Perhaps it’s coincidence. Or nothing but tunnel vision that causes me to filter out what is not uppermost in my mind; when I have “X” on the brain I see “X.” And I see ‘X” everywhere. Sometimes to the exclusion of all else. No “Y.” No “Z.” No whatever else — as it flies past my line of vision.
But whether coincidence or tunnel vision, over and over I find myself thinking along a certain path — to encounter another on my blog roll further down that particular thinking trail. The connection feels important — not hokey, as with those sometimes, seemingly ‘spot-on’ sayings rising out of broken fortune cookies, that get read aloud by tables full of wisdom seekers.
Here’s one for instance — that comes out of a blog comment I wrote several days ago:
How strange to find you baptizing today’s post with the phrase “question without an answer” — on the day I should wake up realizing that unanswered questions are one of the many things to inspire me. Maybe it’s Rilke’s urging – “Live the questions now.” — to that young poet of old that causes me to find life most meaningful and real in the face of unanswered questions… [Questions like:]
Is my youngest daughter’s growth on her thyroid benign..?
What comes after death? [in thinking about my mother-in-law…]
What’s for supper?
No matter their weight, the questions themselves inspire me to live. Inch by inch. Day by day. Until I catch the glimmer of an answer…
Upon writing that list, I thought it an odd mix of questions — the first two hovering at the quick of life with the last feeling a bit frivolous and flighty. But rather than play editor, I decided to leave the questions be, keeping the list just as it came to me.
It was just as well. By the next day, I began seeing the questions as more connected than I’d first imagined. And it came about as all reinterpretations of the past happen — by looking at the same “X” through a different set of lens. In this case, it was more than one pair of lenses — for I looked at that list through the lens of a new event; and then the lens of a new experience, and finally, through the lens of one other than myself.
That the last came from a flock of birds who had just dropped in for supper — lending me their proverbial bird’s-eye view — well, this did throw me off-balance — enough to confess that even now, I can’t say whether these birds were Red-breasted Black Birds or Robins. All I know is they were ravenous and noisy and feasting on the fruit of the Cherry Laurel outside my kitchen window. It seemed every seat in my new bird cafe was filled. As fast as a ‘table’ came open, a new bird came to takes its place. No need to ask, “What’s for supper? These birds had the good fortune to find my tree, so supper became ripe black cherries.
Of course, whatever food they happened upon that day — fitting their own particular bird’s palate — could have become a fine supper: worms, birdseed or insects, perhaps. From the bird’s perspective, any answer would have been a good answer — a life-giving answer — as long as the birds themselves didn’t become another creature’s supper — like some bird-watching fat cat, per chance.
As I watched them eat, I saw that life for these birds, as it is for any creature living in the wilderness, is a meal-by-meal affair. It’s not a question of bird seed or worms. It’s birdseed. Or worms. Or fruit. Whatever they find. These live an eat or be eaten sort of existence. Everyday. From the birds perspective, living into the answer of ‘what’s for supper’ is not a light-weight question at all — why it very much belonged to that quick of life list of questions left in my blog comment.
Still, the strange thing about yesterday, one I still need to think about, is this: As I watched that bird-laden tree being picked over clean, I remember thinking how I’d never seen that tree look so alive before. It shook. And pulsed. As birds came and went. And while ravished by the wilderness, the tree lived on. Empty of fruit, the tree lives to bear again. The tree lives and the birds live. And I like how both the giver and the takers have happy endings.
And though I can’t say how — somehow, when I looked at that tree eaten yet not consumed, I imagined the tree being me. And that instead of birds feasting on my fruit, it became unanswered questions which pecked away my fruitfulness. Yes, it’s crazy, crazy, these thoughts of mine. But then, I’ve always had a wild imagination. Perhaps these loose connections I’m making are nothing but tunnel vision at play. Yes. Let’s just say that me being that tree — and my flock of questions being those birds — is nothing more than one of those odd life coincidences.
Funny – when I read this yesterday something just wasn’t clicking. Today – I found it. You’re seeing unanswered questions as the birds – I see questions as the natural fruit of consciousness, a harvest from the tree of life.
No matter how many question get answered, there always will be a new crop. The questions we ask, whether from curiosity, necessity or befuddlement, are a sure sign that life goes on.
Some questions don’t get answered, of course – they’re like the berries that drop to the ground. And sometimes there’s a poor crop – just like a tree stressed by drought, we get stressed and don’t produce a hearty crop of curiosity.
The only thing I can’t quite figure out is who plays the birds in this little drama. I’ll have to think about that. 😉
Isn’t it wonderful how two can look at the same event — but see something totally different? In thinking these days on what it means to be human, I find that nature and the wilderness have ample lessons to teach me.
It was kind of you to read this mess — not once but twice! It was a hard piece to write — maybe because the story is not yet ripe for the telling — but I decided to hit the ‘publish’ button anyway. However, as a postscript, I wish to say that I don’t find those pecking birds (i.e., the questions which drive me to the wilderness) — that have robbed me of fruit this past year — as necessarily bad. To come out of the wilderness empty is to meet life lighter — with room to receive whatever gifts come my way.
Blessings on your Sunday.
Well, as long as we’re doing postscripts, I might also mention that I couldn’t help thinking of the birds in terms of manna in the wilderness. There too, it was a day by day thing. There wasn’t enough manna for a week or a month that fell from the sky, but only enough for a day. They had to trust that more would arrive in the next day’s mail. 😉
And weren’t the Israelites of the wilderness lucky that their manna mail never failed to be delivered….
….unlike my missing ATM cards of the last two months and my issues of House Beautiful that who-but-God-knows received! My dentist mailed two movie passes to thank me for a patient referral around Christmas time– after two returns-to-sender, she tried a third time, which I received last week.
Yes, mail service isn’t what it once was….
but I wonder: Do you think those birds could help?
Funny… it’s often the unanswered questions that prompts us forward, maybe further searching, maybe the unsettling feeling drives us out of our complacency. And one thing we’re sure, we will always ‘look through the glass darkly’ this side of heaven. I just have to learn how to live with an unanswered condition, for now. 😉
Yes. So… I suppose it follows that unanswered questions move us forward as the life-givers that they are, since we, ourselves, are unanswered mysteries.
I mentioned at your ‘place’ yesterday how I’ve been contemplating the question — what does is mean to be human? In answering this only partly, in an only “through the glass darkly” fashion, I know I’m my best self when working in the garden or in whatever small way, connecting with nature — even when only engaged in a spectator ‘sport,’, such as watching the sun rise or fall out of the sky. Last night, my husband reminded me of how the human body consisted mostly of water — and I responded, “Like the earth?” And he said yes, close to the same percentage — and that the salinity of water in humans and the sea is similar. (Or was it the same? I must listen closer to what he says!) But the point being, that we are not far from our habitats. Unanswered questions feeds us because our of unanswered conditions — just as being in nature or near the sea feeds us because our ‘make-up’ is similar.
I’ve a need to go to the sea, to breathe in the salt air and taste it on my tongue. Today I plan to answer the question of ‘when.’
I’ve come back and looked at your photo again. Amazing! All the birds in that tree (I see they are red breasts… are they robins?) What a sight. Of course, they’re eating the fruits, aren’t they? Something I just didn’t seem to register the first time I was here. Good that I came back, often it takes several looks to get something… esp. with a slow reader like me. 🙂
Sis told me they were Red-breasted Black Birds. She knew without peek of my photo since she knows her birds intimately — she’s been a bird feeder for years. This year, she’s hosting (I think she said) fourteen Red Bird couples! When down last weekend, I saw only a few of them — but oh, they were a sight to behold against naked tree branches.
Robins, she said, are more solitary creatures. You may find a few together, she told me, but no more than that — definitely not a flock. (Unless I suppose it’s a family reunion? — my thinking rather than Sis’s!) With that, she pronounced MY flock as Red-breasted Black birds.
I, too, am a slow reader — of books and of life. But I wonder: is this part of the make-up of souls fed by the arts?
Far be it from me, but…
Those are robins. And robins certainly do flock, especially when they’re migrating or when they’ve found a food source. When they come through our area (or more frequently, the hill country) there can be a couple of hundred per flock.
The red-breasted blackbird does exist, but it’s a South American species – I just double-checked on the Cornell site. If you still have these around and get a chance to listen either to their call or song, you can compare on the web and confirm their identity. Robin calls and songs are quite distinct – like this.
Sorry – I should have let it pass.
Sometimes, it’s hard to pass. And equally hard to find the right response. But this, too, must be okay — since it’s part of what it means to be human.