The Post that Almost Wasn’t

In all the years since the inception of this blog , I have never come this close to NOT posting on a Thursday. The reasons for this are both simple and complicated.

On the simple end of the spectrum, it was Christmas week. A week that did not go according to plan, so was more rushed than intended, but was also wonderful in spite of a few set-backs. The busy week meant that I had not written a post in advance of this morning, so when I awoke at 3:20 a.m. nauseous and chilled, the next eight hours of physical illness and discomfort did not really lend themselves to sitting at a computer capturing my thoughts in words. When I felt well enough to sit up and log on, I also felt empty. Which leads to the complicated reasons for almost missing a Thursday post.

Had I found the time to write on Monday, I would have written about the incredible example of patience and acceptance provided by Mike. We got on the road at 6:45 a.m. Monday, intending for Mike to be at an important appointment for his son, leaving directly from there to head to Iowa for Christmas. We blew a tire less than four miles from home, during rush hour on I35W. Not only did he remain completely calm while maneuvering  out of traffic, he was remarkably sanguine about missing the appointment, despite the fact his son had made it clear he wanted Mike there. While I was starting to ratchet up toward hysteria, he refused to be flummoxed, reminding me there was no point to drama – there was nothing we could do but make the best of it. Through a long morning of waiting for the vehicle to be road-worthy, missing the appointment, and eventually getting on the road, his calm demeanor remained intact. Even though it meant missing dinner and an evening hanging out with his sisters, Mike entered fully into our stops in Cedar Rapids, visiting friends who had newborns to show off. Not once did he attempt to rush our time with friends in order to get back on the road, no matter how much he may have wished to. Yes, if I had found the time to write on Monday, I would have written about patience and gratitude, and the deep examples of each from that day.

If there had been time to write a post on Tuesday, I would have written about being cared for by family – even though the family was not my own. From the delicious home cooked breakfast, to a Christmas Eve celebration 27-people strong. Laughter ruled the night, dinner was direct from Pizza Hut, and love was expressed in hugs and words and hijinks. While I missed my own big family, there is something recognizable as “home” in spending a chaotic night with any loving, large family. Had I somehow, miraculously, found time to write on Tuesday, I’d have written about the spirit of love at Christmas, and how wonderful it is to bask in its glow.

Then there was Wednesday, Christmas itself. If I had found the time, between bouts of sitting and chatting in three different homes, between moments of sharing and silence, I would have written about kindness and generosity. I would have written about the happiness of watching someone you love relax completely and be at home. I would have written about a surprise Christmas gift that touched me deeply. I would have written about how little it mattered that we never showered – after all, there was a phone call which said, “Come over, I’m frying eggs”, but which meant, “Come over and I’ll show how much I love you by cooking for you.” A shower doesn’t rate next to that. If I had written yesterday, I definitely would have had plenty to say.

To say I feel empty today is only half true – physically, my body rebelled against and rejected all of the rich indulgences of the past few days and emptied itself in the early morning hours. Emotionally, I feel flat, not empty. The rich experiences of family and friendship over the past few days make today seem flat by contrast. But the reality is so much more complex. All of the amazing feelings and examples of the past few days – the love, kindness, laughter and generosity – were not fleeting. They are abiding and real. That we don’t taste, touch, see, feel them daily is our human failing.

So, when I finish writing today’s “post that almost wasn’t”, I am going to put on some Christmas music and sing along. I’m going to reconnect with the many feelings of the past few days, and I’m going to celebrate them all. Why waste a whole day feeling empty and flat when I can feel  filled with light and joy?!

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The Fall of A Sparrow

Three weekends ago, my friend Mike came into my house via the side door saying, “Did you know you have a bird’s nest above this door?” I said that it had been there and empty since I moved in. He said, “Well, it’s not empty now, I just scared a little bird out of it.” And sure enough, when I asked him to check, there were eggs in the nest. We were worried the smell of his fingers touching the eggs might keep the mother away, but soon she was happily sitting the nest, keeping her eggs warm. On Sunday, after Mike left to return to Minneapolis, I pulled out a step stool and snapped the shot, above, of the little speckled eggs.

That weekend, we were marvelling at the early spring that had arrived in the midwest. We made a point to start using the front door, in order to cause less disturbance to the little bird family nesting in the side awning. And we made friends with the neighbor’s cats, who do love to sun on my porch and rest in the shade beneath my front bushes. One beautiful tiger cat was especially friendly, lying at our feet and stretching to expose his belly to be scratched.

Every day I’ve watched the progress of life in the little nest. I haven’t wanted to get too close, since any movement at the side of the house sent the mama bird flying away to distract attention from the nest. I’ve exclusively used the front door, even when arriving home after dark, fumbling with my key and crossing the pitch black living room to find a light switch. Finally, last night, I noticed a change. Tiny movements in the nest, tiny chirps – the little chicklets had hatched. I plan to take the afternoon off work tomorrow, and thought it might be a good time to attempt a photo of the hatchlings to go with the one, above, of the eggs.

This morning, I woke and went to the gym for my TRX class. It was a hard class, and I returned home physically wrung out. I turned on the tea kettle to boil water for my morning coffee, and sat down at my computer to put the finishing touches on today’s blog entry. Suddenly, there was a loud noise at the side of the house, much like someone attempting to break down the side door. My heart leapt into action, hammering hard and fast in a fear response. I ran to the side door, thinking that whomever was trying to break into my house might go away if they realized I was still inside.

The sight that greeted me was not what I expected. The tiger cat looked up at me from a crouched position, obviously startled in the middle of something. And that’s when I thought of the nest. Opening the screen door, I was greeted by the sight of five little birdlings, gasping their final breaths on the cement at my feet, the nest that had sheltered them hanging like a straw beard from the awning above them.

Death took all but one within seconds of their fall. The last and largest of the hatchlings lived for maybe two minutes. There was absolutely nothing I could do, except witness the little thing’s passing.

For some reason, I really wanted those little birdlets to live. I’ve never watched a nest before, never been so engaged before in this process, not even as a child. I wondered how I would be able to bring myself to dispose of their little bodies. Luckily, I was spared that task by the arrival of Tom, the facilities groundskeeper who tends my lawn. He is such a kind-hearted man that though it saddened him, too, he agreed to do the grisly clean up.

But even in my sadness, I can’t hold it against the tiger cat. He was just being his cat self. Next time I see him, I’ll reach down and rub his belly the way he likes me to. And I’ll be reminded that sometimes our role in the day is to be a witness to this amazing world and to the life that inhabits it. We get so caught up in being actors in our lives, deciding and speaking and moving. Sometimes simply, silently, witnessing is necessary, too. Necessary for us and for our world.