The Thin Blue Bird

I was listening to the poet David Whyte the other day talking of how thin the line is sometimes between this world and the next. The nuances of his talk hinted at just how quickly things can change...

I was helping my mother-in-law today in our yard. She is a gardener extraordinaire, whilst I am better suited for a patio home. Anyway, we were moving rocks - not smooth, river stones, but big, mountainous stones with heft and spiders living underneath them. I had muscled three of them on my own from the backyard to the front, keeping them close to my body, utilizing lifting skills I learned working as a grunt years ago at UPS. We debated on bringing the fourth around, something about landscaping being done in odd groupings instead of even. I insisted, feeling the pump of blood in my arms from the previous three and loving that feeling. This fourth stone was evidently the mother of the other three - rocker mater. I shifted it around, cleaning off all the spiders, and tried to lift it. Pretty damn heavy; too heavy, in fact, for the trek around to the front yard. I borrowed my kids' red wagon and got that momma up in the bed and began the pull to the flowerbed. All was well until I lifted it out (still all was well) and placed it beside the other three. In a split second of a nanosecond, the rocker mater shifted slightly and my middle finger, the "bird" got caught between a rock and a harder place. I pulled it out quicker than a duck on a junebug - but I had crossed that thin line between this world and the next, if only for a moment, and the rest of my day was changed. The bird turned every hue of blue in the 64 Crayola box and then began to swell and bleed. I had to sit down because I feared I might faint. That would have been a helluva sight - long haired hippy man asleep in the flower bed with his size 12 boots sticking out, looking like the dead Witch of the West, while the little Oz people (my kids) look on in wonder saying, "Mom, Dad's sticking the bad finger at us and saying badder words."

The rest of my day was one finger off. From typing (God save me from "d's") to buttoning Levis (where are those pull-on velour pants?) - I realized just how quickly things can change. How fingers can become swollen birds in the twinkling of an eye and a kid can step off a curb and be hit by a car. How a doctor can say, "Six months - tops" and a pink slip in your job-box is like a stake through the heart. Life going well, arms pumped full of blood, and the rocks beneath us, or in our hands, shift, and life is different; maybe for a day or maybe for a lifetime. The line is thin, but our pride tells us it's not. I will nurse my bird for a few months; there's no way he can fly anytime soon. In the meantime, I'll probably bump it on everything from wine corks to dipsticks. But when I grimace I will be reminded of the thin places, the clefts in the rock, where the soul and spiders hideth.

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