In a massive hall of pompous busts
And naked marble edge
To rest one’s head.
For The Daily Post
In a massive hall of pompous busts
And naked marble edge
To rest one’s head.
For The Daily Post
My niece took this photo during a European hiking trip she’d taken with her brother. It always makes me smile. It also makes me wonder: Who had placed the mirror there, and why had they done so to begin with? Was this for the horse? Something tells me it wasn’t the first time for the equine to visit this reflection. What did the horse feel during the encounter? Was it like a visit with a friend? A hello to an apparition stablemate? A recognition of something or someone in him- or herself? Something altogether different and beyond?
Life can be strange in the wilds of Manhattan.
More specifically, on the sidewalk of 87th Street off Broadway.
I found a wounded Cooper’s hawk on the curb this morning, breathing but motionless with right wing splayed and tail half spread.
Two men were already there, holding phones out and trying to figure out who to call. We tried to think which veterinary practice was the closest or whether to call the city hotline at 311.
Luck (or serendipity) has it that there is actually a Wild Bird Fund clinic just a few blocks away. One man tried calling them and got the voicemail, so I said I’d take the bird there myself immediately.
A passerby stripped his coat off to donate his sweater to cover the bird. Not only talons and beak to worry about, but birds of prey can die from stress–it can help keep them calm to have them covered. The good man then ran to the closest store to bring a box to put the bird in. The hawk rose in alarm when one of the other men leaned close to take a photo of it, but it was too wounded or too in shock to move away.
We shushed and covered the bird, then placed it in the box, and I left with it for the clinic. The hawk lay quietly in the empty Avocado carton, resigned or hopefully knowing someplace that I was doing for it. I sent calm thoughts of healing its way, just in case. Intention matters.
As soon as I walked into the Wild Bird Fund, I was greeted by clucky hens of various colors, outfits, and dispositions (one white hen donned blue Band-Aid socks), a couple of ducks, and a curious seagull, all promenading on the clinic’s floor, pecking happily from a shared bowl. I felt transported and a little giddy. I had hens and ducks growing up, and I have a special connection to seagulls, especially curious ones …
The amazing staff attended to the poor hawk immediately. The bird was conscious but not very responsive and too timid. They checked for bleeding, administered IV ‘bird-Gatorade,’ and put it in a quiet cage on a heating pad (“Where is a warming blanket?”, “They’re all over the place. I think the Kestrel had it…”, “Yep, just took it from the Kestrel … he doesn’t needs it anymore.”).
First order of the day is to let it regroup. De-stress. Hopefully it will recover some before the bird rehabilitator comes in the afternoon and can take a more thorough look at it.
I said goodbye to a little red hen (sans apron but just as officious) who wove between everyone’s legs the whole time, to the seagull and the ducks, to the robin Annie, who seemed mighty glad to be behind the bars of a cage with a hawk one foot away, took the sweater to return to the good Samaritan, and left an island of wilderness and barnyard, feeling a bit surreal.
This is New York.
You really do not ever know what you’ll run into, or see.
Get well fast, little Cooper’s hawk!
I bet you have such days …
When things don’t seem to work as expected, when all your plans fall through and what you thought would take two minutes takes two hours. When that quick phone call to settle some bitty thing becomes forty-five minutes of muzak followed by a hang-up then forty minutes more before you get transferred again, only to be put on hold for speaking to another department … When the quick break for a sandwich becomes condiments that spritz in the wrong direction, an upset can of cookies (complete with crumbs), a shattered glass requiring three broom cycles and a vacuum … Days when one client after the other is either late, cranky, moody, muddy, or all. When the world becomes an exercise in patience, a realigning of time and expectations.
These days sure happen to me all too often. I bet you have them, too.
It used to get my blood-pressure up, to have things unexpected. In general I do not much care for surprises. My friends and family know that I’m not the person to plan dark roomed “Happy Birthday!” parties to. No thanks. I like knowing what to expect and having a bit of opportunity to see how to best manage stuff that happens. Good or bad. So having a kink in my day never was my recipe for happy.
Nowadays, though it does not rank high on my preferred-day way, it mostly makes me chuckle. I figure that it is a pause for learning, something to call my attention to doing too much, too fast, or with too little an awareness. The unexpected grounds me faster than a cup of cold water (sometimes it IS spilled or splashed cold water … in a double-attention-getter …). It stops me into “what just happened?” and “how on earth …?” And that very pausing stirs a breeze of mindfulness into my brain.
So, while I still don’t like to spend my lunch break sweeping shards, cleaning counters, or on the phone with some ‘press-this, press-that’ company; I try to see it as something that helps to pace me or to point to where I have lost touch with the clock that is not of this world. Where I have turned too low the timer within me, the ticking of my body, the breath that should not become fogged by too much thought or busyness.
I still get stunned–surprises do that to me. But I take a breath, as well. And chuckle. Laugh a bit into myself. The ridiculousness of it all helps me find the gratitude that’s tangled with the grunt and sigh. It is a gift, really, when everyday tasks that I’ve done a million times without awareness bring back the reality of how complex they truly are, and how blessed I am to be able to perform them mostly sans a thought or pause or conscious memory. It is even a precious thing to have the things I usually take for granted–a company to call to make things right (or try to), the vocation I love living, the freedom to set my schedule, the miracles of water in my faucet and electric power at my finger tips. So many do not have those and would gladly take a spilled cup for having the water flowing to begin with.
And suddenly the disruption is not so terrible and the wait is not so bad. This realignment of meaning helps shift me, even if the situation stays the same. I get the best ideas, sometimes, when I’m on hold, a captive audience, forced to still and listen. The muzak goes right through me. It is my own thoughts that unfurl, birthing new ideas. I am reminded of the most arcane and unexpected and forgotten things when I am climbing to change yet another light-bulb that went zip a moment before session, or rush to change a stained article of clothing before a client comes. Somehow these unplanned, often unwanted, wrinkles in my planning pause me long enough to bring in an unseen angle or perspective.
Don’t get me wrong: I still do love my little islands of predictability. It is lovely when days go just as I had planned (or at least close to), and when my energy is parsed the way I’d hoped. It doesn’t take much for me to run out, you see. Some hiccups in my autonomic nervous system makes my body ultra-prone to fast exhaustion. Weather changes, temperature shifts, being vertical too long–they can and do seriously tire me. And yet, I am not frail. Just living with a finicky apparatus. All the more reason, one might declare, to not live life too gingerly as if on eggshells (please, oh please only figuratively! I’ve cleaned the kitchen once already, courtesy of spilled coffee grounds this very day …).
For days when patience is a bit harder to come by? “Just make it work” is my mantra of sorts for those. I have not invented it, of course. People all over our blue Earth marble have been saying it in all manner of variations, for longer than my mind can fathom, and while facing far more difficulty than I usually have to endure.
Small hitches in the schedule? Unexpected hiccups? Murphy working overtime to make life inexplicably complicated? I remind myself that it is all workable. Sometimes the solution is immediate, sometimes it takes time (I would sure love to know the schedule, though, Dear Universe, if you are listening!). Sometimes I can resolve it on my own, sometimes only with serious creative collaboration.
Either way, when the Universe throws a wench in my today and threatens to mess up my tomorrows, I try breathing smiles into it. A chuckle, even, if I can. Extra points for finding blessings in the messes … Gold stars for managing cooperation in the least likely ways or with those I do not find it easy to collaborate with.
I’m reminded of a photo of Paris in flood in 1924. People faced the very wet prospect of ruined shoes and clothing given that the only possibility was trudge calf-deep in watery plazas. Or was it really the only way? In ingenuity, someone or some ones, came up with a creative (if rickety) solution … and wrangled up some cafe chairs …
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Steve's body of work spans conflicts, vanishing cultures, ancient traditions and contemporary culture alike - yet always retains the human element. www.stevemccurry.com
Speech Language Pathologist for Adults and Children, Manhattan, New York
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