Lesson of the Red-Winged Blackbird: Turn Around & Fly

I have been away from the swake all week, far away, in a beautiful place with towering mountains.  I tell you that with sadness because although I was surrounded by staggering raw beauty I only spent a few scant daylight hours experiencing the outdoors.  The rest of the time I was required to be in an overheated conference room where the windows had been covered with paper to keep the sun from beating in and raising the temperature even further.  Despite the comforting presence of wonderful colleagues and the challenge of good content I was frustrated knowing that crocuses were blooming along the trails outside those covered windows and the mountain scape was changing hour to hour as it does in the Rockies in springtime.  Clouds rolled in, hanging low and grey dropping the indoor and outdoor temperatures within minutes.  Then as quickly and quietly as the ominous clouds arrived, they would lift to reveal a freshly sprinkled snowy peak basking in sunshine.  You see the paper obscured most of the sights but the sky and the top of the peaks were visible if I focused on a few gaps in the paper covering.  I was on the inside wishing I was outside.

Meanwhile back on the swake there was a bird on the outside trying to get inside.  A female Red-Winged Blackbird had been flying from window to window for days pecking at the glass and watching the human occupants go about their daily business.  As soon as I arrived home Greg warned me about the crazy bird.  He knew that a crazy bird pecking at the window might elicit a crazy reaction in me therefore the best defence was a warning.

I have always loved to watch the birds outdoors but I have some adverse reactions to birds indoors; reactions which are not totally rational or reasonable.  A crazy bird that was beating its wings at the window and pecking would be alarming to me.  Thirty-three years of marriage had informed Greg's intel regarding my reactions and he responded well, he warned me.  I bravely went to look out upon the tiny little frustrated bird who was peering into the window.  I felt its frustration keenly because I had just spent the week mentally pecking at the windows trying to get outside.  We had a kinship, that crazy bird and I.

And I began to imagine why that bird might be so intent on getting inside because my first landing place is always my imagination.  I imagined that it might have lost its nest and eggs to a marauding crow or raven and been driven crazy by grief.  In its grief it might have lost its bearings.  Pathos and tragedy have historically made great stories.  I wondered if the bird thought the inside of the swake home looked so comfy that maybe it should try living indoors.  Maybe it didn't want to be a bird, maybe it wanted to be a human.  Just then the bird flittered from one ledge to the next ruffling up its wings alarmingly and I flinched.

As I flinched a thought ricocheted within my brain about people who spend their lives pecking at life-windows trying to make themselves fit into things that actually confine them.  They flit from window ledge to window ledge showing off their best feather arrangements when right behind them is a wide open sky where they could use their feathers to swoop and fly.  They settle for pecking at the bits of seed near the windows when they could be feasting on a banquet of mosquitos and berries.  Sometimes they sit in stifling conference rooms when they could be climbing mountains.  But all of that is conjecture about a mythical group called They, and we needed to work with science and reason.  Why was that crazy bird pecking at the window?

The Audubon website held the answer to the crazy bird question.  It wasn't about overwhelming grief or obtaining a comfy home with the humans.  That poor bird was seeing its reflection in the window and was feeling the need to threaten and attack the reflection.  It was engaging in crazy-making behaviour that would result in a bird-migraine or worse case scenario - death.

When I read about the crazy-making bird behavior the people metaphor became even more vivid and I wondered if the mythical They are not actually we and me.  How often do we forego the adventure of mountain climbing, allowing ourselves to be confined and grudgingly settling for peeking at the mountaintops through little cracks?  How frequently do we find ourselves banging our beaks on the window when there is a perfect place right behind or beside us where we could fly free?  When I find myself beating my wings at my own reflection, I will try to remember to turn around on the window ledge, spread my wings and soar to new and open spaces.