A Fellow Bird

A little girl, perhaps eighteen months old, accompanied her mom into the bank lobby where I was waiting a few days ago.

The young woman seated across from me spoke to her, “Hi. What’s your name?”

The little girl didn’t answer verbally; instead she trotted the ten or so feet over to the young woman and snuggled up to her legs.  She covered her face and soon appeared to go to sleep standing up while leaning on this complete stranger.

little girl leans on stranger at Wells Fargo

We all need someone to lean on when we’re tired.

One of my favorite passages in literature occurs in Wallace Stegner’s 1976 novel The Spectator Bird (winner of the National Book Award). Central character Joe Allston narrates, commenting on the briefness of our lives and on our lack of knowledge of what came before and what will come after:

The truest vision of life I know is that bird in the Venerable Bede that flutters from the dark into a lighted hall, and after a while flutters out again into the dark . . .

The narrator continues, reflecting on the comfort he has found in his decades-long marriage:

. . . it can be everything to have found a fellow bird with whom you can sit among the rafters while the drinking and boasting and reciting and fighting go on below . . . one who will . . . straighten your ruffled feathers and mourn over your hurts when you accidentally fly into something you can’t handle.

 We need partners with whom to share our joys and sorrows, and we also need encounters in which compassionate words from a stranger cheer us.

But to be whole, we need to be the one to speak those words sometimes, to see that we can provide a brief resting spot for someone who is tired.

In other words, we need a fellow bird, perhaps a lifelong partner as do the swans pictured above, but we also need to be a fellow bird.

Writing Practice:

Have you recently witnessed someone providing another with a place to rest?

Complete the following: “To be whole, we need ______________________.” or
“It can be everything to have found _________________________.”

4 thoughts on “A Fellow Bird

  1. For me I have experienced this most deeply in nature which tells this is my home, that there is a place for me here, and what I am up to matters. Then I calm down and know a safety that it profound. Mary Oliver wrote about it in her poem Wild Geese

    • The message, “There is a place for me here” is such an important one. That feeling provided by nature is why I wish so passionately that all of our young children could spend more time outdoors in unstructured play. Thanks for your comments, Linda.

  2. Your writing is tranquil, soothing and relaxing. Has anyone told you that it almost has the power of healing…? I love “practicing wonder” everyday, again and again; it is my daily doze of serenity. Thank you!

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