Saturday, August 20, 2011

August 20: Things Invisible to See

While I was reading in the back yard late this afternoon, a hummingbird was chattering perpetually overhead. It seemed to be buzzing between our yard and our neighbor's (which is full of enticing flowers right now), pausing occasionally in a spruce tree that hangs over the fence between us. I don't know if it was nesting in the spruce--I've found hummingbird nests in spruces before and admired the added protection of all those prickly needles--or perhaps sipping spruce sap, but the tree seemed to be its primary focus. Its high-pitched calls were not aggressive or territorial, though the bird can be both, but more conversational. A "here I am, hanging out near my favorite tree" kind of sound.

Meanwhile, I could also smell a delightful fragrance on the breeze, the scent of some unknown flower wafting my way. If I closed my eyes in my lawn chair, the redolent air combined with the birdsong around me (mostly the hummingbird), and I could almost imagine I was somewhere semi-tropical.

Shortly thereafter I learned that an old friend and his family had recently been in a very bad car accident. Apparently among his serious injuries, his heart was literally crushed. (He's a writer, and I know that when he recovers, he's going to use that image as a metaphor somehow.) This all seems like a non sequitur, but as my mind shifted from enjoyment of the hummingbird's song to coming inside to write about it and then learning about my friend's accident, this silly haiku project--my attempt at trying to pay attention to these little moments that make up our life, these fragments of beauty, joy, and poetry--seemed somehow more important than ever to me. We never know when they might all be taken away, or when we might be forced to shift our perspective on what even constitutes beauty and joy for us.

Rather than reducing them to trivialities, I think such mindful moments can help root us in the present and give value to our existence, and by extension, the existence of all life: hummingbirds, aromatic flowers, the fragile physical existence of humanity... One moment I was listening to a hummingbird and pretending I was in the Caribbean; the next, my thoughts were entirely with my friend and his family. And yet the two moments are united, just as when we think about where we were when we heard sad news, some unimportant detail always surfaces and becomes a part of that whole experience. (When you think of where you were when you heard about the planes hitting the World Trade Center, for example, what random details surface in your memory?)

As the world suffers,
in this moment I focus
on hearing a bird.

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