Updated: Jan 29, 2021
Clouds swim in the second sea,
floating in an ocean of air.
Their waters rise and fall,
and the wind is their tide.
I am their shore
and the mountains
What about whales
No whales, I say -
swimming in the breeze.
I wrote this poem on July 30, 2017, while taking United flight 5665 from Eugene to Denver. (This photo is looking east over San Francisco Bay, but it fits.) I was thinking about how the sky is a kind of ocean, a vast world with its own life and tides. Even the term "jet stream" points toward the oceanic nature of the sky.
Just as fish swim in the sea, birds swim in the air, moving in all three dimensions - except when they mistake a large window for more sky. What can you do when you hear the terrible bang of a bird hitting a window, head-on at full speed, and see a small figure plummeting to the ground? You can't bear to look outside - is the bird stunned? Dead? Yet I must look. Is it still alive? And if so, will it survive?
A small desert sparrow makes this mistake this morning, crashing into the reflection of the sky in our very very large living room window, and falling straight to the ground.
I pause, not wanting to look. I look, and see a still figure, seeming to breathe.
I put on my shoes and coat and go outside. He or she is stunned, but breathing and looking around in a half-conscious way. This is the third bird that's lived through this mistake in the past few weeks, and I dread that this time the bird might not be so lucky, falling from such height. I bend over, and see it breathing, and blinking its eyes, but otherwise not moving. I remember my routine: I pick it up - eversogently - with my own breathe willing it to keep breathing. Then, the miracle of it - I cup it in my hands, covering it mostly with my left hand so it won't lurch out and fall again. The bird - some desert finch? - blinks and looks around. There is no struggle. My mind asks, What if it's really hurt? Oh please, let it just be stunned, like some of the others.
I straighten up. I blow gently on him - or her - since it is cold outside, and pause, watching. Will she struggle? Will she return to the sky soon, or not? I hold her and stand still, the both of us still and waiting.
I stop the whatifs and took her inside and put her in a box in the laundry room so she could recover her wits. After a while, I looked to see how he or she was doing, and saw that there was more brightness in its eyes, and it was looking around. We went back outside and I put the box down. A few minutes later, he or she flew energetically to the closest tree, and the morning's drama was over.
And am I responsible since I love the view from this enormous window that draws everyone's gaze toward Sedona's famous red rocks?