Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

(This was all written out for yesterday but due to some lovely changes to my blog, the blog wasn't ready for an entry till my programmer swung by again)

 

When you get up in the morning and go about your business, it’s never clear what’s going to happen. I starting cleaning out the trunk of my car at about 11 or so and that's when I saw him. He was part robin, part fuzzy baby and no tail to be seen. Half a robin. He jumped up to me, cheeping, contemplating and staring. Very clearly he was asking, "Are you my mommy? Just feed me!" but there was a sweetness there too. He came right up to my toes, cheeping at me.

I did what anyone would do: I rushed to the Internet and found the number for the local Forest Preserve's Nature Center. I called and a guy told me that fledglings get out of the nest and fly around on the ground. They still need their parents to feed them but since birds are very auditory and visual, the parents would find their baby. So I left the birdie. The parents would come.

They never did. The short hours passed and he stayed in one place, not moving. Fledglings need to be fed every twenty minutes. It was now two o'clock and he looked like a tiny statue. He was doing what all animals do when the time comes…he was preparing to die and wasn't going to make a fuss anymore.

That was it. Screw the Red Oak Nature Center guy. Screw them all. Someone, somewhere took care of ailing wild birds. So I hopped back to the Internet and found the Fox Valley Wildlife Center. Why the Red Oak Nature Center never gave me this number, I shall never know. Anyway, I called them and after what seemed forever (45 min.) they called me back. Bring him into Elburn, they would see what could be done. I found a box, Jeff and I bundled him in and I sped off. I plowed into rush hour, hitting every light on Randall Road and trying not to swear like a sailor. It took another 45 minutes to get out there to Elburn. Worse and worse. This little guy was going down and I prayed and I prayed even more that he wouldn't die in the car. Dear God, not in rush hour, do not let this baby robin die in this car. The implications for what that could mean seemed too terrible (they still do).

I got him there still barely alive and the lady whisked him off, telling me he had a 50/50 chance. I gave them some money and went home with a terrible headache and a number to call tomorrow to see if he had made it.

(That was the action of the day; this is what the evening writing brought)

I guess the truth is that I didn’t let that baby bird die. He might be dead but I gave it my best shot and instead on dwelling that I lessened his chances for life by trusting someone at the Nature Center, I’m seeing I persisted and saw that he got to the right place in the end which was the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center. I did take care of him and simply didn’t let him pass away back into the earth. And if he passes, he does. I prayed for him and his little soul and I feel that was good. Animals aren’t like us. It was terrible to see him starve and grow fainter and fainter but it wouldn’t have lasted very long and then he would have been gone- a very short life and short death. As it was, I gave him a possible retaliation of life to become a jaunty robin who does jaunty robin worm things. We’ll see tomorrow if he was able to hang onto being here. And instead of grinding myself into the dust that I didn’t question the Nature Center sooner when he was cheeping and hopping around and being friendly, I have the calm belief that I did aid him. I had to see that his parents wouldn’t come and they never did. I know now, of course, how to deal with a fledgling and how many hours they have from not being fed till when they start dying and where to take them in-between those small short hours. He has a little number and tomorrow I’ll call that forest preserve house in Elburn and see the status of his little number. I hope, of course, for life. I’m really hoping for life and I know that I worked towards it and not to death.

 

And now today, I just got the call back an hour ago from the Wildlife Center. He's doing just fine. Since he's wild and a baby animal, he could still die but he's hanging in there and it looks like he'll make it. They're going to be hand feeding him for awhile!

I just want to say how amazing the Wildlife Center is. That anyone would care about wild animals and tend to them is an enormous gift. I would encourage everyone to find your Wildlife Center and make a donation, be it food, money or weeds! Ours is entirely dependent on donations and seem to need a bit of everything. I'm sure it's the same with other places. They are incredible, hard-working places.

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I Have Wine and Moon and Flowers: Reading Su Tung-P’o During a Pandemic

As we watch spring growth overtake last year’s dead bracken and grasses, there is both consolation and brutality. This year’s greenery melds with disease: the emergence of flowers entangles with the blossoming of a pandemic.

While the novel coronavirus rages through communities, our lives have shrunk down to fit the small rooms and little neighborhoods that we must now be still in. What do we do in this diminished space? What do we see?

 

6th Moon, 27th Sun: Sipping Wine at Lake-View Tower

 

1

 

Black clouds, soaring ink, nearly blot out these mountains.

White raindrops, skipping pearls, skitter wildly into the boat,

 

Then wind comes across furling earth, scatters them away,

And below Lake-View Tower, lakewater suddenly turns to sky.

 

2

 

Setting animals loose—fish and turtles—I’m an exile out here,

but no one owns waterlilies everywhere blooming, blooming.

 

This lake pillow mountains, starts them glancing up and down,

And my breezy boat wander free, drifts with an aimless moon.

 

Su Tung-P’o (trans. David Hinton)

 

As the great poet Su Tung-P’o knew so well, we see our own natures in everything. The outside world becomes a reflection of our own states; though if we can still ourselves enough as we gaze out, a depth opens and time becomes immaterial.

A master of reflection and stillness, Su Tung-P’o 苏童 lived nearly one thousand years ago and is considered one of great poets of the Song Dynasty. He led a brilliant and varied career as poet, politician, writer, calligrapher, painter and aesthetic theorist. Due to his outspoken and opposing views on the government, he was jailed and sent into exile on three separate occasions.

After his experience in jail and subsequent exile, his poetry evolved and deepen and his surviving work reflect his delicate, painful relationship with loneliness and desolation.

 

Moon, Flowers, Man

 

I raise my cup and invite

The moon to come down from the

Sky.  I hope she will accept

Me. I raise my cup and ask

The branches, heavy with flowers,

To drink with me.  I wish them

Long life and promise never

To pick them.  In company

With the moon and the flowers,

I get drunk, and none of us

Ever worries about good

Or bad.  How many people

Can comprehend our joy? I

Have wine and moon and flowers.

Who else do I want for drinking companions?

(trans. Kenneth Rexroth)

 

To help alleviate the sufferings of a difficult life, he became the devotee of Zen Buddhism and his poetics reflects the practice of the “beginner’s mind,” the ability to meet each experience with equilibrium and a “spontaneous and crystalline responsiveness.”

 

At Seven-Mile Rapids

 

A light boat one loan leaf,

a startled swan two oars—

 

water and sky are pure clarity

reflecting deep. Waves smooth,

 

fish roil this duckweed mirror

and egrets dot misty shorelines.

 

We breeze past sandy streams,

frostfall streams cold,

moonlit streams aglow.

 

ridge above ridge like a painting,

bend beyond bend like a screen.

 

Here I think back to

Yen Tzu-ling’s empty old age,

 

lord and recluse one dream.

Renown’s empty then as now,

 

just mountains stretching away:

cloud mountains erratic,

dawn mountains green.

 

Out of his poetry emerges a beautiful balance, the ability to look at both joy and sorrow with gentle tranquility and wry amusement.

 

At Brahma-Heaven Monastery, Rhymed with a Short Poem of Crystalline Beauty by the Monk Acumen-Hoard

 

You can only hear a bell out beyond the mist:

the monastery deep in mist is lost to sight.

 

Straw sandals wet with the dew of grasses,

a recluse wanders. Never coming to rest,

 

he’s simply an echo of mountaintop moon—

light coming and going night after night.

 

(trans. David Hinton)

 

Su Tung-P’o’s poetry illuminates the beauty and loneliness running throughout ourselves and Nature. His work becomes a sort of map for this strange new world we find ourselves in: isolated yet surrounded, weary but still observing, cut off but yet deeply involved.

 

After T’ao Ch’ien’s “Drinking Wine”

 

3

 

This little boat of mine, truly a lone leaf,

and beneath it, the sound of dark swells:

 

I keep paddling in the depths of night, drunk,

pleasures of home, bed, and desk forgotten.

 

At dawn, when I ask about the road ahead,

I’ve already past a thousand ridges rising

 

beyond ridges. O where am I going here,

this Way forever leaving ever returning?

 

Never arriving, what can we understand,

and always leaving, what’s left to explain?

 

(trans. David Hinton)

 

Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.