A Bird in the Hat

For the second time birds have landed on my hat. It happened like this. I was in the back yard sitting in a chair under the big oak tree reading a book. The noon day sun was hot and to shield my face I put on my old straw hat with the yellow artificial flowers.

Even though deep in beautiful story about life and death, I heard a soft thrumming, then felt a light vibration on my head. A whirl of wings (by this time the mind had researched and categorized the thrum) and then another light dance of bird feet on the brim of my straw hat. I froze.

Delight sped through me. I felt a strange benediction given. My imagination tried to put the pieces of the puzzle together and draw a picture of the event to store in memory. A flying bird mistakes my flowered hat for a garden, alights, is confused by the stoic floral response, flutters in confusion, investigates again, then leaves.

For an instant, or was it two or three, I pretended I was St. Francis. I mentally donned his plain brown robe, held one hand up, fingers pointing upward in a blessing, the other hand providing a perch for swallows. To interact with another species, even if only in the most passive way, brings one into the present. The touch of the Other.

It is the same with the small rabbit who is currently residing in this home, a lapin sabbatical while its owner is away. The rabbit is nearly silent except for the slight thumps her feet make as she hops through the house. Careful and suspicious, it takes many attempts to lure her with carrot and greens to come nearer and be rewarded with a quick pet across her silky back.

The other day I visited to the local animal shelter for I could not longer resist the desire to connect, if only briefly, with a dog. Room after room, window after window, they looked up to see who was looking in. Some in stoic patience continued to remain aloof as if waiting for the parent who would never come; others, clambered desperately at the door to be let out and welcomed by a stranger’s arms. Endurance and optimism – the extremes of life reactions.

One can recoil from the barbs and arrows of humankind and instead take a chance on the less aggressive reaction of animals; or, if even that proves untrustworthy, the gentleness of plants. We all seek for connection, if not from our own kind, from another.

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