Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bird on the Sidewalk

This morning the alarm went off at 6 and I turned it off through a wave of fatigue. Not necessarily any greater level of pain, just feeling so very tired. I asked AM if he would drive me in so I could rest a little longer. Phoebe jumped over me and we curled up to watch the bright light of morning, then dozed a little longer.

I decided to get a coffee, my weekly indulgence in coffee, so AM let me off by Half and Half so I could grab a latte before my weekly team meeting started. It wasn't too busy and I was quickly presented with a lovely soy latte, complete with foam leaf on top. I should get a picture sometime when they do this, not all of the folks there do it. Really dense foam.

Doing OK. Little tired, sore in the left hip from the ride home last night with all my stuff. Not looking forward to my upcoming meeting. Looking forward to meeting CK at Chaat House for lunch a little after 1. I'm headed down the couple blocks to my office and I'm stopped short by something.

In the center of the sidewalk is a small, brown bird. At first, walking up to it, I thought it might be dead already. The victim of a neighborhood cat. But as I came up to it I could see it breathing, see just how small it was against the concrete. It didn't make a noise, didn't move or show any alarm.

At first, perhaps having had the initial thought that I was about to see a mangled bird on the sidewalk, I assumed the bird was in distress. I stood there, nearly frozen, watching. It just was there, breathing. I began to wonder if it was dying, if the breathing that appeared rapid to me was a sign of great pain. Then I noted how small the bird was, how it just sat there blinking tiny eyes and moving air through it's body, almost as if it were resting to regain strength after exertion or shock. Maybe a younger bird still not with the full experience of flight.

I just stood there, looking down at this tiny being. I thought of Norman Fisher's words in the article Coming Home to the Body in the current issue of Shambala Sun, that this tiny creature and I were sharing breath. We are all of us sharing our breath, all of the breath that has ever been breathed we share.

So I stood there, breathing, realizing that in observing the bird, feeling my concern, curiosity, desire to react -- all of these things my brain was doing and my body wasn't breathing right. In standing there in the middle of the sidewalk, my brain ran down many pathways and the breath tightened in my chest so it was as rapid as I supposed the little bird's to be. I felt the side ribs in my body, moved my breath toward them, back toward even breath.

For a moment I recited metta for this little bird, either at the end of it's life or just regaining strength. I didn't know what else to do and wondered if I should always be in reaction mode like that anyway. In the corner of my vision I saw two men approaching. I stood up, facing them, noted to, "Mind the bird."

As I stepped away, I looked back twice more, wishing merit for this very small being I'd just shared the practice of breath with. Then I headed off to meetings starting momentarily and co-workers. Frustration, laughter, tasks, lists, connection, and the general busyness of a workday. It all flew by, up until now when I'm writing and contemplating sleep.

It of course wasn't there that I could tell when I left the building later. I've tried not to wonder about all the possible reasons for seeing the bird. I have just been aware that since that moment this morning in the back of my mind I've kept a small, brown bird. Holding space for it to be free from anxiety & fear, free from suffering, and that in it's own way know happiness & peace.

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