you, a bird and the endless now
nothing to regret, nothing to forebode
Hello. This post is about Death & Birds.
Last year, during a particularly hectic baby-Bird-season shift at the rescue centre, I opened a cage door to feed a group of young Long-tailed Tits. Having recently learnt how to take short bursts of flight, four of the five Birds came fluttering out. There was no chaos to it, it was as if they were butterflies or a poem, softly taking to the air and landing, like falling snow, about my person—one on each shoulder, one in the crook of my elbow and one who slotted itself in the centre of my chest, just inside my bra.
There is something that seems to happen whenever a Bird chooses to land on me. It’s as though the unspeakable privilege of momentarily becoming perch or platform to a being who can traverse both land and sky pulls me entirely into the present. The present, it turns out, is a timeless place. There is only it. Nothing to regret, nothing to forebode. Just you, a bird, and the endless now.
Standing there, speckled with Long-tailed Tits, I wondered whether this is how trees feel. God, I hope that this is how trees feel.
I am shamefully quick to forget that I am surrounded by some of the worlds most qualified teachers. The wisdom and support that the natural world offers is as abundant as it is consistent. I once spent some months thinking that someone very important to me was going to die. I was rigid with fear and used every spare moment to either obsessively research or to clean, maniacally. David eventually persuaded me to walk in the woods with him and, while there, I tripped over a tree root and came crashing to my hands and knees. I wasn’t hurt, but I did start crying.
There is something so powerful about being brought to ground, about a forced surrender which jolts off one’s armour to reveal the soft, vulnerable body underneath. David initially thought I must have broken a bone, given my reaction, but he soon realised what was happening and so sat down next to me, and the tree, as I wept. To sit quietly as companion and witness while someone allows themselves to fully experience their pain is a profound gift—to both parties.
I am forever grateful to that tree for forcing my surrender, and still offer a nod of thanks each time I walk by it.
I’ve been getting some gnarly headaches, lately. Sometimes, I’ll look in the mirror and be shocked to see that there isn’t an oversized bird of prey with its talons embedded in my skull. It’s so easy to be consumed by pain1, to have it completely take charge and dictate one’s every thought and behaviour. The world is an especially cruel place when viewed through a pain-tinted lens.
It’s interesting, then, when a gang of Long-tailed Tits comes marauding through the garden in search of bug and seed, while the talons and the pain lens are in place. It forces the simultaneous holding of both suffering and beauty—a most expansive paradox which reminds me of just how much influence I actually have over my personal experience, and how little responsibility I typically want to take for it.
It’s so bloody cold here at the moment. There’s not been a Spring or Summer in decades and it’s dark for nineteen hours a day (she said, grumpily)—and yet, there is a little Spider who appeared on the door to our bedroom a few days ago. David named him Spartacus and we say “good morning”, “hello”, “goodbye” or “goodnight” to him, each time we pass. He pulls his little legs inwards when he feels the door move, so we tell him it’s ok and it’s only us and not to worry. I doubt spiders worry, but, just in case.
Spartacus reminds me to be still, and to be cautious, yet steadfast. He reminds me that in inclement weather it is a privilege to share our space and our warmth with any being who might also need it, and that he and I share the same divine right to existence. I remind Spartacus that Long-tailed Tits do not agree with me, and would eat him for breakfast if they could.
Soon there will be a day when I’ll go to bid him good morning and he’ll be gone, to where, who knows. Good or bad, loved or feared, nothing lasts forever (except, perhaps, this Winter), and so, under the tutelage of impermanence, a headache and some very small Birds, I am to practice being here—for the short time that ‘here’ is available to me.
Yours in aimless flight…
Of any kind