The Bird

We heard it quite early in the morning. At first, it sounded like someone had broken into the house, but the briefest of investigations showed otherwise: there was a bird trapped in the upstairs bathroom. I have no idea how it got there. The most likely possibility was that it had got into the attic somehow, and had come down through the (open) attic hatch into my younger kid's room, and had batted around the upstairs until it dead-ended in the bathroom. Luckily for the bird, the only cat there present was the oldest and least hunts-cat-like of our four, and she'd caught a front claw in the bathroom curtains before getting too involved.

So there, fluttering frantically around the second-smallest room in the house, was this terrified bird. It was moving too fast for us to get a decent look at it, but going by size and plumage it was probably a female red-wing blackbird. When my husband opened the bathroom door , she bolted out and whipped into the TV room --a smallish bedroom whose window opens out onto the side porch. Of course the storm windows are still up, but (thank God) the TV room storm has a big pane that slides sideways, leaving a good-sized opening. Dodging her frantic flapping, I wedged the inner window up, opened the storm pane, snuck out of the room, closed the door, and waited.

We could hear her batting around the room for a few minutes; then we left her. If she heard us around, she'd just go on panicking. Sooner or later, when she quieted down, she'd find her way out --sooner if she could track the scent and coolness of the outdoor air and follow it to its source. Better to do this than to try to trap her and take her out--easier for her, as well as for us. We'd just leave chance and her instinct to take effect, in good time. She had to still herself and stop panicking, and then she could find what she needed, far better than if we tried to manage her ourselves.

I thought about this as we went for a drive through a countryside still deeply in Mud Season, under a grey and (THANK YOU, GOD!!!) steadily raining sky. (We're still making up for last summer's drought.) I've done my own periods of flapping frantically against walls that I didn't understand, in rooms that felt very much like traps. And I have rarely had the sense to sit down, take a deep breath, and wait silently for whatever-it-was that God intended --including God.

"Be still, then, and know that I am God": in the middle of tumultuous waters: "Though the waters rage and foam...." I've been spending time with rivers, this last week: right now ours are turbulent and forceful as the spring run-off fills them. Every ditch and runnel is full, and the water lies pooled among the fields, harbouring masses of geese whose Vs fill the sky and gladden the heart. Everything's in transition now at the wheel of another season. I'm in transition too, and there are times when I feel very much like that bird, exhausted by all the beating about, but too twitchy just to perch and wait and listen.

"It is he who makes war to cease in all the world; he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear, and burns the shields with fire." In Jesus' own land, they're behaving like a whole roomful of panicked birds, caught in a terribly destructive flap, and nobody can stop them until they themselves choose to settle down and pay mind to the future and to God, instead of to hate and the past. Be still, I want to tell them, be still, and know that God is God, and that what you claim to do in God's name is in the name of your own fear and resentment. And for that you will have to answer to God. But be *still*, because nothing else will work.

Be still.... It's surprising how hard that is, when you're feeling trapped; how sometimes you have to beat yourself against the trapping walls into a state of such complete exhaustion that you're forced to rest and be quiet. Sometimes, it seems, that's all we can do.

But when we're finally worn out, broken and exhausted, then maybe we can be attentive to that stillness, as I hoped that the bird would be attentive to the scent and coolness of the air coming in and would be drawn to find the open window. Maybe, in times of turbulent waters and the making-ado of nations, what we need most is to still ourselves and try to hear that clear, still voice at the bottom of the soul: the voice that says, "Child."

We got back from our drive through the room, and the TV room seemed to be empty. We called out, to see if the bird was just resting somewhere and could be startled up again: no go. Then I fired in Maggie-cat, who is a large and excitable tortoiseshell, and she sniffed around a fair bit: no bird. I closed the storm window pane and lowered the window, and took the bored cat out.

For you, O God, my soul in silence waits. Okay, maybe that's not where I want to be. But if that's where you want me to be, I shall try to be patient and attentive, to still my own beating wings, and to feel for that freshness that I need to find, if I am ever to be revived and to find my way out through that window and into the cool, creative air.

Copyright © 2002 Molly Wolf. Originally published Sat, 13 Apr 2002
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