Little Bird: A Meditation on Kindness
The barn swallows swooped over the field as if they were telling us where Little Bird was. Dutifully Bruce looked for him, knowing he’d survived the night. I thought about the saying: What is desirable in a man is his kindness. I loved my husband.
Little Bird had been knocked out of his too small nest with three other fledglings. Bruce put them back, but they fell out. The others died but not Little Bird. Usually we let nature take its course, but this time we set him on a low beam in the barn, so the parents could feed him. I prayed for his survival, as I cupped him in my hands, his heart racing.
He huddled there until he got strong enough to jump off. Soon I saw him lift off the ground, the other birds whirling overhead, encouraging him to fly. But he fell back.
Then the swallows were gone. There was a little bird shaped grief in my chest. I think about what a gift it is for parents to knock their children into flight. I think about my father who did not call me home after my mother died even though we were both desperately lonely. He blessed my flight, a blessing, a love, as sacrificial as Mary sending her son to die.
As for Little Bird, Bruce said he saw two adults and a little one sitting on the wire between the shed and the barn.
I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.
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What is Desirable in a Man is His Kindness
Bruce and I pulled up the electric fence that had closed in a pasture we don’t use. Bruce asked me to run the tractor while he wrapped a chain around the T posts. I lifted the bucket to pull them out of the ground. Then he unwrapped the chain and dropped the the post in the tractor’s bucket. One wooden post was so firmly set that the tractor tipped to the side as I tried to lift it. The ground was uneven because old vegetation left under the fence had raised the ground level. It rattled and distracted me, so I moved the tractor forward too far and whacked Bruce in the chest with the post. A shiver went down my back. My hair stood on end. I backed the tractor up and could see him gripping his rightful anger, holding his words. Bruce did not fly off and cuss me out. I focused. Minds cannot wander doing this kind of work. We are fragile around our machines.
What is desirable in a man is his kindness.
Come look at the sunset, he says. So I go and look. And see clouds and light like striated rocks floating there in the sky, rocks telling us something about the beginnings of the earth, or maybe the endings, or maybe glory.
Sometimes I’ll go get Bruce and show him the moon. This morning he asked if I saw the dragon flies swarming outside the barn. Yes I did. Apparently they migrate like Monarchs. I’ve never noticed them on the move before, but Wendy Williams Language of Butterflies helped me look for insects and dive into the mystery of these gorgeous insects. The book is full of wonder, like how the Blue Morpho’s stunning blue that seems to change according to the angle you look at it, “derives from the structure of the scale itself. On a Blue Morpho’s scale light from the sun is bounced around and various wavelengths are thrown away or scattered. Only one wavelength, blue, remain organized enough to be effectively reflected back to the observer” (63). I couldn’t help but be in awe of how the creator worked out this kind of detail in a butterfly’s scale. This is only one piece of wonder from Williams’ book.
Matthew Fox in Original Blessing talks about how God is continuing to make things which sure fits into what I’ve read of the intricate processes of evolution in Williams’ book and in Some Assembly Required which spells out how evolution and genetics and fetal development work together. St. Irenaeus says, “If, then, you are God’s workmanship, wait the hand of your Maker who creates everything in due time; in due time as far as you are concerned whose creation is still being carried out” (85). Meister Eckhardt says, “Now God creates all things but does not stop creating. God forever creates and forever begins to create, and creatures are always being created and in the process of beginning to be created” (85). At any rate, I’ve started looking for God’s glory in the tiny, even the ugly, like the toad that hops out of the way when I draw water from the spigot by the house.
We drove Morgan, with the wind whirling and tossing the corn and soybeans. The wind was on the move. Giant plates of air changing from warm to cool. Wind, the same word as Holy Spirit, smoothing the crops like a hand over velvet, the Holy Spirit, who fills us, the Spirit who raised Christ from the dead, lives in us. Fire can dance on our heads if we let it, burn but not burn us up, like Moses’ bush.
Hawks circled. Yellow butterflies popped up. Buzzards coasted. Our neighbor’s wind chimes jangled. But as we came up to the railroad tracks, my steady, sane horse wheeled around in the opposite direction. Usually she plants and looks but this time she whirled, lickety-split. Bruce yelled, “Morgan stop.” I said, “Hush” and spoke Whooaaaoooo. I cooed. She jackknifed the carriage on one side of the road and then jigged across the road to the other side and long flat stretch of grass. I was caught by surprise and gathered my reins like Bruce pulling on the pulley to lift our hay elevator, hand over hand.
Morgen’s power. My gosh all that power. Held in my hands. I asked her to stop. Bruce got out of the carriage and checked her over. Nothing was amiss.
My horse heard my voice. Jesus says his sheep hear his voice, the shepherd’s voice. They know him. Morgen knows me. I thought about Klaus Biesenthal saying, “Make friends with your horse” and how that bond held her in my hand, even though she bunched up. (Around the barn we talk. I hand feed her hay cubes to thank her for moving out of my way. Her eyes are soft.) Letting her trot it out would have been a wise thing to do. An animal, including us, sometimes needs to discharge terror by moving. Crissi MacDonald in her memoir about how she came back to riding horses after a crippling, devastating fall, Continuing the Ride says, “I saw the wisdom of letting them move if they felt they needed to. Eventually I learned that not only movement is beneficial but directing it even more so. A horse in flight will feel better if someone is leading him through it. Not only that a horse will settle and calm more deeply with help” (97). But I was afraid the trot would turn into a canter and then a gallop and a run. So I held her to a walk. My hands and wrists ached. I was grateful my whip was light. But the blessed mare listened. I exhaled. And exhaled again. I cooed to her. She tucked her head, came on the bit, drew her legs under her, slow trotted.
Morgen’s tension had stacked up–the neighbor’s horse, the cows, the neighbor’s wind chimes, the wind moving everything. But the last time we drove, she took a bad stumble that skinned her knees on the other side of the tracks. (We didn’t know they were skinned until we unharnessed her. We drove her a ways beyond that.) But falling down for a horse and getting hurt can be a terrifying thing. I don’t doubt she remembered. And the wind, making a sign she hadn’t noticed before, shake with shadows may have been too much. Some horsemen would insist we push her past that fear, not let her win, right then. But the adrenalin, hers and ours was too high. There is always another day. We turned for home, Morgen strong in hand, a hand full, with me breathing–breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, long breaths. Under saddle she’d put on the brakes for that breath. I sat forward my hands up, so the reins could be loose but I’d have my body sitting back, my elbows pulling back if I needed to take her in hand again.
Once we got home I walked her around the pasture. Her head dropped. She relaxed. I’m thinking the next time we drive we will stay home, and then work our way up the road. I may let her trot it out in our fields and then the straight stretch after Peterson’s. We may go up the road and turn around early, when she is relaxed. When we got back, Bruce said he was proud of me for how I handled her. He held her while I unhitched her. And held her while I unharnessed her and washed off her sweat.
What’s desirable in a man is his kindness.
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