I've been spending some time on airplanes lately,
and therefore flying through my summer reading list at an alarming rate. This past weekend I read a book I've been wanting to read for several months, by one of my all-time favorite authors, Anne Lamott.
There's something about Anne's brand of spirituality that hits the mark for me. She feels familiar. She thinks my thoughts and commits them to paper so I can read them, nod my head and say, "that's it!" And feel a little less wacky, or out-in-left-field, or like a crazy person.
This book was no exception. If it's your first foray into Anne's world, it isn't where I would start, but for someone who has already found herself at home among her words, it's a wonderful new room through which to wander.
One little aside in the book addressed a question I have wondered myself about Anne's work (and my own):
What is it about me and birds?
She said she often gets asked this question by interviewers, and the thing I liked most about her reply was that I didn't feel like she really had a perfectly pat answer (me too). She said this:
"There are birds throughout every book I've written. My father was an avid bird-watcher. He did not believe in God or read the Bible, but he believed in birds and read all of Audubon. I grew up believing that birds were of supreme value and beauty. That if you studied and observed them, you could learn a great deal about life.
I said in another book that if birdsong were the only proof of a bigger, invisible reality, that would be enough for me.
What's so great about birds, besides their beauty, is that they are very different from us - we are so earthbound and they are so free -- and yet so similar, especially to our children in their vulnerability. The small ones you might crush, and the big ones soar like little gods, pelicans skimming the surf, eagles and hawks as high in the sky as stars. Big ones might peck your eyes out or dive-bomb you. They're such alien creatures, so pretty, yet they spring from dinosaurs. And you can never look a bird in the eyes -- their eyes are on either side of their heads, and they are so quizzical. They have to be -- they are prey, and yet so hungry, like teenagers; like us."
Yeah. What she said.
What it is about me and birds today specifically, is this:
When I returned from my trip last week, it was immediately apparent that a bird had been busy building a nest on the ledge outside my dining room window -- dangerously low to the ground, but perfectly shaded by a curtain of ivy. It was almost as if she put herself under glass specifically for my observation and appreciation.
She was not very appreciative of my coming home, however, nor of my constant vacuuming. She was gone the next morning, and did not come back all day. I feared I had driven her away. Then magically, the next day an egg appeared in the nest. Although still no bird. It was quite cold, and I thought surely she had given up or been a victim of foul play.
And then the next day, there she was -- sitting as if she'd been there all along and staring me down with one eye every time I went past the window. And then there were two....no, three....no, make that FOUR perfectly lovely blue eggs in the nest with her.
All I can do is sigh. And apologize for the noisy vacuum. And be glad Cooper is on an extended vacation, because that windowsill is his favorite chin-prop for watching the world go by. And hope she has followed her motherly instincts to a good place, and is going to have a little success to show for her ever vigilant eye, her patient sitting, her perfect nest-building.
All that gathering, and arranging, and rearranging, and fluffing until it was just right...made me tired to watch. And felt a little familiar.
Bird tale number two, however,
had not such a happy ending . . .
While bird number one was busy creating a little bit of heaven outside my dining room, bird number two was becoming a victim of FOWL PLAY outside my kitchen window. I found her lying dead on the deck, in a pool of feathers and blood, and all I can imagine is that my window got in the way of her communion with the glorious morning and she went down hard. Broke her neck and her beak, and who knows what else. I actually shed a little tear -- partly because I'm kind of mentally unbalanced right now, but also because I've been so positively rapt in my enjoyment of momma bird. It seemed like a terrible and tragic waste on a sunny morning in early June.
And I DID NOT WANT TO BE THE ONE TO HAVE TO PROVIDE A BURIAL. I'm a little squeamish about dead things. My realtor actually offered to come do it for me, which made me realize how completely ridiculous that would be, and instead I took a deep breath and did it myself. There's still a small dark spot on the deck, however, and until a good rainstorm comes to take it, I'm going to see it and remember. And all I can do is sigh.
So I guess that's all I would add to Anne's words about what it is with her and birds. That for some reason, birds make me want to sigh. And smile. And sometimes shed a tear. And listen. And watch. And always, always wonder.