Bird Medicine

I had a magical experience here this morning that I could call “two birds in the hand.”

I walked up to the other house on our property recently vacated by our family who left for England yesterday to use the propane stove to boil water. It’s another rare cool damp morning here, humid and cloudy with heavy rain forecast later. Perfect for a quiet cup of tea.

I also went up to feed Frankie, the dog we’re watching who I let out an hour ago. I’d left the door open in case he came back from his morning adventure in the hills while I was there. While the blue enamel pot was cooking, there was a loud thump behind me. I went to the window over the deck to find a robin on its back with its head at an unpromising angle.

It’s important to interject here that I am famously squeamish about dead things almost in direct proportion to my deep compassion for and awe of all things alive. Still, I went outside to see if I could flip it over, see if it was alive, and to my surprise it stood, beak open, eyes half lidded breathing deeply and rapidly, its spotted breast heaving.

I took the moment to observe it as it seemed unconscious of my presence. Saw the red breast with the cream colored spots of adolescence. Its tiny tongue well back in its gullet from the long, pointed, shell-like beak. Small iridescent-winged insects on its back. The long articulated legs like red alder twigs in early spring.

Remembering the tea water, I went back inside resolved to check on the robin again before I left, thinking if Frankie’s toothy curiosity and Devi the sleek exterminator of things small and winged.

That’s when I heard the humming bird fluttering amongst the nick knacks on the window sill.

It was a ruby throat. Shimmering shades of emerald, tiny wings beating, lighting and lifting against the inside window even though it was mere feet from the open door and freedom. I spoke to it quietly as my cupped hands traced its flight.

At last I held it gingerly and let it loose above the clothesline into the gray morning.

The robin still sat in a daze on the deck. I approached quietly and put my hands around it to lift it to a safer place. Immediately, it came out of its stupor. Its feet found my fingers like small branches and held on, wings flapping. I walked it to some large rocks bermed into the hill rising toward the upper garden. It seemed both reluctant to release me and indignant at my interference. But it hopped down and away a few steps to regard me. It was a new bird. More sleek and alert. Beautiful in its gray morning coat, speckled waistcoat and sharp eyes.

According to Native American medicine cards, both the humming bird and the robin are symbols of joy. I held joy in my hands this morning. Attended joy. Observed joy. Released joy into the world to do its work.

In this time,as in all times, of need for healing, it was an auspicious start to the day.

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