Summer, Bird by Bird
Fleeting. That’s the best word for summer.
“Where’d it go?” I ask, staring at the calendar.
Summer was a migratory bird, fleeting.
Summer was thirteen birds, fleeting.
Bird #1: Browsing Savers, I search for a book I owned nine summers ago: Lorrie Moore’s Birds of America. My eyes catch the spine, and I can’t believe my book is here, a bird on a shelf.
Bird #2: At Bellevue Park. We laugh at the brazen geese, then squeal at their babies. The cuteness is too much: fuzzy goslings, four, five, trailed by one fierce mama.
Bird #3: Playing with my phone we stumble across the flight call of the American goldfinch, apparently a sound like “potato chip!” For days after, we surprise each other with random, high-pitched calls of “potato chip!”
Bird #4: I spin the card stand in the souvenir shop. A notecard catches my eye, three Canadian geese painted by Benjamin Chee Chee. Its title is “Friends,” but it looks like my family.
Bird #5: From the whale watching boat, high in the treetops: a huge bald eagle.
Bird #6: A cab ride to Granville Island. When the rain slowed, we met the biggest, baddest pigeon. His body was gray as the dull sky, but his neck was a striking iridescent lavender and pale green. He hoped for food.
Bird #7: I searched the beach and found some chunks of coral, shells, and a sun-bleached bone. This bird—what was left of it—became my souvenir.
Bird #8: In Maui I came across a book about the early settlers of the Hawaiian Islands, led there by a bird, the Pacific golden plover.
Bird #9: Walking along the Kapalua Coastal Trail, we saw the nests of wedge-tailed shearwaters hidden in clumps of grass.
Bird #10: At home, my daughter saw a baby blue jay in the street in front of our house. I grabbed a dustpan to scoop it out of danger, but it hobbled to the neighbor’s yard on its own.
Bird #11: Caroline and I went to an animal show at the library and saw a fierce-looking Lanner Hawk perched atop a leather-gloved hand.
Bird #12: Spotted: a duvet cover at Ikea with a trippy pattern of bees and flowers and honey and birds. I ripped open the seams and made it into curtains. When I turn toward the window thirty identical sparrows stare back.
Bird #13: In Chicago we stood on the platform waiting for the train. A pigeon sat on the wooden planks, oddly still. I snapped a pic and wondered why.
I still wonder why birds were the recurring motif of our summer. They seemed like messengers, but I’m not sure of their message.
Or maybe it’s this: birds are as at ease on earth as they are in heaven—there is no stark line of division between one realm and another.
Maybe their message is to bring that sense of easy trust into our daily lives, making earth more and more like heaven.
“His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.” –Civilla D. Martin