Seventy-five degrees, blue skies, birds twittering their songs in the trees with leaves swaying in the breeze, it’s a perfect Southern California fall day.
I go out and put water in the flower petal shaped birdbath for Mother since she hasn’t been feeling well. She loves being outside, keeping the bird bath clean and filled with fresh water, but she’s out less and less these days. Anyway, I add fresh water to it, right? And above me, somewhere in the long, leafy branches of the apricot tree, a bird starts putting up a racket. And I do mean racket, if you get my drift.
It’s a funny sound for a medium sized bird with red on the top of the head, a white throat, gray chest and black wings.
“Quack. Quack. Quack.” Or if you prefer, Wikipedia says, “waaka, waaka, waaka.” Sounds like “quack” to me.
I come back inside and the silly bird gets louder and louder. The next time I look there are three of them at the bird bath. Acorn Woodpeckers, so Mother says.
“Do you think that bird called his family to tell them there’s water in the birdbath?” I ask.
Mother makes her way over to the kitchen window, her cane clunking right along with the quacking outside the open window. Plunk, quack. Plunk, quack. Plunk, quack.
“Maybe so,” Mother says, “I’ve seen four of them at the birdbath, and two are young ones.”
They fly before long but the yard, which had been quiet until I turned on the water, is now filled with Sparrows and Finches poking around in the grass and there’s a busy squirrel moving up and down the fat, old trunk of the Apricot.
The quiet and the still has been replaced with chitter-chatter and an infinitesimal undulation of teeming life. Bees and Hummingbirds vie for the prominent spot at the feeder; flies flit, butterflies dip and sway, ants march along the path, spiders swing on invisible threads and over the fence, the neighbor’s dog yaps.
Sunday afternoons have always meant no pressure to accomplish anything of significance and so I sit on the wooden bench rocker with the sun warming the top of my head and my skin. The birds were startled when I came out, but the longer I sit still all the movement in the yard, trees and bushes returns. I’m drowsy in the sun. A kite floats overhead, its tail trailing just above the fence. I reach up and catch the tip and am aloft. As I look down, our patch of green shrinks until it’s just a tiny dot in the middle of the curvature of the horizon.
I see now how infinitesimal my grasp on life has been. How small my dreams that only lived among the known heights and depths of what I could see and touch and hear and taste. This blue ball in the swirling black expanse studded with twinkling dots is but a speck in all the universes that stretch to infinity and on and on.
I must go higher. I urge to go higher but I am impotent as my balloon has no inertial dampeners, no life support, no sublight engines.
I lose height. I float downward; the dots of green, the dark of mountains, the blue of the ocean, the black of its buried depths rush towards me; the tip of skyscrapers fly past and become giants once again. I recognize the Apricot branches and aim for the back yard rocker where this trip started.
I’ve seen the heights, so what will change? What will I believe? What will drive me on through each day now that I know the truth? Will I be satisfied again with being comfortable when someone else needs food or clothing or comfort?
No. I cannot be happy with just getting by when unknown possibilities are there for the nurturing. I cannot be buried with the stress of the temporariness of an aging body, a dying world. I cannot allow the stresses and concerns of the tangible consume all my time and effort. My thoughts flit back to the vastness of space and time. There’s more; there’s a universe more; seek it, reach for it. I find myself agreeing with Wordsworth,
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory
Do we come From God, who is our home:”