Sunday in the Park
July 14, 2007
I came upon the victim lying in the dirt at the edge of the yard. The Concerned One was standing over the lifeless form, unwilling to accept the obvious. A crying, urging, squawking noise emerged and The Concerned One started pushing at the chest and upper body of the victim. I stood frozen in horror, not knowing what my role should be. I was tempted to run right over and try to remove the victim but I felt it was not my place. So I stayed away and watched the drama unfold.
After a full minute of mournful, unrelenting cries, the miracle happened. The victim stood, wobbled a bit and then hopped/flew up to the top of the fence. The pair chatted up there for moment before they left to the upper branches of the pine tree. A magpie, near-tragedy, turned around.
Had the bird hit a window and flown off dazed? Or eaten something that didn’t agree with him/her? Do birds get dizzy from heights? How weird would that be? Whatever the reason for the temporary incapacitation it appeared one thing was certain. One bird was determined not to let the other one be left behind. Had I interfered perhaps I would have scared The Concerned One away and the stunned victim would have died from shock.
I had never witnessed a scene like that before except on Animal Planet shows. Where one wild creature cared so intimately for another. And I have to admit those images stayed with me all week.
On Saturday I had set out to run my marketing, mailing errands with great efficiency. I had a plan and I planned to stick to it. But everywhere I went I saw folks I hadn’t seen in months and we’d stand in the warm sun and chat a spell. I caught up on their kids and jobs and hardships. And in a one case, their heartache. At first, I was a bit edgy about the whole schedule thing I had in my head. But after the third such encounter I slipped into the rhythm of the day. It was nice to visit outdoors in the warmth with folks I had lost temporary touch with. And there was no place I had to be so I don’t why I thought my plans were too important to adjust.
So mostly what I did was listen. I nodded and poked a bit into situations if the speaker seemed to invite that but mostly I just listened. Each parting came with a hugs and promises to find some time to talk, some more, on a porch, soon.
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My travels that day included two lemonade stands run by enterprising young girls. I’m not sure of the social significance of the female entrepreneurs but it seems worthy to note they seemed in complete control of finances and the recipes and the service.
On Tuesday, when I came home from a long, late workday, I went outside to water the thirsty flowers and saw a gathering in the cul de sac. One of the neighbors called out to join them for a child’s birthday cake. And since I’d missed dinner, I figured there was no harm in going straight to dessert. Ice cream on a paper plate outdoors on a summer evening has got to be one of the most exquisite tastes known to man. There were, maybe twenty of us, standing around the tiny firepit where just the night before one family had brought lawn chairs and roasted hot dogs and talked to each other, without interruption, late into the night. It is a testament to tolerance we know how special our little neighborhood is and work hard to be inclusive and at the same time, respectful of each other’s space.
I have friends who have lost both friends and family members in the past two weeks. And I have witnessed all those emotions best selling authors write about. Denial, anger, sadness, guilt, blame, regret. Death by old age is sad but not wholly unexpected. Death by suicide by a vibrant person of middle age is shocking and frightening, like some kind of virus that could spread and touch others. So I have listened this week to friends try to define their grief and I want to find the just right words to console them. But I know from experience there are no words to fix broken hearts. Time. Love and support and time. And the knowledge that there are mysteries in the lives of individuals that they take with them in death.
And then I think about that magpie pair. The utter urging and insistence shown by the Concerned One for the victim. Is there a code among the feathered ones of no bird left behind? What if no bird had been in the ‘hood when the stilling of the victim happened? Would I have come home to find the bird in full repose by the rose? How many times have friends stood over me when I thought I was down for the count and insisted I shake it off and fly right again?
Our Life, we sometimes think, needs to be writ large— something we should see on the wide screen with surround sound. Major moments get a string section and special effects. But I think the reality is much simpler. The major moments turn out to be the simple conversations. For lingering and learning the business plan of budding beverage entrepreneurs. For celebrating a child’s birthday. For being still enough and patient enough to watch a drama in nature have a happy ending. Sometimes in the pursuit of happiness we focus on the pursuing and miss the happiness.
The best way to honor those we have lost may just be to bear witness to the joy of simple moments. I gave my prayers to the mourning doves last evening that my friends in pain will start to heal. And the doves lifted them up. It is a process I plan to repeat again on this Sunday in the Park