A true story I know nothing about
Exactly one year ago tomorrow, Aug. 24, 2005, I was sitting by the Truckee River in the shade and seclusion of the Jeffrey pines. The air was calm. It was a beautiful, warm and easy day. The pure sound of water cascading over rocks filled my thoughts, rinsing them of trifles, common conjecture, conventional wisdom and ordinary notions. It took awhile. A slow, swirling pool of emerald water pulled my consciousness deep into another world, another time. I gladly daydreamed myself down the center of the whirlpool.Suddenly, a small bird fluttered upon me from the shadows and sunshine, beating its wings up and down my chest and arms, hovering so close I could feel and hear its wings against my skin and clothing. I was startled and amazed, profoundly surprised and confused. It was as if the bird had done this before, as if it knew me. Was the little creature injured and about to die on my lap? It quickly darted up onto a branch above, turned and watched me. Ive had butterflies in my stomach before. Now it seemed the bird of paradise had nearly flown right up my nose.It was a very small bird, not a sparrow or blackbird, but possibly a white breasted nuthatch. I returned its gaze as it lingered on the branch above, its head tilting side to side. I sensed that the bird wanted me to do something. It leaned towards me in deliberate earnest as if about to leap down again and knock some sense into me. I held up a finger and made a little chirp, hoping it would return and light there, but it gave up and flew away, tired of my ignorance.As if by accident I obeyed the silent command, looked down and noticed a small object on my lap that had not been there before. It was the whole, delicate carcass of a bug placed upright between the folds of my pants over my left quadriceps. I picked up the little jewel, turned it over and saw maybe 10 tiny legs all curled up neatly inside. It was a shiny olive brown with small dark spots and resembled a tiny sea shell. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. Indifferent to the wonder of the moment I tossed it to the ground, assuming it was dead, stubbornly resigned to return to a reality I knew.Then it hit me. That little bird had skillfully flown the mysterious gift to me and gently set it down. No other explanation made any sense. There was no little bug on my lap when I sat down. It could have fallen out of the tree, but I would have felt it and probably heard it as well. It had to have come from the bird.Now why would a little white breasted nuthatch give me the pretty little carcass of a bug? What I really needed at the time was a chicken sandwich or a pizza.If the bird wanted to get rid of the bug all it had to do was just drop it anywhere. It didnt do that. Risking very un-birdlike behavior, it surrendered its fear to deliver the bug to me. Why? It still bugs me a year later.Any worries and concerns, sorrows or fears, anxieties or distractions I had when I sat down by the river vanished with the realization of what I could not explain.The great American poet, Walt Whitman, said, You must habit yourself to the dazzle of the light and of every moment of your life.Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved. It is about learning to see the beauty in ordinary, seemingly lifeless things. It is about accepting the natural joy of being alive. You cant do that with drugs and alcohol, or conventional wisdom.For all I know the bug was just playing dead. For all I know it stretched out its little legs and carried on moments after I threw it away. For all I know, thats all I need to know.Bob Sweigert is a Sierra Sun columnist, published poet, experienced ski instructor and commercial driver. He’s lived on the North Shore of Tahoe for 25 years.
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