Tread the path carefully

Today was a funny one all told – I drove my wife and youngest child to the airport for a nine day trip to Spain and having risen too early and slept poorly I spent the rest of the day in a slight fog of tiredness. The summer this year has started uncertainly after a cold and sullen spring. The day was cool and breezy, a patchwork quilt of sun interspersed with blotchy showers. A friend came by who I hadn’t seen in a long year and we talked about the uncertain nature of work and the pets we have loved and lost – sometimes too soon – always too soon against the measure of our own lives it always seems.

Before he arrived I stopped out for a smoke on my patio with the thought in my mind to pick up the small pink corpse of a fledgling bird that had fallen the day before from its nest above my bedroom window where I now sit writing. I’ve watched the mother swoop back and forth tending to her brood not giving it greater thought but her efforts came into closer focus when I saw not one but now two small bodies, their delicate, wispy feathers clinging to impossibly fragile bodies, their eyes not yet open to the world, now never to open. And then I came upon a third but as I picked it up, the warmth of my hand revived it and it struggled weakly in my hand.

I couldn’t bring myself to snuff its life out. I wanted it to live so I brought it inside, placed it a tub on a heated pillow and watched it slowly come back to life. After my friend had left, I packed it up in the car and drove it all the way across town to Korkeasaari where I knew it could be nurtured, walked it the long path to the entrance of the zoo, left the bird and my contact details and drove home. A message came some hours later – it didn’t make it – a leg broken in the fall I could not detect forced their hand and it was put down.

As I write, the mother still swoops to the nest. How many fledglings are left, I wonder? Does she feel the loss of her brood or is she as I suspect, simply the workings of a small, delicate cog in a much larger engine made temporarily manifest to me? We try to fix the things we can – all our actions have import – even the tiniest ones but ultimately the bigger cogs turn.

On his deathbed, the Buddha said: “Everything is subject to decay, tread the path carefully.”  How many of us, I wonder walk the path blind to the path we tread never once giving full consideration to the next step?

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