Sunday, July 04, 2010

Take These Broken Wings and Learn to Fly

Sometimes I think that if there’s an intelligent life force at the helm of the universe, it knows I’m very stupid. It’s the only explanation for how sometimes things ARE SPELLED OUT FOR ME. SLOWLY.

When I was in my early twenties, I dated someone who was slender and intelligent and didn’t care for me a whit. He wasn’t mean, he certainly wasn’t abusive, but whenever he looked at me he had the pleasant and slightly distracted air of someone who, at the wedding, got stuck talking to the bride’s great-aunt from Iowa. I had never dated anyone who didn’t at least find me moderately entertaining before. Therefore, I found him fascinating.

(Oh, early twenties, how little I miss you.)

During the six months we dated I had two hobbies: try to make him like me and find Neosporin. I had to find Neosporin because I was never not getting injured. This wasn’t something I was cultivating -- I certainly wasn’t cutting myself or seeking out suffering -- but if there was a shard of glass in a five-mile radius I’d find it with my foot. Or I was getting a weird spider bite which went septic. Or I just happened to be right behind someone as they gesticulated wildly with a lit cigarette. One night, as I was lying in bed questioning whether I should have gotten a stitch or two in the most recent wound while also obsessing over whether the boy would like me better as a redhead, a voice in my head spoke up.
Quinn, it said. The universe is going to keep hurting you until you decide you’re better than this. Can we please cut the crap and get over the novelty of being treated badly before you’re in a medically-induced coma?

I broke up with him the next day. The puzzled expression on his face leads me to believe he had forgotten we were dating.

Which leads to me the bird in my backyard. No really, it does. As I noted, we had a bird in our backyard which was obviously not long for this world. I toyed with taking it to the vet, doing the right thing, except that being touched by a human, even a well-meaning one, put in a container and driven to a vet would have caused it more stress than it was feeling right now. Consort tucked it in the crook of a tree that night; we assumed it would go to sleep and not wake up and that would be that. Next morning, she was hopping along the ground and eating seed pods which dropped from the tree.

We decided it was a she because she was very brown and unremarkable in the female bird way.

She wouldn’t accept the powdered baby-bird food we had left over from Stink-Eye but appeared to drink a little water from a cup and she ate seeds enthusiastically if awkwardly. She didn’t appear to be miserable but she certainly couldn’t be long for the world with her head bent way over to the side like that. Since she could fly no more than two feet up and a foot across before dropping, it was safe to say she couldn’t leave the yard. We decided as a family to create a little bird sanctuary in the walled-in area of the yard and let the bird live out her life. I monitored the dog when he went out, turned off the sprinklers and freshened the water daily. She hopped around, seemingly unaware her head was practically tucked under her wing.

As you might remember, my dear friend Mary died in February. Her breast cancer had metastasized to her liver which usually kills the patient in two to three years. Mary made it nearly nine. This week, a dear relative decided to stop unproductive treatment for an illness and decided to enter hospice care. He’d fought like a lion and he’s dying like a warrior.

As I watched my l-shaped avian from the kitchen window, a voice in my head -- the same voice that suggested I dump that jerk so long ago, -- explained to me how that generic small brown bird is the great truth. Life is incredibly brief and fragile, but the life force doesn’t leave graciously. Living things like being alive and will work harder at staying that way than you might imagine. There’s no point in not enjoying every single seed or a road trip with a friend or a sunny afternoon. I know you’re a bit of an Eeyore, Quinn, but for a few seconds every day try not to take being alive for granted.

I woke up this morning and let the dog outside. For the first time in days, I didn’t hear peeping. Daughter, following me out, found the little bird dead under the woodpile. We buried her in the yard and wished her well in the next adventure. I watched the funeral and promised her I wouldn’t forget what she taught me.


Blogger Wzzy said...

A beautiful story, Quinn, and a lesson we should all keep in mind. Wonderfully written as ever. And, I miss Mary SO MUCH.

3:58 PM  
Anonymous --Deb said...

Sniffle. Poor little brave bird...

4:04 PM  
Blogger thelittlefluffycat said...

What a gift you are. What a gift you have. Thank you. :)

4:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that was so beautiful.

6:49 PM  
Anonymous scarlet said...

thank you for this reminder

9:40 PM  
Blogger Char said...

i don't know what more to i will say beautifully done. we should all heed the voice of the universe, even when we may not like the outcome or the hurt.

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I so needed this today. A year ago today, I made the worst mistake of my life and eloped in Vegas. What happens in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas, and that explains why your compulsive commenter wasn't at a single book signing last summer. ;) Still trying to get annulled a year later (thanks to lovely bizarre laws and complications), here I am, feeling really depressed and self-pitying. The entry made me cry, but it was so cathartic and beautifully written. What an incredible bird and an incredible you for helping her along the way.

By the way, aren't survivors amazing? My beloved dog lived four years with pancreatic cancer, which I'm told in unheard of...


Thank you, Quinn!

-RR Bird Commenter :)

11:07 PM  
Blogger Jakarta Rocks said...

Fight like hell.

4 weeks ago tomorrow a year 8 girl in our school was swept away in a freak flash flood while crossing an ankle deep river on a school trip. They haven't found her body but have found the body of the guide who jumped in to save her.

As it is in the rainforests of Indonesia, there is a huge area to search - over 1,000 people searched for 3 weeks. They have dredged no less than 20 bodies from the river, been to identify 6 that match her description (teenager - she was korean - very similar to indonesian in looks) - but still haven't found her. Those bodies were not reported as missing - because many people die here every day (road toll for jakarta is 400 a month).

The kids at school (although went on summer holiday on Friday) are still holding out hope that she has been rescued by a remote village and is eating rice somewhere with amnesia. There is still a search party of 300 looking for her.

Wouldn't mind a miracle at staying alive in this instance.

3:03 AM  
Blogger Lene Andersen said...

Thank you, too, for sharing her message. I needed that today.

7:34 AM  
Anonymous Elise said...

This post is all kinds of awesome.

Thank you for the lovely reminder.

1:15 PM  
Blogger Ivy said...

We could all use this reminder occasionally...
Thanks so much.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To say that post was lovely, touching and most importantly timely is putting is incredibly mildly.

Thank you for the message as well. It was really something I needed to hear today.

After receiving a not-so-wonderful diagosis this past week, these are words of wisdom to my ears and I pray that I can muster merely an inkling of the same courage that the little bird had to keep going.

3:01 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

And look at how many people this little injured bird has touched.

Every living thing matters.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous joanr16 said...

Wow. Magnificent. Glorious. Thank you!

10:15 AM  
Anonymous Diane said...

Wonderful post about something so simple and so important - thank you, Quinn. (That bird landed in just the right place.)

And you think you're a slow learner? I dated my "he's just not that into you" guy for five.and.a.half.YEARS. Long distance, but still. (Every time I went to visit him? Accident and/or injury.) I got there in the end, though, thanks to a TV interview with Susan Sarandon in which she said sometimes she really has to be hit over the head with the truth about a situation. I split up with him that night.

2:12 PM  
Blogger Dodi said...

Thank you.

2:09 PM  
Blogger lisahgolden said...

Well now that I'm all choked up, all I can say is thank you for the great reminder it's worth it.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Surely said...

I just wanted to say thanks for making me cry at work. (:-D

Beautifully written. Well done you.

3:23 PM  
Blogger Nancy said...

Quinn--this is a great blog, and I loved your book. Hope you are planning another one.

9:35 AM  
Blogger Kathryn said...

Please tell the child that I appreciate her so very much. And, her mama is pretty darned wonderful to share this story.

I have been walking around about posting to this thread since the first day it was up.

In our home, we are coming upon the bad season. In a few weeks, we will thud upon the 29th anniversary of letting our little bird, name of Danny, fly. He was so ill, so hurt, so everything. It was, we knew, we know, right for him. But, oh so hard for us. He will always remain a little feller. We are old. We have Grandgirlies older than he was here on Earth. But, he flies! Oh, I know he flies.

Thank you.

Michaele, kick some tushy, and knock whatever it is out of the park. Peace to you.

Peace to all. And, thank you. What a beautiful way to help us.

10:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely, Quinn. Thank you. It is so easy to fall into the pattern of taking life for granted.

4:51 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Having been through a very similar situation with a family of Doves that moved into one of our hanging flower pots on our deck, this story made me weepy all over again. The circle of life is heartbreaking sometimes, but you wouldn't want to miss out on the good parts either.

5:11 PM  

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