My cat opens her sinewy jaws and releases a still-living chickadee into the rafters of my home. A day like any day, flitting about, white wing tips flick-flick-flicking, “tit tit” calls amongst the flock – until BAM! Fetid carnivorous fangs closed on her neck.
In that swift moment Every Thing Changes.
And yet…. it’s not over yet….
Aiming for freedom, the tiny bird writhes free of the claws — only to beat herself senseless against the skylight. She falls, finally exhausted, to the tongue and groove floor at my feet.
Right here in Seattle, I regularly see Eagles, Owls, Ospreys, Merlins, Sharp Shinned Hawks, Cooper’s Hawks, Crows, Gulls, Towhees, Flickers, Stellar’s Jays, Hummingbirds, as well as countless LBBs (little brown birds), and of course, chickadees. Their feathered activities seem to be coded messages about how to conduct my life.
I see things that others don’t notice. I’m driving and two Eagles clasp talons, falling, PLUMMETING! hundreds of feet to (almost) the freeway in front of me in a breathtaking courtship ritual – there should be FIVE DOZEN ACCIDENTS with all the people distracted by the majestic sight, but I appear to be alone in my observations, and keep driving, a new lift in my heart.
So I’m cupping this chickadee in my palm.Each feather on her neck is so tiny! She pants more rapidly than my clumsy human tongue can keep count. Completely capable in her own element, here in mine, she is completely helpless. She is so fragile that I could inadvertently crush her while simply carrying her to the door.
There she lies, panting with fear, her every cell aiming for the sky, but she is immobilized while a huge…. something she can’t even describe….finger… probes her body. Giant… eyes… observe, making calculations. Her body is moved through space in an indescribable way, the air moving past her beak in ways she’s never imagined. Fear. FEAR!
Suddenly she is raised and RELEASED!!
Wings pumping fiercely, she finds that her heart and lungs and muscles all work! With a great deal of twittering, joining the flock with a great deal of twittering, she gets a Second Chance.
To be alive is to be vulnerable.”
― Madeleine L’Engle