Thursday, May 19, 2011

Of Cardinals and Bluebirds

  Once, about 25 years ago or so, one of my favorite priests gave a lesson one Sunday morning on appreciation that I have never forgotten,  It was about cardinals, and probably other things too, but I remember the cardinals. His point, that morning,  was that there are lots of birds in this world, many of them rather nondescript, even drab,  looking, and that's fine. But God made cardinals a bright, beautiful red when he didn't have to, and that we should never forget to thank God for the beautiful things he has given us simply for the sake of beauty. For the longest time, I actually DID remember to say, literally, "Thank you, God," out loud every time a male cardinal flashed across the road in front of me. I suppose the same should be said for rainbows, and roses and other miracles of nature that take your breath away. My mother and I both shared a love of cardinals, and they never ceased to bring her joy, especially in her later years when she spent a lot of time sitting in her chair at home, watching the birds out the window.  She would always remark about the cardinals, and how beautiful they were. My dad got so that he bought her cardinal "things" whenever he saw them, and so, in addition to the lesson I learned about being grateful for unnecessary beauty in this world, I also have long associated cardinals with my mom.  I know it doesn't make sense, because it is the male cardinal who is the brightest and flashiest, but whenever I see one, I feel like my mom is nearby, making her presence felt through that beautiful scarlet streak as it wings past.  When we took my dad to the hospital for surgery the last time, I saw several pairs of cardinals dip and flit across the back road, and took it to be an "omen, "  a good one, that my mom was with him, with us.  Silly, because I don't really believe in omens, either.  But, I do know that we have ALL been grateful, my dad, siblings, and I, for the cardinals in our lives, because it has kept thoughts of my mother close at hand.
     A week ago Sunday, as I was sitting in my dad's room at the nursing home, passing some of his last hours with him, I was watching some birds coming and going from a bird house on a pole outside his window, nest building, I suppose. The sun would catch the iridescent blue on the wings or their tale feathers, and initially, because of the blue, I thought they were bluebirds.  I should have known they were not, because they weren't really that bright blue, but bluebirds, even here in the country, are a fairly rare sight. I don't know when the last time I actually saw one was, but I know it's been years. My brother told me they were house swallows when I asked. I was disappointed that they weren't bluebirds, but not really very surprised. Their tail feathers were too pointy, really, and the blue, more of a metallic black-blue.  Tuesday, after my father had passed away, and I was on my way home from my brother's house late in the afternoon, I was driving along the Back River Road and a bluebird flew across the road in front of me. An honest-to-goodness bluebird, this time, and there was NO mistaking it. It was smaller, rounder, red chested, very compact, and a stunningly- blue color. It made me laugh out loud to think I had actually mistaken the swallows for bluebirds earlier that week. Once I saw this one, there was no mistake.
     So, I'm not sure if I saw it because bluebirds were on my mind? Sometimes that happens. You don't see things unless you have opened yourself to the possibility of them, true enough. But it's hard to think I would have missed other opportunities to see and appreciate that beautiful flash of bright, bright, blue just because I wasn't thinking about them. That blue, like the red of a cardinal, and the yellow of a goldfinch in summer, is an in-your-face notice to sit up and pay attention, and, give thanks.Hard to miss, even on the worst or most distracted of days. No, rather, I think that maybe because I had been bird-watching while my dad spent his last few hours on earth, thinking that there were bluebirds outside his window for a time even though they weren't, perhaps God sent me that one, lone bluebird on that day out of all others,  to let me know that my dad has not only taken flight, but is also something to be remembered connected to beauty as well. Another "omen," of sorts, even though I don't believe in omens. Maybe there is simply a better word for omen that I DO believe in?  That seems logical.
     All I know is, I find comfort in thinking of my mom when I see a cardinal, and try to remain vigilantly thankful for those brilliant flashes of red that didn't have to be, and now, if and when I am lucky enough to see another bluebird or two, I will also think of my dad, thankful for the beauty his life brought to mine, and thankful that God decided to give us not only the red, but that blue as well.  I changed my picture on facebook this week to a bluebird, in honor and memory of my dad, and the beautiful things in my life, and a friend wrote this on my wall this morning:
     "Love the blue bird taking flight, soaring above it all. Free from the confines of earth that bind us. Free to pursue higher, deeper, richer things. Quietly and gracefully joining the heavenly skies. He wings
 are spread as if to wash those of us below with a peace that passes all understanding. Simply breathe!



Tara said...

Laurie, I completely and totally believe in the little signs we find, like your seeing the bluebird after your father died. What a beautiful thing that your dad made sure you got that sign of love from him. I have heard so many examples of this exact type of thing from friends, and have experienced it myself. As an example, I have one friend whose mom went through the very difficult feat of dying from Alzheimer's. My friend and her mom, when her mom could still communicate well, agreed that the mom would try to send a sign indicating that she was ok and all was well, after she died. They agreed the sign would be a feather. After the mother died, on the couch that had been set up as her bed in my friend's house, and the coroner had come and taken her body away, my friend found a white feather on the couch. It was not a down couch; there were no down pillows in the room or in the house. It was summer; there were no down coats anywhere nearby. I love true stories like these because they indicate to me the reality of the world beyond. There is much we cannot see. Thanks for the post.

rdk said...

Greetings Ms. Doghair-in-coffee,

I'm touched to have found you. I believe we're birds of a feather, as they say. My mom and dad passed nearly a year ago, within six days of each other. We three were very close.

With shared grief, their dear friends and I are staying close. One especially dear friend has become a spiritual guide of sorts, and we are helping each other fill the gaps. In our silliness, she's become Redbird and I'm Bluebird! And through this, we've stumbled onto you!

So I say Thank You to the spirit of the universe for holding us all close, and for revealing our connectedness in such beautiful ways.