in The Natural World/

Our Duet

Not long ago while attending a book discussion group, a lovely bird and I sang a duet together, he with his song and I with my words. It was quite remarkable really. Our little group takes turns reading and I was up. No sooner had I started and the bird in question arrived in the chimney flu, launching into a loud melody of his own making.  I mean he was loud! Not only that, he was delightfully melodic, communicating in his language and me in mine. It seemed the more I read, the more insistent he became and I quickly felt immersed in his rapture as he sang his heart out! It seemed our little duet transcended both of us, becoming a third thing born of sharing. Not only was I aware of this in the moment, the third thing obliterated any comprehension of the words I was reading, rendering instead a greater understanding found in being. I became both lost and found in the larger experience, feeling astonishingly uplifted, expanded somehow. I felt not only a smile on my face but one planted firmly in the heart, beating in syncopation with his.

To contend we are all in this life at Earth School together is a heady concept made headier by a knowing participation when subjectively experienced. I often feel this when out in nature, witnessing and involved with birds, trees, flowers, even pedestrian things like mud or decomposing leaves. The muskiness of a tree, the overwhelming fragrance of a Eucalyptus, even when a tiny gnat flies into my face as I walk, all evokes this sharing, this all-one-thingness that is transcendent, lifting me out of what I perceive as me. When I am blessed to reside in this space I feel fortunate indeed, enlivened by a force greater than any definition as writer, mother, friend; whatever.

I see this in other people and creatures as well, though they may not experience it in quite the same way. My old friend Bennet feeds peanuts to squirrels, throwing them in their shell on the ground outside his back door each morning. I’ve watched his face when he does this. I see his joining with each squirrel in some invisible force field as they scamper toward each nut, also entering a third thing, a space they intimately share for a moment before the spell is broken.

My hummingbirds also display this quality. Most of the time they function according to hummingbird rules, which is to say territorial, chasing each other away from the feeder in an attempt to be top bird. Yet there are times when they share. It is a joy to watch. Lately I have seen as many as three, four, sometimes five hummingbirds perched or hovering around my 3-hole feeder, waiting their turn to drink. It is just as if they silently agree to suspend their individual nature, relying instead on a collective One. On occasion, when the feeder has been drained dry a bird will even peer in my window as if to say “fill it up, creature!”

This hushed communication remains a mystery to me for how is it that form or the physical world can be so overcome with a force not of bird or animal making. Yet the songbird and my duet incline me to know it not only can be but is when desiring to do so, whether consciously or unconsciously. For the bird in the chimney kept up his warbling until I finished my paragraph, and even briefly thereafter, only ending his song when it was someone else’s turn to read. While others in the group noticed and even commented on the bird, I took such pleasure in having him accompany me and I him, not only witnessing but immersed in the One life we all share.

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