I was on an early morning walk yesterday, several miles from home, when I noticed a bird in the road. I assumed that it had been hit by a car, so I wanted to pick it up and lay it gently under a tree, but as I got closer, this gorgeous red-headed woodpecker turned its head and looked at me. “You are alive!”, were the words that came out of my mouth as I reached down with mittened hands to pick him*up.
I began to walk home, but decided to stop at the nearest house and ask for a ride. The man who answered the door was so kind. Before I could even ask, he was grabbing his jacket and car keys. As I approached our front door, Jack was standing in his robe, looking rather concerned as he said, “What can I do?”
We’d just taken our Christmas ornaments out of the boxes and set them aside, still full of fluffy tissue paper…perfect as a temporary place to put our feathered friend while I went to my computer to look for help. The first site that came up was North Country Wild Care (http://www.northcountrywildcare.org). The woman who answered the phone gave me the number of a local vet who usually takes wild animals/birds for evaluation. She told me to call them but added if they couldn’t take him, to call her right back and she would figure something else out. I don’t know what I expected but I was overwhelmed with gratitude that this woman cared so much and wasn’t going to drop us. The vet’s office said that they would take him, and told me to bring him right in.
Jack and I gently closed up the box and put it on the front seat of my car, but as I drove to the vet’s office, the bird became agaiated, moving inside the box in a way that concerned me. I thought that classical music might be soothing but couldn’t find a station, so I began to sing Christmas carols. To my delight, the scratching stopped.
After a brief evaluation, the vet tech told me that she thought the woodpecker would be OK. They were going to do a complete examination and if he couldn’t be released into the wild, they would call North Country Wild Care and a wildlife rehab specialist would pick him up.
Back in my car I sat for a minute and let myself soak in all that had happened in the past hour. The love and care that we (the little injured bird and myself) were shown was overwhelming. From the moment I picked him up from the road, to handing him over at the vet’s office, it was as if we were floating on a ribbon of Grace. Loving help was there at every turn…for me, for him…
When we talked later that evening, Jack said, “I’m not sure that I would’ve known what to do if I’d come across a bird like that. How did you know what to do?”
“I didn’t”. I replied, “I just knew that I wasn’t going to leave him in the road so I picked him up. Then I began to walk. It was as if “instructions” were given to me at every step.”
This incident made me think about the unconditional love that was shown by so many people in the helping of this little injured creature. Selfless, generous, love, by the vet, the wildlife rescue center, the man who gave me a ride, Jack…and even me. It also made me think about how I love others.
This year has been an eye-opener for me…many incredible gifts and also some painful realizations…the most significant being that I had not been generous with my love…especially at home. As I examined my life, I could see that I’d been stingy, cautious, and calculating with my affection: withholding it if I felt slighted, or sensed it wasn’t being returned in an equal or greater measure.
But that changed this year, and even though I know that spiritually I’ve stepped into a new world, it has at times been terrifying. I’ve become acutely aware of my fear of being hurt, or taken advantage of, or being made a fool for trusting. And when those fears come up, it feels like there is a battle for my soul happening within. I can feel that old frightened self say, “Cut and run” and the voice of Love say, “All is well. You can trust life. You can trust love. I am here with you each step of the way and you are now on new ground. Leave the past behind and live fully now.”
A friend sent me the quote below yesterday, and I felt like it spoke directly to my life, my heart, my situation in life. I just love the words, “Love is reckless ….” Reckless! Just reading those words makes me feel braver. I no longer want to weigh and measure my giving. I want to be reckless in my loving. I want to be oblivious to what I get in return. I want to love for the sake of loving. I want to give all of me to all of life. WIthholding ourselves may feel safe but it isn’t. Eventually, a “safe” life becomes small, steril, joyless, and unbearable.
The call to myself this day, this year, this holiday season, is to love everything and everyone. To forgive everything and everyone. To give everything ,and to become a reckless fool for Love.
“Fear and love are contradictory terms. Love is reckless in giving away, oblivious as to what it gets in return. Love wrestles with the world as with the self and ultimately gains mastery over all other feelings….” Mahatma Gandhi (On Love)
*I’m not sure what sex the woodpecker was.