My home, located across from the Charles River, surrounded by trees, is a choice nesting site for birds.
Yesterday, as I finished whisking off the frayed bed sheet I’d thrown over my lemon tree to prevent freezing, I took note of a tiny grey bird tucked into the corner of the top step. Its stillness compelled me to pause and take note.
Still and barely breathing, the flutter of feathers at the edges, she was clearly alive. I surmised she was a fledging Blue Jay from the truncated tail, striped blue/black, just the beginning of a familiar tail.
Imagine what that first effort of fluttering one’s wings and leaving the nest must feel like. How many poems and stories have transformed this common experience in metaphoric language to describe separation and gaining mastery?
Often, in the spring, fledgling robins hit the windows along the front of the house. In their efforts to fly, I hear the “thwack” on the glass and run to the garden to see if a bird has fallen. There were one or two who were quite stunned but in time, regained their wits to try again.
I worried about this young one. She seemed sturdy and well fed, her coat soft and thick, her breath steady. Would she muster the energy to fly again? And if not, if she stayed through dark, what would I do?
In the moment, there was nothing to do. By dusk, just as silently as she had come, she left, leaving no trace except in memory, where she nested still.
What was it about the presence of that gentle, calm creature on the back step? As I recall her image, I breath slowly and more deeply. Given the horrifying story of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi this past week, the fledgling Jay’s calm was a gift.
Like so many of my friends and family, I struggle with reactivity to the day’s events— they pile up, build into crescendos of anxiety. The fact that she landed on the step in the window of time when I stepped out was fortuitous.
I was drawn to her soft presence. Softness— and by extension, compassion, being the operative word for what has been missing in the day-to-day world in our October, 2018, headlines. Be it compassion for the children in “temporary” detention centers longing for family or the caravan of refugees with visions of America “The Beautiful,” this tiny creature embodied both the freedom to fly and the risk of vulnerability.
When I decided to write this week’s blog on the encounter, I wondered why I hadn’t taken a picture of the bird and had to resort to the internet for a likeness? Upon reflection, I worried that my attempt to get “the perfect shot” might startle her.
I am grateful I had the presence of mind to step away and provide safety. In so doing, I was able to gain perspective, as well as to write and share the meaning of the experience.