By Kathleen Craft Boehmig
Helping a friend with some light hauling at his half-built and still-unplumbed cabin in North Georgia last week, I found myself needing a rest room. Fortunately for me, there was a Port-a-Potty on site.
Inside it I noticed a bit of chaff on the floor, like a tuft of grass. Or was it? I peered at it more closely. It wasn’t grass. It was the tiny skeleton of a baby bird. I saw a bit of organic residue several inches above it on the interior wall. I figured the Port-a-Potty was stored on its side when the little creature fell in and expired. Poor thing…what a stunningly brief, ignominious life. I wondered if it ever saw the light of day. Did it suffer an injury when it fell, or did it starve to death? Did it break a wing and die in pain, or of heat or dehydration on a hot summer day? Did its mother flutter outside, frantically calling and trying to get to it? How long had it cheeped for her, before succumbing to death? How deeply do baby birds feel pain, and fear?
My Louie, a Green-cheeked Conure (a small green parrot) is very loving and affectionate. He sometimes gets pissed off, but doesn’t hold grudges. He loves baths and head-scratches, and looks to me for comfort and security. He lavishes me with kisses, chuckles frequently, loves to snuggle and play, and screeches demandingly, the little sausage—when I leave the room without him. When I share a snack with him he becomes territorial about it. He tries to drag my teacup away so he can finish my decaf Earl Grey. Our dog, a pit-lab mix, is terrified of him since Louie lunges at him at every opportunity, jealous of my attention.
Louie also talks. He says hello when my phone rings. He asks, “Do you want something good?” and makes smacking noises when he’s hungry. He is a funny, rambunctious, playful creature who feels the usual emotions: love, fear, anger, loneliness, sadness, contentment, happiness. He is six ounces of badass, bodacious love. Approximately twelve parrots have owned me during my lifetime, and they have all, despite their unique personalities, shared similar characteristics.
I don’t know how the intelligence of other wild birds measures against that of parrots…but I know that any baby will cry for its mother, and most mothers diligently care for their babies. It’s instinctive. Love is the default emotion of the universe, I believe. Even for a small morsel of life like a baby bird, love and need exist.
We all need love…and we all face death. We will all fall from our earthly nests into the eternal Port-a-Potty. We may feel pain, loneliness and despair toward the end. We may cry out, and there may be no evident answer. Or we may be well-loved and content by then, ready to go. We will leave our own organic residue; but our essence will go back where it came from, no longer isolated from Source. I believe we will all, someday, fly back to that big nest in the sky, the source of our awareness, where love’s origin dwells.
So what is life for? What was the purpose of that baby bird’s life? Why was it born, just to experience death after, perhaps, just moments? What good did that little life do? Did it have meaning, other than to prompt me to ask the question? How important is that, anyway?
And what of our lives? What difference does it make whether we are wild creatures who die almost immediately after birth, or human beings capable of abstract thought who may live over 100 years? Some birds live almost that long…and some, like the deceased baby, only briefly. Are their lives less important than ours? Not to them. And, I contend, not to the universe. In the vast spectrum of eternity, our lives here are just a blip, like that baby bird’s short span.
Sometimes I wonder, what’s the use of even pondering these issues? No mortals know the answers. As Robert Frost said: “We dance round in a ring and suppose, but the Secret sits in the middle and knows.”
My best guess at this point is that we, as particles of Source, enable the universe to grow, play and have new experiences. Through our lives, through our differing levels of engagement with the Great Mystery, the universe lives in realms of seen and unseen patterns in its elegant sacred golden-mean geometry, its ever-reaching fractals and exquisite beauty. At some point most of us will be the needy baby, the caring parent, the playful adult. Those of us who are lucky enough may experience being wise old sages. But I don’t think our worth varies by how close we come to answering philosophical questions, or solving the problems of life on Earth. I believe we are here to engage the issues, though; and that our level of engagement, in spite of or because of our struggles, can determine character.
I couldn’t bear leaving the little skeleton in its vast, cold, blue plastic coffin. I brought it home, and buried it gently in the soft dirt of our woods where the Lenten roses are blooming. When I get back to Source, maybe I’ll get a snuggle with the soul of the fallen baby bird whose remains I found.
But for now my Louie, ever engaged, is demanding my attention. It’s a mild day, and I’m sitting outside next to the Lenten roses with Louie on my shoulder.
“Mom!” he says. “You’re a silly bird!”
He kisses my cheek, rubs his little face against mine and begs for a head scratch. It’s a sign of love…from the universe.
What signs from the universe have you experienced lately?
What comforts you in grief?
What inspires you to experience meaning and be present each day?
BIO: KATHLEEN cRAFT bOEHMIG
I’m an Atlanta native married to another one, and am the mother of a brilliant, kind, funny guy (like his dad) who’s a college freshman. A small green parrot and a crazy dog are my owners. I love the ocean, the mountains, Long Island Iced Tea, reading, Andy Griffith reruns and Jeopardy, horses, birds, and biking our greenway. I will never be completely organized. Massages and pedicures make me want to be a better person.
I love art: painting, sculpture, assemblage, mosaics, jewelry. Some of my art can be seen on my facebook page, Sparrow’s Song Art.
I also love writing, and have served as a board member of the Atlanta Writers Club, have appeared on the Writers Radio Show, and taught at the Blue Ridge Writers Conference. I have also taught memoir at Spruill Center for the Arts, and was a feature contributor in North Fulton Magazine. My pieces have appeared in O, Georgia!, Chicken Soup for the Grandma’s Soul, Sacred Stones, Lessons Learned, and North Point of View.
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