Of all the messy moments I have had in my life my children have consistently presented me with the most magnificent and memorable of them all. When things get a little too placid, rest assured one of these delightful beings will inject the tranquility with a good dose of quality chaos. Such was the case on Tuesday. We all know the classic threat handed down through the generations of ” I hope you have a kid just like you someday.” Well, Harper, my six year old daughter, is that child for me. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part that is really awesome. Harper is bold and free spirited with a brilliant smile and great imagination and most of all a deep love for nature and animals, just like I was growing up.
So Tuesday everything was floating along with ease and I was of high energy and spirits having accomplished more than usual, including writing my first post for this blog. Harper had made her way outside to do her usual trek about the yard to see what creatures and curiosities she could discover, aka trouble to get into, when I realized she had disappeared from my field of vision, a tell tale sign of mischief.
We live on a beautiful, heavily wooded lot with a brook flowing through our backyard, and so nature is around us all the time and right now is a bounty of birds and their babies. One nest, belonging to mama Robin and her two, cute as buttons hatchlings, rested on a beam in our carport. When I called Harper she scurried over from that side of the house, holding a pool noodle and looking quite suspect. I know her all to well, and her obsession with making wildlife into her pets. I said, “Harper, you leave that nest alone! You want the babies to grow up and be happy and have fun playing like you, right?” She agreed and seemed to move on.
I went inside to attend to this or that when I heard Harper crying out, clearly in distress. I ran outside to find Harper wailing and yelling at Evan, our dog, who was frolicking about tail wagging joyfully. Harper sobbed that she had knocked the nest down and that Evan had killed one of the babies. I found the fallen nest with one trembling chick remaining inside and scooped it up to safety.
My initial visceral response was a mix of anguish and anger. Anguish, at the presence of death at my backdoor. The poor chick had been thrown into the playful but deadly jaws of Evan. I also think all mothers whether they be human or animal experience the loss of a child intensely on an energetic level, at the very minimum. I was angry that Harper, not meaning to do harm, nonetheless had, because she chose to ignore my clear dictate, the ruling of me, Mom, high justice of this land called 112 Brookhaven Dr. I was also angry that Evan could be so unwittingly cruel and stand there now smiling with great satisfaction.
So, scolding both child and dog I ushered them into the house. Once inside, I bent down to Harper and said in exasperation, “Why didn’t you LISTEN TO ME!!” Her eyes were deep pools of welling sadness. Tears came rising up to stream down her face. Her lips trembled and her gaze dropped to the earth. She said, ” I didn’t mean to kill the baby bird.” At that my mothers heart melted and anger turned instantly into compassion. I took Harper in my arms and held her tight and whispered in her ear that it was ok and that I love her, over and over until she stopped crying.
The more I have thought about this event the more profound it becomes to me. Life is fragile and unpredictable. In yoga philosophy there are five main sources of suffering and one of them is fear of death. As I clung to my little girl and she to me I know that both of us in our own way were fending off that fear, willing the specter of death away. We wished to be returned to the state of ease that existed just minutes earlier, where death was something you read about or happens in another land, but certainly never would show it’s face at 112 Brookhaven Dr. Well, anyone who has studied or spoken to me at length about yoga and my life perspective knows how much I think death is a part of everything, and here it was in my personal space and invading my home.
Harper found acceptance quite quickly once she knew I was not angry, she was not in trouble, and at least we had heroically saved the remaining babe. Mama Robin came back to care for the chick and all is well. Evan’s endless enthusiasm and joie de vivre didn’t even skip one wag of the tail. And yet here I am days later now still processing and pondering this event. Which brings up another point of significance which is “the story”. What is real and unreal in this life, what is good or bad, just or unjust, is a matter of perspective and experience. There is a quote from Shakespeare “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so.” Just like when something chaotic like this happens and we say “Someday you will look back at this and laugh.” There is a skill we can cultivate now around inspecting our “story” in the moment it is happening. What if we could, in the moment, know that our reactivity to events is more about the story we tell ourselves and less about reality? Maybe we could all turn more and more moments of anger, fear, or resentment, into beautiful experiences of compassion, where we hold each other and say it will be ok and I love you. I hope so.