river borders on obnoxious. Gangs of Finches seem to be competing with the Song Thrushes, and everyone else gets involved for the sheer hell of it. Recently, we’ve had Redwings and Skylarks join the orchestra.
I remember once being told that during the 1500’s, when Henry VIII frequented the castle, the Birdsong would have been deafening. The population of Tree Sparrows alone has decreased by 96% in the last 53 years. I imagine taking this walk without Birdsong and instantly feel nauseous. How is it that we could not collectively agree on the preciousness of certain things, such as Birdsong, trees, rivers, all children and the air that we breathe, and thus protect them—totally and without question or argument?
Our species seems to have a complicated relationship to the precious and the beautiful. It is as though we want, simultaneously, to protect, possess and destroy it.
I walked into the living room yesterday and saw on David’s computer screen some text followed by a photo of two women laughing. On closer look, David was reading the news and the women—crouched, hands to chest, mouths wide and faces crumpled in what my mind naively wished to label as laughter—were, of course, grieving. Torn to pieces by the fact that their children had just been torn to pieces.
Here we are. Here we are in a world where the value of life is arguable. Where the phrase ‘collateral damage' can be applied to actual living human beings by other living human beings in positions of considerable power. Here we are participating, for lack of alternatives, in systems which stopped working for everyone a long, long time ago. On certain days, I can feel the contradiction inside of me; meridians of searing polarities, screaming yeses and howling noes.
A part of me still believes in a point of arrival, a likely non-existent position somewhere in the block of space-time where I finally arrive as my actualised self and from there on experience life in a consistent and easeful manner, without significant over, or under, whelm. For now, though, I continue to both fear and crave chaos.
On our walk this morning we saw a couple of Tree Sparrows. There is still hope. In fact, as long as there is air in our lungs we can each choose to be a vessel for a small piece of the critical mass of hope which exists in the world. Tiny beacons, spread across the globe, like fireflies signalling to each other that, ‘Yes, I too hold a vision for better days’.
Yours in aimless flight…