The other night I was watching a particularly ingenious, forgive the phrase, network television program, (yes, unlike some of my friends, I do watch television from time to time, i.e., most nights) that will remain nameless (Elementary) and I began gathering epiphanies in my mental basket.
Ok, I am not saying I am as intelligent as Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s character upon which Elementary‘s main character is based. Bbbuuuutttt, I am highly sensitive to my environment, order-loving, detail-oriented, and too intuitive for my own happiness level. When anyone is uncomfortable around me, I am uncomfortable, making large crowds especially mortifying. Information coming in from all sides.
I watch Holmes (played by the incredible Jonny Lee Miller–yes, the one who used to be married to Angelina Jolie in her pre-blood-vial, pre-Brad Pitt days) and pick up clues to my own psyche.
Constantly searching for clues to ourselves, that’s what I think we must be doing as we go through our lives. I don’t know about you, but I am complex and somewhat unfathomable sometimes even to myself. I find epiphanies to understand myself and the human condition from book and movie characters, the way my plants grow in the backyard, and the way animals attack and prey upon one another in TV documentaries.
I have noticed if my plants get rainwater instead of city water from the garden hose, they come alive with every color of green and become ALIVE. When I fertilize them with mushroom soil mix, they put out their arms in every direction and shine. And if they get the morning sunlight streaming on them in just the right way, they thrive.
So do I and so do my friends–grow that is–when we get the light, water, nourishment, and care we need. When we don’t get our basic requirements at critical junctures, we become stunted and yellowed, get a fungus on our metaphorical leaves, and die.
In our backyard right now, we have a growing family of birds, the exact species of which we are not sure. The renters, as we refer to them, moved into the birdhouse built and given to us by our nephew Zach four or so Christmases ago. Last year I suggested we put a for rent sign over the birdhouse, as no birds seemed at all interested in moving in.
But one day a few weeks ago, my husband Kurt thought he saw a bird going into the birdhouse, Of course, we started watching for signs that there might be a nest, with eggs provided by a busy mother bird.
Last weekend we noticed, to our complete delight, that there were not one, but two, birds going in and out of the birdhouse. As H.I. McDonough said in the Coen brothers’ hilarious movie Raising Arizona, “Hey, we’ve got ourselves a family here.”
Anyhow, something our naked eye could not catch from far enough away not to scare them, Kurt’s camera froze easily as still lives from the masters. In the resulting photos, we saw the baby birds at last, with their cavernous mouths saying me, me, forget about the others, it’s all about me!
But the wise parents fed all the hungry beaks and went back ceaselessly to gather more. When I trotted out later to bring out indoor plants to enjoy the rain, the bird babies must have mistaken my footsteps for looming parental action, and they chirped as if there were no tomorrow.
The total self-absorption of children does not work in later life and is particularly unattractive and abhorrent in an adolescent or adult.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; but when I became a man I gave up childish ways.
I Corinthians 13:11
Last evening we had occasion to ponder this eternal truth as we attended my niece Abby’s high school graduation. The people (and I use the term loosely) in the row behind us–and their extended family beside us–carried out, loud riotous conversations throughout the entire commencement, through all the speeches, the giving away of outstanding teacher and student awards, and so on–as if they were all scratching their butts and watching tag-team wrestling in their living room.
I strained to hear the speakers for two hours of sheer headache-producing torture. The phrase were you raised in a barn? kept going through my mind. But actually, I think barnyard animals would be more discerning than the buffoons squealing behind us.
We thought fleetingly of calling them down on their impossible behavior, but decided they looked too dangerous to take on.
Thus, the moral of this story, and the takeaway lesson for my own knit pack, is a baby bird in our backyard rental property is a wondrous, magical thing. However, sitting in front of childish, mulling and puking (nod to Shakespeare) humans, regurgitating their bad behavior all over us–at an august public event–is not magical at all.
As the incredible singer/songwriter Patty Griffin wrote for her breathtaking new album “American Kid”:
Please don’t let me die in Florida/I don’t care about my name/If you catch me dying in Daytona/Throw my bed onto a train
Soooo, with apologies to Patty:
Please don’t let me die at commencement/I don’t care about the shame/If you catch me dying at graduation/Shoot the hellions in my name
Words to live by, folks. I prefer the birds.
— Anna, 5/18/13