Dec 11, 2019 05:40 pm
We have a bird feeder outside our dining room window, and Andy is a devoted bird-nourisher all year long. In the winter he buys 40 pounds of black sunflower seeds and mixed seed each week, and he pays great attention to the ways and habits of the different species who gather.
The birds used to fly into the big picture window, so Andy hung a string of Tibetan prayer flags across the glass to alert them that woods do not lie this way.
A few days ago, the day after we got about a foot of snow, we were having breakfast when a mourning dove flew into the window and fell heavily into the snow. I pulled on my rubber boots and ran out. She had fallen headfirst into the snow and was lying absolutely still. I lifted her out with both hands, and as soon as her head was free, she flapped her wings and tried to get away. I let her go and she hopped a few feet across the snow and just sat there.
I wasn’t sure whether I should give her something warm to sit on, provide water, or what. Andy said we should just leave her to heal herself in her own way. We had seen a blue jay do that a few years earlier. So we did. The dove sat absolutely still for about ten minutes, although we could see her twitch her head and wings slightly every now and then. And then, quite suddenly, she lifted up and flew off.
It was an extraordinary spectacle of patience as the bird just sat while her body simply did what it had to do to readjust.
I keep thinking about the bird, her accident and recovery. I wonder if humans couldn’t do something like this, not only on a physical, but on a metaphysical level as well. What if, when we suffered a disappointment or had a fall, we simply sat and waited in absolute confidence that the body, with time and patience, would do what was necessary to repair us? Of course, we would have to bring to the situation attentiveness to the moment—no worrying about the future, no looking at our watch and wondering when things were going to start to improve. No self-chastising about our stupidity of flying into a window.
I see the mourning doves gathering at the feeder now and hope very much that the wounded bird is among them.
What I’m reading
I finished Farewell to the Horse by Ulrich Raulff and now I’m catching up on an article in The New Yorker about the horrendous nationalism being practiced in India by the prime minister Narendra Modi and his followers. They are targeting Muslims in ways that are absolutely criminal. America under Donald Trump has not reached these depths of outright hatred and genocide, but we are on the path toward it.
I spent the weekend selling my books at the annual holiday craft fair at the Unitarian-Universalist Congregation of Binghamton (NY), where I am a member. I was seated by a woman selling soaps with natural scents on my left and a woman selling little pillows with fragrant natural plants on my right. Across from me, in front of the window, was a woman selling small watercolors of flowers and a woman selling hand-made glass ornaments. When the sun was low in the sky in the afternoon it lit up the glass. My books sold pretty well, but the experience of being in the company of people who take time to make lovely and creative things was very touching, and I was glad to be part of them.
Next year my Bali from Within trip (March 2-14, 2020), which I’ve been offering since 2008, will include three stops to find and make beauty at wounded places, which is the focus of my newest book and the organization Radical Joy for Hard Times. Even in Bali, where art, spirituality, and nature are interwoven, the land is hurting. Next year, we’ll visit some of these places with our Balinese guides to bring attention and beauty, for example:
- a river that’s drying up because of tourist development for hotels and spas
- a clove forest that has been damaged by the excessive rains of climate change
- Tanah Lot, one of Bali’s most sacred and scenic temples, slated to be in view of a multi-million dollar hotel and golf course proposed by Donald Trump
Click the link to read more about Bali from Within and download an itinerary.
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"It’s a great vision that Trebbe Johnson is sending out into the world, and it is very much her own. The great central truth of what she is doing is the very hard lesson for all of us in our lives, and yet it is our blessing."
—W.S. Merwin, Former Poet Laureate of the United States