We really needed eggs, biscuits, and coffee.
It was a start on a morning that was, finally, chilly enough to feel right for November. Neither my friend Felicity nor I looked at our phones much. Nor did we say much. That is the hallmark of a great friendship- you can be quiet together, explosively sneeze without embarrassment, disagree here and there, and not give two shakes of a stick how we “look.” I’m lucky that I have several close friends like her. It was Wednesday, and we said “fuck.” A lot.
The food was good- great even. Yet it wasn’t… elevating. The sky was a penetratingly blue azure- yet I couldn’t marvel. The music was melodic enough, but I wasn’t there. I wondered if this was what it felt like coming out of a coma, or if there was a glitch in the system that the Harvard kids say is the computer simulation we call life. Perhaps I got off at the wrong multiverse. Something just wasn’t right with the world I knew a day ago. It wasn’t a jump to the left or a step to the right*, but something had warped. For true.
Reports were already coming in after the unpopular election of the least qualified and most demagogic person ever selected President. Muslims intimidated. Women and African Americans stalked, children afraid to go to school. Swastikas in graffiti. A former President once spoke of “Morning in America,” as an inspirational invitation to unite- here we were, about 11am- despite all appearances, it was Midnight. On the sunlit streets marched lynch mobs disguised as everyday people, and the violent rampages on the town square of yore took place in the palms of hands aglow, feverish thumbs on keypads. Nooses and pitchforks are all around us, next to us in the grocery store, so discreet, neat, 2.0.
“The bomb in the baby carriage was wired to the radio…” **
I don’t want to talk about politics, or what we must “do.” I don’t want to rehash the vitriol that has already attacked our emotional immune system, toxins that are going to be long to clear. I hold space for everyone protesting, for Standing Rock, for Black Lives, for immigrants, for everyone who’s been identity assaulted, for gender violence, for it all, for it all, for it all, over and over again. We know this- we are coated in it like tar, and live in fear of the feathers plucked from the peace doves to be thrown on us as we await our inevitable day of confrontation. I just can’t.
I want to talk about a little sparrow.
We ate, perhaps sloppily, and coffee did the best it could to rouse my synaptic gaps where nary a thunderhead of productive thought could manifest. Something caught Felicity’s attention. Hopping along the enclosed porch of the breakfast place was a little sparrow, who’d just found a morsel of dropped biscuit. Suddenly, joy. Out came Felicity’s camera- the colors, the lighting- and the joy- were all perfectly in frame. I dropped a bit of biscuit. Over scuttled the seemingly chipper sparrow. One crumb fell through the floorboard, and the bird’s head was cocked quizzically- as if to say “that didn’t go right, did it?” I dropped another, and up the beak it went.
It’s as if all that tar melted right off, and that blue sky and the music- all of it- regained the beauty it’s always ever had. That sparrow did not sit in judgment of those crumbs- or our appearance. As far as we know, that day was neither a good nor bad day for the sparrow- it was just “day.” If shots were fired, the sparrow flies away- it does not tell us who was right or wrong. It flies, and comes back. It does not know why we shoot each other. It does not know what makes us cry, it just sees us pass above and below, doing the people things. The sparrow does the sparrow things. There are things to eat, nests, eggs, songs, death, nestlings. There may be so much more to it. Yet that’s as far as we can see. Not forgetting crumbs.
How can I be more like the sparrow?
If only my brain could shrink to pea-size, which I’m certain it is on its way to doing. Of course, if only I had wings. But truly- if only I could live outside of time, names, and beyond emotion. If I could live without the eternal hall of mirrors that is the concept of control. If I… the litany of wishes between the self and the bird. In its graceful sparrow-ing, what peace, what a lesson of serendipity as we stepped back out into the bright morning that was sharply traced in angles of what I am told to believe are truths, yet within the soul I resoundingly proclaim allegiance to are the circles and arcs of maybes, mysteries, and who-knows-whats.
It’s as close as I can get to being the bird brain I dream of. I wrote later that day of claiming the right to be angry, yet acting from a place of justice. Sparrows, and their ilk, from my observation only ever appear to get mildly perturbed- and that’s an interpretation through human lensing. The anger thing didn’t go down well, because this is Asheville, and hashtag All You Need Is Love. While I generally agree, it’s another frequency of on the3 open dial of being. It’s humans that call this a higher vibration. The sparrow wasn’t sporting an “I voted” sticker, nor clinging to a chakra-cleaning shamanically sourced love crystal, it was in the only moment it could possibly know- as far as I know. I love our capacity to complexify, as it continually facets the ever-infinite diamond of perception. Yet the other side of complexity is simplicity. Just being. Sometimes a sparrow scouting for breakfast precipitation is nothing more than that. Is the same applicable to our propensity to make crazy out of bales of sane? Jumping Jehosephat yes. I wanted the sparrow to mean something- to me- and “poof!” it did. I got what I needed, and the meal- certainly the company- were balms in a weary land.
We most certainly are stronger when we love. We are also acknowledging the reality of our animal-hood when we are angry, or are afraid. It’s all okay. If I’m to sit in judgment before a sparrow, I’m most certainly, okay, and you are too. The worst and the best of us all are okay, especially if we drop just a tiny crumb. Isn’t that something we’re all looking for? Just waiting for a tiny crumb to fall from the sky, feed us, give a moment and our lives some purposefulness? Then we can skitter off to the next place, complete our cycle.
Do what we need to do. If it were that easy… I know. I’ve been poured into a human mold and my role is to do the human things and feel the human way. Whenever possible, in my own way, my role is to transcend those bounds and offer comfort and selfless support to those who are in any way immobilized. That’s the hat I was born with, and while the haberdasher has many styles to choose from, I know this is the hat that I’ll die with. I accept it. It’s not an easy look- I make do with what I got. While we all move through this process, feel what we need to feel, let’s test our bounds and see what life’s like outside the bounds. Maybe we’ll find unexpected breadcrumbs falling from the least likely of tables. Or it could just be like many of the mountains around me this Saturday that the world will be on fire. Let peace find a perch in not knowing yet.
Fly where you must, and find grace in small moments. It’s still there. So are you.
* “Time Warp,” from “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” w/m (c) 1975 Richard O’Brien
** “Boy in the Bubble” from “Graceland,” w/m (c) 1986 Paul Simon