On Saturday morning, as I was getting ready for my Celebration of Flight party, a heart-dropping thud brought all three cats to their feet instantly from sound sleep to attack mode. I rushed to the living room in time to see a robin fly away from what looked like a close encounter with the window.
The dusty softball sized imprint accented with three very small breast feathers told a story of a pretty hard hit. Although relatively confident I'd seen the robin fly away, I looked through the window to the porch just to make sure. I saw nothing, and went back to dusting odd corners that no one but me was going to notice, but that I needed to dust nonetheless.
Maybe an hour later, the window hit buried under the list of things to get done before people started arriving, I went out the front door. And startled a young robin. Just out of fledgling feathers. Speckled, pale gray infused with soft ember orange, no distinct eye ring yet. Flapping awkwardly away from me out into the flower bed. I couldn't tell if it was a wing or a leg or something internal making her wobble and not fly.
I stood as still as I could, forcing myself to hold back and not rush her and try to fix her. I talked to her, told her how sorry I was and how I hoped she would be okay, and went back into the house, shaken to the brink of tears.
I tried really hard not to attach significance to the wounding of a fledgling bird on this particular day. I tried really hard not read meaning into her lack of experience and vulnerability and aloneness in the world, and where it got her on this morning of all mornings. But birds are frequently God's messengers in my life and it didn't seem right to decide this wasn't a message just because it saddened and frightened me on a day meant for joy.
I did decide that perhaps I hadn't heard the whole message yet. And I held her gently at my center - her newness, her inexperience, her woundedness - as I continued to prepare for the party. Regular trips to the living room window slowed my progress a bit. The young robin seemed to be moving away from the house, on the ground, little by little, until she was sitting in the middle of our gravel driveway.
I went out, hoping to shoo her back onto the grass. When she saw me coming, she began to scurry, then surprised us both by taking to the air and landing safely in the large fir at the center of our lawn.
For the rest of the day I carried with me the picture of my robin safely perched in the ancient arms of that tree.
The party started slowly, a gentle summer rain of happiness. My God's-gift neighbor, my adored middle brother, a family of four whose kids I've taught and whose mom has become a treasured friend. And then it became a deluge, a gullywasher, a frog strangler of love and laughter and good will. My little house was packed to overflowing with people spending a June Saturday to celebrate with me.
My baby brother, Geoff, who has not been here in years and who I assumed would not be breaking that stretch, appeared in the midst of the happy chaos with his wife and a banquet's worth of food. I may have screamed, but I'm pretty sure no one could hear me. Except possibly for Geoff.
There was a moment in the midst of it all when I found myself briefly in a bubble of silent alone. The energy swirling around me was so bright and powerful and radiant I'm sure it could have cured the Middle East and cancer and maybe even old age if there had been a way to capture it. I have brought these amazing people into my life. My life.
Today is Monday. Party over. Mark gone home. Walt out of town for a few days. No current urgency. From time to time I wander into the living room and reread cards and marvel at the generosity of my friends. I feel loved and known and blessed almost beyond bearing. I think of a young robin who nearly ended her journey before it truly began. And I celebrate a life where this time the message was about the power of patience and second chances.
image from Flickr