Nature continues to recede this cold November morning. Yesterday when the sun shone at its height, the pleasant temperature enticed me to go outdoors and do the yard work that I have neglected. My single redwood tree is prolific in dropping off tiny, dead needles that lay on the ground and asphalt driveway in a circle about sixty feet in diameter. The needles mix with mud and rain, creating a slurry of sludge that makes my car tires go spinning madly when backing out of my driveway, or makes my feet go stumbling when walking garbage cans down to the road on Tuesday nights. I hauled many wheelbarrows full of these tiny red needles yesterday, and then moved on to other places on the property that have suffered for a season while I have chosen to keep my nose poked inside of books and e-books. After about one more rainstorm, the work becomes most difficult, because, at this time of the year on the edge of the forest when the sun is low most of the day, the ground does not get a chance to dry out.
I used to be so eager to do yard work. All week while chained to my desk at work I would plan what outdoor activity I might engage in with my rake, hoe, and shovel. I would set fence posts, or dig draining ditches, or haul and stack stone, climb and prune trees, plant food in the garden, or crawl on a roof on a rickety old ladder and clear the rain gutters. As of late I do not plan these things because I’m no longer chained to a desk, but chained to my yard and the tasks that I see lying there before me each day. My property used to be pretty wild. With time I worked at improving it. That was my weekend hobby, working the place. My half acre on the hillside would keep me busy so much of my time. Now when I look at it, I rather wish that I had left it alone at the get go. I wish that it were all just simply forest, except that I don’t really like living in the forest either. I require more sunlight than what the redwoods can provide for me. Living on the edge of them, rather than within them, is the best situation to be in.
When I go deep into the redwoods, I seldom see very many animals, especially not very many birds. I wondered about this for a long time, why no birds in the deep forest? I think it’s because they can’t see well when there is a huge lack of light, and also, the trees themselves are so thick, the branches so pervasive, that it is a barrier to their flight. I think they are pretty much like me, enjoying living around the periphery of the forest, rather than deep within. The way I see them always hanging out close to my bird feeder makes me think this is true.
Yesterday while working outdoors, I left the door open to my little writing studio on the side of the house. I came in at lunch time with my customary bowl of salad (greens, onions, mushrooms, beans, seeds), only to find a tiny sparrow fluttering around inside. There are three windows, a skylight, and a front door that provide sources of light, but the sparrow could not find the wide-open front door. It is the biggest opening, and certainly one could feel the wafting of air, but he chose not to see that. Rather, he seemed to want to just bounce around from glass to glass while beating himself up in the process. I am sure that there is no applicability here to my own style of living. He would duck behind the window curtains and I could hear him just fluttering with such unnatural frustration. Then he would dart out, from behind the curtains take a look at me, and either go back behind the curtains or fly to another window, the window right next to the door that he could not see. On the window sills I have a few treasures that I have been holding onto for many years, some of which are delicate, such as old antique bottles and an oil lamp from my grandparents’ ranch in Oregon. I was reluctant to reach in and try to herd this tiny bird toward the front door for fear that I might break one of these little treasures on the sill.
Several times a year I have to chase birds around that fly indoors. It usually is quite a clumsy operation. It’s not like herding a cat or dog, telling them to go here or go there, or sit still, or rollover. Nothing in the way of verbal command seems to work with a bird. I suppose that is their prerogative to not have to listen to all the confusing directions and instructions that are constantly pouring out of human beings. Birds never bump into each other, like we do. I moved a few things aside quite carefully so that they would not get busted in the process of catching him. Then I reached back behind the curtain and gently trapped him inside of a fold in the cloth. He was so upset with me. He screeched and hollered in a tiny bird language, a language that I seldom get to hear up close and in-person, or rather, in-bird. When I separated him from the curtain, here I had my fingers wrapped around this wonderful and pure little creature who was scared to death of me. The panic that he was experiencing really set in hard now. The fluttering of the wings in the window was stopped, but his soft wings still fluttered between my fingers. If I had squeezed a little tighter I might have stilled the wings enough to feel the pulse of his scared heart.
For a moment I felt the power of a creator. How easy it would be to squeeze really, really tight. I suppose, like the bird, like it or not, we are sometimes plucked from our own situation and held tightly against our will by the creator, whether that be in sickness or some dire situation that has entered into our life. I can only hope and pray when such things happen to me that the grip that has been placed upon me will not be tightened, but that I will be released and I will be in a better situation than what I was experiencing before.
I spun around quickly with the bird in my hand. I did not want to terrorize him anymore than he already had been. I reached out the front door of my writing room and opened my hand, welcoming him back to freedom and to his friends among whom he lives on the edge of the forest. I think no other bird in the forest had that experience yesterday. Only him. I wonder if he could tell other birds all about being trapped indoors? But then, indoors–the concept of it–probably does not make much sense to other birds, so why should they care?