A bird died today—it broke its neck in frantic midflight against our living room window. From the shadow’s small silhouette, pattern, and quickness, I thought the fatal thud was a hummingbird. But when I looked through the windowpanes, a tiny wren lay inert on the concrete, her cheerful song forever silenced. I examined her brown, compact body, contemplating her life and purpose.
How many bugs had she snatched from the bushes? How often had I heard her morning song? How many years had she returned to our yard after the darkness of winter?
Her end came so suddenly, so abruptly, so unexpectedly. Where was she going in such careless hurry? Were her fledglings waiting for her, their tiny beaks open, wings fluttering in anticipation of breakfast? Was her mate still waiting outside the nest in their desperate tag-team to feed their brood? Her stillness rings in the morning air.
Sometimes I am so distracted and mindless in my flights, forgetting that life on this earth is not forever. The sunrises and sunsets paint the sky, and often I am too preoccupied by tasks and responsibilities that I forget to pause and breathe in the moments.
Like the wren, our flight on this earth is brief and there is always the possibility that it might end as swiftly. For me, I find comfort in knowing that we have a chance to impact the future with more than our DNA. Jazz musician Greg Adams suggests, “There is no such thing as a ‘self-made’ man or woman. We are made up of thousands of others. Everyone who has ever done a kind deed for us, or spoken a word of encouragement to us, has entered the make-up of our character and of our thoughts, as well as our success.”
How true. I remember the people who have helped me along the way, who have listened, who have encouraged me.
Lorraine and Merritt Harper, neighbors and retired farmers, who welcomed me for lemonade and cookies when I spontaneously arrived at their door, announcing confidently, “Hi, I was just out on my bike and thought I would stop by.” They gave me their full, uninterrupted attention as we sat at their tiny kitchen table. They smiled at me, listening to my 10-year-old ideas and adventures. How important and loved I felt. My choir teacher, Cinda Cramer, who encouraged fragile, awkward high school students to persist and take risks. My friends and I felt valued and noticed, something all teenagers so desperately need.
We can’t, of course, always recall the details, but such care and kindness become a part of us and what we find important. These wonderful people are gone from this earth, yet their influence remains in me and in all the other people their positive energy touched.
Opportunities for encouragement and helping others are all around. All we need to do is make the effort.
I pause and remember, respecting the brief life of Jenny Wren.
It’s a Fine Life
We have two pairs of wrens nesting in similar boxes in our yard. I love their sweet songs–and their occasional scolding of our calico cat!