Lose the world.
For just a moment, appreciate the great vastness and strangeness of the entire world around you, stretch out your fingertips and feel the air, its frigid cold or warmth, listen to the silence, the silence beneath the silence, the silence beneath the silence beneath the noise beneath the wild, wild noise, feel the sidereal rhythm that guides your body and see. Then, for just a moment, lose it all. Lose the world. Assert the loss of your world. And realize what it is to be a body without a world.
But this feeling is not so strange. The feeling of being lost. Because the feeling of being lost is the feeling of trying to find your way back, and the feeling of trying to find your way back is the feeling of discovery, and the feeling of discovery is the feeling of desire, and the feeling of desire is the feeling of an incredible and unbridgeable distance, and the feeling of an incredible and unbridgeable distance is the feeling of the sky, and the feeling of the sky is in its color: blue, or as Rebecca Solnit so aptly puts it: blue, the color of distance.
“…the blue of distance […]
The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not. And the color of where you can never go. For the blue is not in the place those miles away at the horizon, but in the atmospheric distance between you and the mountains.”
— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost
In the car, I close my eyes to feel the warmth of the sun between my eyes and I see a brilliant, orange intensity transform into a constellation of white stars on a brightly blackened sky. The backdrop of closed eyes under the sun, in the car, with my head resting on your sturdy arm. In such a moment, the feeling of longing is also of utter satisfaction. The extent of our relations are often as parallel beings, touching, yes, but the fading into each other like red and blue into purple, that comes in unfamiliar spaces when the world is lost and longing is replaced with questions and bodies are replaced with gestures of bodies.
In many aspects of my life, especially those concerning questions about us, I turn to the birds.
The birds perched on the lamppost give hope. The birds lined up neatly in even increments, perched so calmly and intentionally. They give hope that there is order. That they are watching. That they persist. And are content.
(A reminder to feel more myself the next time I am lost.)
Every bird perched on a lamppost is a reason to turn away from despair. Every bird perched on an electric line is a reason to keep on going one more day. And every bird that swoops off, flies around in a mad circle, and swoops back down to land, is a reason to love.
I remember the day you almost broke my heart, I looked up at a familiar place (the green sign off the freeway exit for La Cienega Blvd. on the 10-E), and the birds were not there. Not even one. Every single day for the past year they had been there, I had boasted about this, like a super power that I knew a place where birds would be roosting every hour, every day. Yet today, on a day when I needed to look up to know that the birds were there, they weren’t. Just the sign, green, forlorn, abandoned.
I remember in a parking lot after eating breakfast, several pigeons waddling around slowly, their heads cocking back and forth like a continuous bobbing or nodding to a beat that only the birds could hear. I thought they were so funny, waddling around like that, like they didn’t have anything else to do. One of the pigeons started making its way toward where I was standing, saw me standing there, saw me take a few steps closer to it, and then hurriedly waddled under a car. I tried to cut it off, tiptoed around to the other side of the car. It saw me coming and reversed its steps. I tried to hurry back too. Eventually I scared off all the pigeons. It seemed actually that they were trying to, in a strange illogical way (or a very logical one, just one I couldn’t understand at the time), reunite with each other, get closer to each other. They were waddling in strange patterns towards one another, and my human curiosity and strange desire to get closer to them (that desire to get closer only and inevitably increasing our distance) was splitting them apart. The price of longing.
I remember the days after my mom died I would see hawks everywhere. It seemed that every time I dared to look up at the sky (because sometimes looking at the blue of the sky is a very sad thing and it is almost impossible to hold back tears after having experienced that momentary longing of — ), they would be up there, circling, watching. The thing is, that after a mother’s death, all the words disappear in that instant of finality. So even when such beautiful birds reach out to whisper, We’re here, I have no words to say back. Even when a hawk lands not 4 feet away from me to perch on a log, I almost can’t look back. It’s as obvious as reaching out a hand, her hand, but I can’t bring myself to take it. Because the hawks, though they are beautiful and in a way, make me feel safe, also work as triggers for memories. Like the memory of saying good-bye to my mother. It wasn’t a good-bye at all but an awkward reunion with an already yellow face connected to a dead body that used to be my mother. Eventually the words return. It is the words that persist through it all, the circling hawks, the soft whispers in the ear, because language is also a kind of mother, and the daughter can always and eventually remember one by the other.
For awhile, the words wouldn’t come the way they used to. I felt like I had lost the capacity to say things, to express things, the way I used to. And then the birds.
And when the hawks dwindled, that is, when I would look up into the sky and not see hawks, but just open, blue sky, the words started to come in a different way.
What I’m trying to say is that at this moment in time, it seems that the birds are everything.
Through all of loss and being lost, there are the birds.
Because it is when life is at its most difficult you realize your capacity to live.
And it is when you suffer and feel at your lowest, you learn the most of who you are.
But always, there are the birds. There. Watching. Always, there.
This is an introductory post to a new series called The Birds. It is also an invitation. As I’ve been talking more and more with other writers it seems that many of us have personal stories relating to birds. Stories involving loss, being lost, stories involving birds, changing relationships to writing and being written, to writing practice, to self, to the sky.
So I am welcoming and encouraging submissions of personal and poetic essays related to the birds. Essays on birds, a bird, a particular species of bird, all birds, your bird.