Straight road to the mountains and the sky beyond.
The other day I heard a loud crack, the unmistakable sound of a bird hitting one of our windows. I knew immediately the bird had killed itself. I didn’t have to get up from my desk to know. Birds hit our windows sometimes, because they reflect all that sky, but usually they’re just scooting around the house on birdie business and bounce off. In over a year of living here, this is only the second bird to die on our windows. It’s only when they’re not paying attention, when they’re hunting or being hunted, that they screw up.
It’s with dread that I go look to see what bird it had been. Sometimes I’d like to pretend I don’t know, avoid looking altogether. I can’t give the bird its life back and yet I feel I have to at least witness it.
Surprising to me, this time it was a raptor. I thought a little kestrel, but David ID’d it as a pygmy owl. Turns out they sometimes hunt birds during bright daylight. Which also explains why he was easily fooled by our windows. Daylight is still not the strong suit for owls.
Really a neat little guy. I wish I’d seen him alive.
Cycle of life and all that.
And then David found out yesterday that one of his lifelong friends had “died suddenly at his mother’s house,” according to the obituary. He hadn’t seen the friend in quite a while, but it’s a shock. The guy was only 56.
These things make us sad, in diffuse ways. There’s nothing to be done. It’s part of the natural order and yet, it’s also natural to mourn their passing.
Death is the bookend to birth. A dreadful symmetry that draws boundaries around our mortal lives. We might try to buck that, play little games with ourselves and pretend that death is far away or that we’ll be different. But we know it’ll chase us down sooner or later.
We never know when we might be shooting for the sky and snap our necks on plate glass instead.
Because we can’t know, we focus on life. Death moves among us, but we live. In some ways, we owe it to the dead to enjoy our lives. Relish every breath, every joy and sorrow that reminds us that we’re part of the world.
And when we get down the road, there is the sky, and everything beyond.