William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

A Feather on the Scale

We’re told this morning that more than 900,000 acres of Oregon’s forests have been burned or are in the process of burning. We’re also told that ten percent of the state’s population has been evacuated to safer areas. The valley we live in is dense with smoke. The air quality readings are well into and beyond what is deemed hazardous. Yesterday evening our youngest son brought us two air purifiers he was able to borrow from his place of work. They ran through the night, and are working an indoor miracle. We can breathe.

Before he arrived, I noticed three robins perched on the edge of the birdbath behind the house. All were taking multiple drinks of water. I had refilled the bath early in the morning. I went out and saw that about half the water was gone. So I turned on the hose, flushed away the ash and debris, and refilled the bath with fresh water. Then I soaked the immediate area, until water was standing in the moss. I did the same with the shallow little glass birdbath hanging nearby. I went back inside. Within about two minutes, several nuthatches were drinking from the dish; one was in the water, splashing away. They flitted around the immediate area in a state of joy. And then the robins returned. Until dark, they skittered all over the yard, as bright as anything, returning again and again to the wet area. And they are here again this morning.

The forests, home to countless living things, all of which are sacred, intelligent, and beautiful in their own way, are also our lungs — not just ours, nearby, but everyone’s. Whenever someone here in our residential neighborhood cuts down a healthy tree because they think it’s a nuisance, they show great insensitivity and a lack of awareness. This is but one more way in which we kill each other. But for a race of beings willing to live with violence, poverty, hunger, and war, a residential tree is just another feather on the scale. A big feather. A little scale. Oh, the dear and precious birds!

September 11, 2020


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