Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Weight of Existence

It has been 8 months since we left the city. . .  there are ways I feel the change in a very immediate sense and then, in other ways, the changes are not as noticed until something brings them to our attention.

Yesterday morning, with dawn light just beginning to pour over the coast range,  I sat here looking out the window and watched the sky begin to glow. I turned away to begin my work day and, after a minute or two, I turned back realizing there was something outside the window that was just "off".

A quick survey of the surrounding area told me it was that there seemed to be an inordinate number of gulls and crows flying about.  To see these scavenger birds, along with herons, pelicans, swallows, terns, cormorants and geese is, of course, not at all uncommon. But to see them so close, circling and perched on the wires across the street, calling so shrill in the early morning, just seemed out of place.

As I watched, several of the birds took advantage of the lack of traffic on the road to swoop down and land at, what I then saw, was a dead seagull. It had been hit in the night by a car or truck. It lay on it's back, it's brilliant white wings spread out and slightly upward as if awaiting a deliverance from that hard asphalt spot.

I watched for a minute as crows and gulls approached and, it occurred to me that the crows were busy feeding upon the gull while it's kin seemed to be trying to pull at it's feathers. . . almost as if to remove it from the road.

A few seconds later I could hear the sound of a car approaching on the road and, as it reached the spot, it had to slow. The crows, always keen and aware in busy road conditions, had safely flown up to the wires again but the seagulls, more used to the lull of the bay and the ocean and at worst, a passing fishing boat, did not make a great attempt to get out of the way of the car.  

The car passed by going around the site and, a moment later another approached and I watched the same scene play out.

I decided I could not wait a moment longer and I immediately threw on the first jacket I could find and grabbed a large garbage bag and headed barefoot down the steps and out the door.

I reached the street and saw no vehicles coming. The crows and gulls had returned to their tasks around the fallen bird. They scattered as I approached, again the gulls not clearing the way but just moving along the road a bit,  and I stood over the gull, it's wings spread a full 3 to 4 feet tip to tip and each feather along the span still so perfectly and beautifully aligned.

I bent over and covered the bird with the bag and scooped it up as quickly as I could and, having not thought beyond this moment, stood in the street unsure what to do next.

Before that thought could be completed I was overtaken with the realization that a bird like this, that I had watched and marveled at it being so magnificent and impressive in the air, and even in the prone death pose on the ground, could weigh so little now here in my hands. The thought carried me unconsciously and I found myself then on the side of the road holding onto the bird, wrapped in the bag and I could not help but be fixated on it's lightness. . . and consumed with the thought of the weight of it's existence.

My entire day was affected. . . as was the next and still, today, it hangs there within me. 

8 months ago, and all the years prior living in the city, I would not have noticed "too many" birds gathering anywhere or if there was any rhythm or pattern to their movements at all.  I have loved birds all my life but not since the days of my childhood, when I would lay on my back beneath my grandmothers bird feeder and watch them in awe and wonder as they flew in and out of the tree have I felt that I was truly a part of this life WITH them. . .

There is no going back for me. . . the weight of my existence is growing noticeably and considerably lighter since I chose this place. What it allows for is more room to breathe and to grow, more emptying of the old and unnecessary and a stronger belief, as I often express in my visual art, that there is a theory of flight that just may allow us to, one day, spread our own wings and ascend.