What the Young Blackbird Told Me  

Lately I have been finding it very hard to write down threads of thoughts that form and lead somewhere in my head. I have given up following the threads, following and following, like Theseus in the labyrinth, because I have lost all confidence in my words. Why bother, I think to myself? I wonder if it’s worth following the thread of this even as I type. Surely this will end in a pointless conclusion or simply not be very interesting. So why bother?

Threads all around, left flying, ragged and frayed in the wind. Tying nothing down, leading nowhere. Held at one end by a tangled, messy mind. 

Inspiration does not come with the asking; sometimes I have to go out and find it. Not only that, when I do find it, I have to grasp it and not let go, no matter what. Believe that the thread is worth following because it really will lead somewhere, somewhere else, beautiful, enlightening, real. Somewhere that this cluttered mind can reach, away from the engulfing numbness and crippling self-doubt. 

I did just that today. I feel I have a story to tell, of something that happened to me and a meeting that I had with a non-human. I will follow this thread and see where it goes. I invite you to come along.

As I began my walk of the dog this morning, I heard scrabbling, a clattering of wings, and irate blackbird chuckling coming from the chicken coop. In the corner of the fencing a young female had caught herself in the wire and was trying frantically to get free. She forced herself further and further into the wire as I advanced, beady eyes blazing with terror and fury. Flapping madly, I encircled her tiny wings and body with my hand, gently pulling her free. Once free, I felt her calming beneath my hand, mistaking it for relief, when she suddenly lunged her head forward and bit my finger, hard. She held on, too. Releasing after some moments, she lunged again and bit my little finger. OK, OK, I thought, I get the message, and let her go.

I walked on, yet little Blackbird’s Spirit Animal energy stayed with me and had a lot of choice words to say:

I’d rather die than have contact with you. You are predators, you are reckless with all of us and you are not trusted. How dare you think I could know or care of your whim? What comes from below is food, what comes from above is death. You humans have so very carefully aligned yourself with above; “and God made man in his own image”, “we are the cosmos made conscious”, “stardust runs through our veins”. I know your delusions, your divorcing, your ascension assumptions and they are death to me. You assume that to align yourself with a God will make you immune from death from above or below? Dream on. You assume to think that all rooted beings on this planet have nothing but benign love for you? 

You think that those forests which you love so deeply, who have cradled your heart and gave you such mothering as you have never known, did not also plant those seeds of grief in your heart? They are of the same mind as me, yet they are perhaps kinder in their teachings. We all, all of us who share this planet with you, would rather die than have you part of our lives. You question if that is true! I can feel it. You know it to be true. A dying gull, drowning in crude oil will frantically find energy to fly away from the rescue boat, not towards, rather than be touched by you. They too know what I say is true. The forest being clear-cut would rather live utterly untouched, unnoticed than have to endure what you are doing to them. 

I give you an answer and I give it to you again and again and again: you are the lion you once saw in the cage who looked upon you not as a soul but as a meal. I am you. I am you. I am you. Step into silence-true silence- and there perhaps you will find how to restore what you have broken.

Ouch, I thought. Not the sort of communication someone who is in depression really should be channeling. Thanks a bunch, blackbird, for that ray of sunshine into my life. 

Held in wonder at the power of this tirade, I pause. Yet I begin to see something that the simple hatred of a youth cannot see; I had a choice today. It wasn’t a conscious one anymore as I made it long ago, but it was a human one which is important, critical in fact to what it means to be human. The choice was this: to choose to be good, to be kind, to be a restorer and not a destroyer, wasteful, violent, the embodiment of death. Little blackbird is the latest in the long, wounded line of damaged wilderness and so how could she possibly know? How could she possibly know that I am a member of the human race who is also of this Earth and that I too see food from below, death from above. She didn’t know. She didn’t know that there are many, many bright souls who are deep into the restorer role, trying to undo the great delusions she had told me about, people who give me strength and who give support to us, so that we can finally meet Mother Earth as Her children once again.

I didn’t like the idea that I was causing little blackbird to have such rage coursing through her tiny body, so I let her free in my mind. (It wasn’t just my finger that she was holding onto so painfully.)

Thank you, tiny bird, for your anger. Thank you for hating me, biting me, wounding me in your physical and soul-filled way, for through truth comes learning. Perhaps we all should listen to young, tempestuous, angst-filled young blackbirds more often. 

Now as I come to the end of writing this, I am aware that I have written two stories for you: one is the conversation with the bird, the other is that of myself. I imagine all writers, especially ecological writers, feel lost and empty sometimes, as if they’ve been washed ashore to sun-bleach, scoured by the wind and be forgotten on the sand. I imagine we all feel that to see anything through is riddled with risk and failure. Or maybe it’s just me. Writing feels for me like a channeling of something so much more important than me, as if the only voice I could write down is that of Mother Earth, otherwise it’s just another form of entertainment, isn’t it? To teach, to reach out and to serve, that’s what it’s all about. Especially now, at this crisis point in our time, the stakes are high and all that I write needs to have purpose. Is this too high an expectation? But why else follow the threads I see all the time, unless they lead to teachings? If they do not lead to that, then I am just as the blackbird says: deluded, flying away from the truth, not towards.

For nearly a decade, Harriet Sams has been reconnecting people to wounded places through bearing witness to the places we love and bringing healing to the imminently threatened. For more information please visit: www.radicaljoy.org

Image © Francis C. Franklin / CC-BY-SA-3.0

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