Everyday Affairs

I was walking with friends along the a suburban Wheaton street when someone said, “What’s that?”
    We looked down to the roadway where she pointed. At first it looked like snapdragon blossom – mottled pink with a red blush. No, its movement was not at all flower-like. I looked closer — a baby bird. Tendelry, I picked it up and held it in the palm of my hand. No larger than two joints of my small finger, it had no weight. We looked at it in wonder.
    It was both beautiful and ugly. The head was as large as the tiny body to which it was attached by a thread of neck. There was no hint of feathers. The large eyes were mere red clots beneath closed lids. Vital organs showed through transparent skin.
    Tiny wings were no bigger than the end of a fingernail. Tiny drum-bone legs had no feet. But it was the little yellow bill that claimed our attention — gaping for food it could not provide.
    How did this miracle of life come to be in the road? What creature, seeing it as its rightful food, had snatched the new-hatched songbird from its mother’s nest? Why was the baby dropped? How did we happen to walk there, see it, feel our hearts go out to it and know that it would die?
    Bowing to nature, I placed the dying bird in the hollow of living grass to become part of all life in that small yard in that tidy neighborhood.
    I thought again of the crow my naturalist daughter told me about. It, too, was dying. and there was no way to help. All day it looked at the party of scientists with its bright black eyes. All day it sat motionless but for those eyes. Out of reach on the underledge of a floating pier, the crow ignored attempts to reach it and ignored bread crumbs tossed to it. Just looked with its crow eyes.
    “Birds die everyday,” someone said. “We just don’t usually see it.”
    Life and death are an everyday affair in nature. We humans keep trying to push Death away. We hide it in hospitals and animal shelters. We cringe and cry when it is forced on our national consciouness in Oklahoma or Bosnia.
    To nature, it’s part of the dynamic tapestry woven of time.
    Lives are but details that flow in and out of the grand design. Nature’s eye is on continuity. Our human eye spies the individual threads. God creates the loom.
    On our next walk, a small brown-eyed boy offered me a stem of snapdragon. They were mottle pink with a red blush and a yellow-orange mouth. Deeper colors than the bird. Life to be enjoyed, whether brief or long, I accepted with a smile.

–Vol. 3, No. 22, June 1, 1995