William Michaelian

Poems, Notes, and Drawings

When a Bird Sings

Yesterday morning while I was watching the birds finding things to eat on the frosty ground, I was struck again at how crippled by convenience I am, in the sense that, for much of the year, I am cut off from the activity of getting food. The time spent in direct contact with the earth, the energy used, and the attention and involvement required in an endeavor that yields varying results — all of the mental and physical benefits that are part of this necessary and sacred process are lost. Is it any wonder that when a bird sings, it really sings, and that when a man pushes a cart through a grocery store with his ears full of electronic music piped in from headquarters, singing is usually the last thing on his mind? The simple and obvious truth is, I would be far better off outside gathering wild greens, or sitting at a stone grinding corn. The more primitive my daily life is in this regard, the healthier and more in tune with my surroundings I become. During spring and summer, when I plant and work in the garden, I am touched by the earth’s gentle, restorative sanity. If I am not made whole, I am at least pointed in the direction of what that wholeness might be, in a way that is similar to sleeping under the stars and being out in the elements. I am enough aware of this the whole year around, of course, that I do my best to meet life and the world part of the way. I am barefoot or in my simple sandals all of the time. I expose myself to all kinds of conditions and weather. And perhaps this is why, when I come inside and close the door behind me, I feel a brief sense of loss. The squirrels and birds never ask to come in. Rather, their presence outside is an invitation to join them. And as for civilization, not one of them is homeless, and all of them are healthy, vibrant, and clean until life comes to reclaim them. Wild life has its challenges, to be sure. But lack of energy, bewilderment, addiction, sleeping disorders, and constipation are not among them. This is why, when I sit down to eat, I pause for a moment to notice each of the things I am about to consume, and trace them back to their origins. I think of the rain and the sun and the wind. I think of the hands and the labor that helped make such a lucky moment possible. And I am grateful.


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Categories: Sweet Sleep and Bare Feet

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4 replies

  1. So much in a bird song and how blessed to be able to offer such gratitude for what that song brings. Beautiful, William.

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  2. Taken adrift by your words… it came to mind, so I’ll share a story of an elderly man on the the streets of a war-ravaged city, situated somewhere in the Middle East. The destruction was unimaginable. When two men (who later recounted this experience) walked by the old man he was squatting on the street having set up a make-shift coffee station — asking passersby to join him for a cuppa, seemingly unperturbed by his surroundings. The western-world men, aghast at the sight of the atrocities of war, were astounded by the old man’s presence — his acceptance, his resilience.

    Was he a bird, a tree… a cloud of dust rising from the rubble?

    Thank you for opening your door to our thoughts…. but, most of all, thank you for sharing yours.

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    • I’m not speaking only for myself when I say your letter here, and its beautiful message, are deeply appreciated. Thank you. And thank you for walking in. Thanks, too, for being so understanding and patient during my self-absorbed “moment of silence.” Who would have known it would last more than three and a half years?

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