Saturday, March 8, 2008

Blessing of the Birds

Opening the front door on this chilly, damp morning, I welcome the sun as it arrives through the still bare branches of the ailing sycamore across the street. A raven flings itself off the neighbor’s roof, swoops in front of my face as I walk out to my car, parked curbside. I am delighted by this brief almost-intersection between his glossy feathers and my feeble, just-washed, still-damp hair. I have a bounce in my step, a smile on my face as I stand in line for my morning java-jolt. The barista raises her eyebrows; this was not my usual demeanor.

Later, on the way to campus, I see a flurry of large red-brown wings in a field to my left: a hawk has found breakfast! Beating mightily, it lifts up out from some low bushes; I slow down to see what might be wriggling in its talons, annoying the line of cars behind me to no end, no doubt. The hawk struggles, turns and flaps full-force across the road right in front of my slowing car. I catch sight of a tawny chest in the upsweep of wings, then the burnished brown of wingtops; I see nothing clutched in its claws and then it is gone, passing over me. I’m thrilled at this blessing of the hawk, as if picked out to be honored from the thick line of now-honking cars. I step on the gas, grinning like a delirious idiot; it is beginning to feel like a red-letter day.

No particularly great news awaits me at the office. According to the messages in my voicemail, I have won neither the Pulitzer nor the Publisher’s Clearing House Prize, although student Y wants to speak with Professor X and the reconciled spreadsheet for the department’s budget is expected in the Dean’s Office by noon. Still, the song in my heart runs on, undismayed. I take the opportunity to hand deliver a few items across campus, and return the long way, along the winter creek and across a small, somewhat neglected patch of lawn. In a heartbeat, a phoebe sweeps in front of me, almost lands about two feet away, pulls a U-ey, then races back across my path to the tall fir it came from, a single flowing motion, quick as an sketch artist looping out a smooth line. My spirits pick up again, the grin repaints my face: three bird blessings on a spring day. If these are omens, they are good omens.

The day is about over. I’ve not won anything, nor received notice that any of my stories or essays have been accepted for publication, nor been offered a groovy new job or a raise. My kin-folk had neither good news nor bad news; they are all dealing as best they can with the same issues that plague us all: commuting, trying to balance school studies and work obligations, the lack of funds for all our heart’s desire. But perhaps the bird blessings have little to do with these daily concerns. Perhaps the blessing is that even while connecting student Y with Professor X and making Excel behave, I spent most of the day with a smile on my face for no reason other than a bird (or three) lifted its wings to me.


  1. I'm starting to believe that learning how to find delight in ordinary circumstances is an essential part of being happy (or enlightened, peaceful, emotionally balanced, whatever you want to call it). Very touching post.

  2. Lakin, its me again, Jonathan, your brother. I have been thinking about this post most of the week, and i agree that bird lead one to appreciate the, I want to say smaller but what I mean is quieter, parts of life. I put birds, walks, and live music int the category "Things that Improve My day to Day Life". These are the activities that make me participate in my own day to to day life. I consider myself an unaccomplished musician because I hear so much more that I can play, but I love to play anyway . Same with the birds, they are part of the world that sustains us, that we never completely understand, but I love to be part of it anyway. And it improves my day to day existence.

  3. yes, Jess, I agree. I think the small moments count so much because there are so many of them.


  4. Jonathan--you know, you were the one who introduced me to birds and the pleasures they bring, back when we were quite small. I think you even had a record (vinyl!) of different bird calls because, as you told me, we often more clearly hear birds than see them.

    Today, as I worked in my studio-hut, some some goldfinches, house finches and sparrows squabbled over the feeder just outside the door. Very amusing!

    Thanks for commenting!


Noise makers!