I saw the bird in passing, as I loped across the intersection. I hopped up the curb to the sidewalk and I saw it in my mind’s eye–the head contorted, the legs splayed
out, the lower beak jerked out like a huge thorn. It was a robin: it must have been a road kill. If you can imagine The Scream with the mouth of a robin, that was what I saw.
I hate the idea of jogging but that’s what I was doing when I passed the dead robin. I prefer to see myself running. But, actually, I’m mostly plodding through life. The river is beautiful with the waterbirds skimming the water’s edge.
My darling towheads are teens now. They shrug when I suggest we eat a special meal together. My sisters live too far away. Jupiter! I dodge a mud puddle: I put away any guilt for not visiting my Mom down on the farm. That bird, stranded by the curb, was distressing. The black rhinos and the Indian tigers are not long in this world, my Dad gloomily predicted.
I want to blot out that bird; I want to scoop it up and bury it by the riverbanks. It’s a grey day, full of the moist promise of spring. I could feel smug about running instead of jumping in the car to drive to the gym. But the bird, a witness to fossil fuels consumption kills off many species.
This run is not releasing me. Days ago Doris confided in me that she was being knocked around by the father of her children. That bothered me, the worry shot up my back, lodging somewhere below my trapezius. That night I nodded sympathetically. There’s not a dam thing I can do but listen. That’s too negative. I rephrase it saying metalically, “The best thing I can do is the gift of listening to her. I didn’t ask Doris detailed questions.
I want to know, but Jesus, I don’t really want to know. How many shades of grey can one sky hold? Knowledge is responsibility. I feel heavy with death. My body puffs and legs leaps over muddy bike tracks. I’m free of death, yet physically I am moving towards dying. The dark riverwater lugubriously rolls toward the Atlantic Ocean. Does the Boston marathon really start at the headwaters of the Charles River?
Should I listen to rumors that my muscle soreness might be a sign of early diabetes? I want to care for myself and I long to be carefree. I want others to fawn all over in love with me and I want to be alone to listen to my inner path. I remain thick with desire.
The river seemed elastic, never tarrying over indecision. It doesn’t wait for dead birds. God’s promise is like that. Even as we pollute and scream; even if we ignore the vultures circling, the earth moves. Doesn’t love embrace the carrion?. If I knew come hell and highwater, what my purpose on earth is, I’d be glib and unbearable. How boring to know exactly what Creator has in mind for me. A 5 year old gets as much pleasure in opening the rusty treasure box as in finding a jewel within it.
I finish the running by the Anderson Bridge. My body sweaty, my mind cleared of morbidity. Grey skies are a blanket, warming the dark earth. I will stay open to the promise. And there inscribed on the bridge in 1912 the passage in Revelations 22:2, often called the River of Life:
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing
twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.