“If you love something set it free
If it comes back to you it's yours
If it doesn't, It never was" (unknown)
It's been awhile, and I apologize. I've had to work out some things before I could find it in me to write here again.
Judy Clement Wall recently wrote and gave a wonderful gift to her subscribed readers called, "52 Weeks: 52 Ways To Love Your Wild Self." Her readers desired to share it with others, who for some odd reason, haven't yet subscribed to Judy's blogs -- so Judy, ( whose preference is to be simply called "j"), put her book up for sale HERE, in the form of a pdf file. I highly recommend you purchase it, and also, while you're at it, if you haven't done so already, The (Fearless) Love Essays, which she wrote and published last summer. (Hint: Great Christmas gifts!)
The first section of 52 Weeks is called "Winter Ways," and covers the weeks of winter, and when I got to week 8, "Find Your Life Theme," I stopped. In that moment, a memory flashed, rose up clear and true, and sang out for me to look at it. Then, a couple of weeks later, I had a conversation with a friend of mine that rocked my world, and had me thinking again about the theme of my life. In week 8 of j's book, she mentions and shares a link to a post written by Alex Franzen, called "Does Your Life Have A Theme? (Want to find out?)," which you can find HERE.
I have to admit, I felt an unreasonable fear, quite the opposite of what j says she experienced in the exercise given. I struggled for a time with what was coming up for me to look at. So I let myself sit in the struggle, listening to the voice of conflict within me. I wrote...and wrote, gave it a voice...set it free. And when the conversation with my friend came around, who so tenderly bared his soul with me, with a whisper that melted a hardness around my heart I didn't even know was there...I felt something in me shake loose...and finally bend.
Sometimes, even when our hearts ache for significance, even when we want to believe we matter, that our lives matter, there is something within us that is, at the same time, paradoxically, afraid of it. We don't want to know we have that much impact on our world, or on each other. Because with that knowledge, that awareness, comes a heightened sense of responsibility we fear we can't live up to.
We can, and we will. We must.
I believe Marianne Williamson said it best: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It is not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
What follows is the memory that rose up inside me, and shined a spotlight right onto my life's theme. It has been before me all the time, hiding in plain sight. Isn't that the way of it? And with the unknowing (or maybe knowing), help of my friend, by his laying bare and exposing his own broken wing, he let me know in no uncertain terms, who it was that brought back to him his desire to fly once again...He told me I must write. I honestly didn't think I was reaching anyone. I don't think I wanted to know. I think I felt safe hanging out in between. One foot in, one foot out, never really committing. His revelation to me brought me up short, right to the point of decision.
~And humbled me to my bones ~
When I was a young girl, about 8 years old, I witnessed a cat sneaking up on a cardinal. Something in me knew the cat would be successful this go around, and without thought, I sprang to action, and took off running toward the cat and bird, yelling out an alarm as I went, but I was too late. Just as the cardinal was lifting off the ground, the cat leaped into the air, and dragged the bird down beneath him. It was only afterward, with prize flapping from his jaws, teeth sunk into one of the cardinal's red wings, that the cat finally looked up to notice the crazy girl running at him, top speed, waving her arms and yelling. He was so confused by what he saw, his mouth literally dropped open enough for the bird to drop to the ground. For a split second, I saw him consider sinking his teeth back into his prey again, but by that time I was damn near on top of him, still yelling, and he decided I was the bigger predator, and took off running for his life, leaving his tasty prize behind.*******
The bird was still alive, and frantically trying to fly away, but it's wing was hanging at an odd angle, broken, and all he could manage was a flop. So he decided to make a run for it, a sound emitting from him as he hobbled away that pierced my heart because of the pain and fear I heard within it. That sound drove me to scoop him up gently, when he'd finally cornered himself, and coo at him, as he trembled in my hands. It pained me that I wasn't fast enough to save him from the cat, but I was glad he was still alive, and I felt a ferocious protective instinct rise up from within me. I could protect him while he was wounded, provide shelter, maybe heal him.
I took him to my dad, and asked if we could save him. My dad looked at the bird, and noted the broken wing, and told me with gentle honesty, "It's the shock more than anything that kills them. He doesn't appear to have any other wound other than his wing being broken. But he probably won't last long enough for the wing to heal, because of the shock. And even if he does, and his wing does heal, he probably won't be able to fly again. And a bird....is built to fly. A bird needs to fly. What kind of life would he have if he couldn't fly? Let him go, Cindy."
I couldn't. I just couldn't stand the thought. My dad must have seen it in my eyes, because he heaved a sigh, then told me to follow him. We went down to the basement, and he found a box, then told me to go gather some grass, and leaves. I ran and got the items as quickly as possible, and then brought them back to my dad. He instructed me to put them in the box, then he laid the bird inside, on top of the nesting material. He then told me to find a lid to a jar, and fill it with a bit of water, and set it inside with the bird. After all that was done, he looked at me, and said, "Now we wait. Keep him in the dark. The dark will comfort him, and might help the shock. Let him rest. But he probably won't last the night, Cindy. Be prepared for that."
The next morning, I raced down to the basement to check on the bird, and found the box empty. My mind wouldn't accept what that might mean, so I frantically searched the entire basement for the bird, thinking, hoping, he'd simply decided to escape. I couldn't find him, and I felt a grief hit me as I slumped down on the stairs to cry, accepting that my dad probably took him out, thinking to save me seeing the bird dead. Suddenly, I heard a noise, a chirpy little noise. I silenced my tears, even my breathing, and grew still...listening. The sound came again from beneath a work table, so I jumped up and went over to look, and there he was. I crawled and reached until I got hold of him, careful of his broken wing, then carried him back to the box, and inspected him.
He didn't look like he was dying. He looked alert, if not a little freaked out, bouncing around the floor of the box, dragging his broken wing beside him, but he was alive. I cooed at him, telling him it was all okay, and that I wouldn't harm him. I was here to help. At some point I heard myself say, "I'll see you fly again."
And I meant it. I didn't know I meant it until I said it, but I remember feeling, with every fiber in my being, I meant those words. Come hell or high water, I'd see him fly again. I had no idea how I'd do it, but my life now held a purpose. I felt it solidify in me, and I aimed for it.
The next few days were spent in simply trying to keep the bird still. I finally decided to wrap him with a dry bandage, with the intention of holding his wing to his side. That worked for about a minute. Binding him seemed to upset him, and the point was to calm him down, so I gave it up, took it off, and just kept the box closed. My dad was right...he seemed to quiet down in the darkness the box provided when the lid was closed. I got the feeling the box being open, above him, had him feeling exposed, and that's why he kept escaping, and running for cover somewhere else. I had thought he wouldn't like feeling closed in, but I was soon proved wrong when I noticed he calmed way down when the box was closed.
I don't remember how long I kept him in the box that way, but it was the bird himself who let me know when he was ready to do more. One day, I opened the box, and he tried to fly out. I noticed he actually worked his wounded wing. I remember celebrating with him, instinctively knowing his wing was on the mend. From that day forward, I got him out once a day, and gave him a little push off the table, knowing he'd naturally try to use his wings. The first few times were painful to watch, as he automatically spread his wings to fly, but fell down to the ground, with a hard landing instead. I couldn't care, and something told me not to coddle him. He must fly. I couldn't stand the thought of him not doing what came naturally to him. Like my dad said... what he was made for.
Day by day, he got stronger, and his wounded wing began to work again. We got to the point where he was flying from surface to surface, but still low, and still with clumsiness. He also began to sing. He could hear the other birds singing outside, and I felt like their singing was somehow connected to his desire and will to fly. I knew the day would come that I'd have to take him outside, and let him go, and when that day dawned, I marched outside, talking to him about his big day, and how much I'd miss him, and trying not to cry.
I'd put a lot of thought into it, planning the day of his flight, and had decided to let him go from the top of the wall in our back yard. The top stood level with our yard, and was built to separate, and hold the earth in our yard from the field below. I stood with the bird wiggling in my hand, aching to be set free, and hesitated. My heart beat picked up, and I felt the tears blur my sight, then told the cardinal I loved him...and with a lift of my hands, pushed him up in the air and let go.
His flight was wobbly at best, and not very strong, and he couldn't make it to even the lowest branch on a tree. He tired quickly and fell to the ground, and sat still.
I jumped down off the wall, and raced to him as fast as my little feet could take me. He was so still...I thought...
He looked up at me when I reached him, breathing hard, and when I picked him up, his little heart was racing. I cooed at him a little while, trying to decide what to do...he didn't even wiggle in my hand anymore, so exhausted from his attempt at flight. I hoped I hadn't pushed him too soon. Then I told him we had a little more practice to do, that's all. He'd fly again, and now that he had felt the wind in his wings again, he'd fly that much sooner. He didn't seem all that excited.
But the next day, he was ready to go again, singing in response to the bird song he heard outside, flying from surface to surface in the basement...so I scooped him up, and took him outside to try again. He went a little higher, but still fell, exhausted, onto the ground.
Days went by with the same scenario, and I began to lose hope. My mom and dad told me I needed to let him go, but they weren't there, didn't see what happened when I let him fly. I couldn't stand the thought of a cat getting him again, once he'd worn himself out from flying, and fallen to the ground. I whispered to him, "You must fly. Your wing must get better! Try!" And he'd go a little further, and then fall. The day came when my dad drew the line, and told me the bird had to go, and I wept, and told the bird he had to fly this time. His wing could take it. His wing was healed. And it was. But for a bare spot absent of feathers, I found no mark on it anymore.
I stood there, giving him a pep talk, crying, and with my entire being, earnestly willing him to fly, I finally let go....
And he flew. High and glorious, if a bit ungracefully, he flew. I watched him go. Made sure he knew what he was doing. He flew from branch to branch...getting better as he went along. Then, he flew back, and landed on a branch of a tree that stood next to me, and sang. I watched him, my heart happy and sad all at the same time, and then he flew away. I watched him until he disappeared, then flopped myself down on the ground and cried.
A few days later, I was walking to school, and heard a cardinal's song. I looked up, and there one sat, flying along from branch to branch as I walked. I like to think it was him, coming to greet me, singing me a song. I smiled and waved at the bird, feeling lighter in my step, my heart lifting, knowing I'd played a part in healing a broken wing, and setting a bird free to do what came to it naturally.... to fly.
--------- (to be cont.)