The days are noticeably inclining towards equinox. There’s a different quality of light—in one day it seems to shift, to feel ever so slightly higher, at a further distance. And then after you notice this, the next day you hear the sound of geese flying high one morning, testing the air for their journey south. A few birch leaves have begun to take on the hue of that distancing sunlight—yellowing in a few small bursts here and there. And you know it’s begun—it will soon be turning cooler.
This a beautiful piece. Your descriptions and your contemplations are wonderful.
And the experience with the warbler is really touching.
Fortunate for us the warbler hit your window.
And then, the love/warmth of your hand/kindness enabled it to survive.
If this is mad, the world needs a lot more madness.
Absolutely gorgeous. I’m so grateful that you tried a sixth time, and that I have been brought to your writing.
I almost didn't finish this piece because I was so afraid the warbler wasn't going to make it, but I'm so glad I did! Such a moving account of a moment of trans-species communication, understanding, and kindness.
I really like this part:
“slight weight it barely registered, like trying to hold a breeze. Eventually, I wasn’t able to distinguish the feel of her body from my own skin. It felt like I was as much a part of the bird as she was of my palm for that still, protracted moment. “
Thanks for the essay. Details of historical and other writings not so of interest for taking a quick read on a morning when I have just a little time to rest and read. But no matter. All part of the wonders of substack and access to such wonderful writers and their work.
“I can logic away why such things occur, and how there is nothing out-of-the-ordinary about it.
But in truth, I’d rather not.”
Oh goodness, I was gripped with knowing and understanding this whole story through. I think that quote sums up my entire approach to the world. I’m intrigued by why some of us are held spellbound by the unexplainable magic of these moments while others are so quick to logic them away (a fundamental difference between my partner and myself that I’ve frequently wondered about). Whatever the case, what a beautiful experience.
Freya this is all so touching really! I once tried to save a wild starling chick who probably fell off of her nest due to a particularly bad monsoon storm. My dad brought her home on a stormy evening. He said her nest was on top of the electricity pole, it confused and angered me beyond belief that the poor birds had to build its nest at such unsafe and vulnerable spot because we humans have destroyed their natural habitat to build our parasitic colonies. We made her a resting place out of a small plastic basket, I personally lined it with cotton and straw to keep her warm. But alas, we hardly possessed the skills of the mama bird to be able to nourish and nestle the chick back to health, she died the next morning. I remember the awe I experienced when I first felt her tiny feathered pulsing heart, I remember the grief that engulfed me on losing her the next day. I spent the whole morning sitting next to the basket soaked in tears, wondering of the blue skies and the thick canopies to which she belonged. I was only 10 and didn’t understand much about death but that incident definitely made me question a lot about what I knew to be true about my reality.
Suffice to say that your story brought back the same experience of wonder, awe, anger, and despair. I am happy that your yellow warbler had a happy ending though! Thank you for sharing this experience, it struck a very special chord within me. Every time I read something that you have written, a mystical sense of knowing, a kinship, overpowers me, maybe we are not so different, separated by geographies and race, as the world would have us believe. Thank you for caring and giving space for such a beautiful creature to heal. Reminds me of Emily Dickinson’s “If I can stop one heart from breaking”
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
"Moments that melt the boundaries between subject and object, divine and human, self and other is often how mystical union or transcendence was described by medieval writers. Such occurrences are also described as an interjection of the extraordinary into the ordinary."
"There are so many ways to be surprised by gradations of eros, of a sudden love you could never anticipate. Because I did really feel love for that bird. I was struck by the feel of her feet—so, so slight, the smallest of talons on my skin. Such a slight weight it barely registered, like trying to hold a breeze. Eventually, I wasn’t able to distinguish the feel of her body from my own skin. It felt like I was as much a part of the bird as she was of my palm for that still, protracted moment."
Freya, you are correct, describing a personal transcendent experience is difficult and hard to write. Yet you succeed in writing such an astonishingly beautiful essay about transcendence. Truly remarkable work, Thank you.
I was watching a yellow warbler high up in a tree a couple months ago, and was struck by how well they blend in. It reminded me that humans have a pretty limited visual field when it comes to colors. As yellow as they seem, they match right in with the green of the trees; or perhaps as green as the trees seem, yellowness we can't perceive hides the warbler, releasing only their song.
I'm ashamed to say that despite being taken by all the beauties in this piece, it's an enticing distraction to think of a Disney movie where the hero/ine(s) get avian flu. Perhaps it could say something about the need for mutual aid instead of solitary heroes.