Switzerland, June: I wrote in another post [Birds on the Balcony 1] about pigeons nesting on my balcony up here on the 7th floor. The nest is in an old Christmas tree bucket with some of the bells and everything still dangling from the branches. The faded Christmas paper now getting dusty and sad, Christmas is long past but it is amazing, really, that the bird just went ahead and built a nest there. After that there was not just one egg in the nest but two and, to cut a long story short, the two eggs became two living beings with wings. I saw the whole thing; their development, their getting fed from the beak of the parent bird and the flapping of little downy wings. The birds on the balcony were the main focus of my attention for a long time. I feel I know such a lot about rearing birds, I’m sort of associated with the species.
At the time of writing this post, Jiab is away for a few days so I’m on my own. I’ve arranged my chair and table to be near to the window without getting too close to the parent bird sitting in the half filled bucket of earth, babies underneath. And if I’m moving around too much, it watches me with one eye then twists its neck completely round in a totally impossible way and looks at me with the other eye. How do they do that? So I sit quite still and watch.
I’m a part of the security system here – less danger from things like the crow population and the parent bird probably feels safe here, recognizes the right degree of proximity to humans because humans chase away crows and don’t chase away pigeons? So, it looks like I’m taking care of this little family situation and me and the bird are ok together.
More than that, in fact, I’m the great patron and benefactor, in this case, the saviour and I’ll tell you why. There was one day, I was sitting in my chair next to the pigeon nest with the two cute little baby birds all huddled up in there, parent bird off to get food and I’m in charge, just gazing out at the clouds. All is well in the natural world of animals, birds and baby pigeons safe and secure. But something was about to happen in the very next moment ….
I become aware of a black shape in the centre of my vision. Vision consciousness takes a certain amount of time to send the message and it doesn’t immediately click in my brain that it’s a large crow and looking so black and mysterious I cannot see it’s features, like a photographic negative, glinting a kind of deep purple and blue. Just arrived on the balcony rail, folding away it’s wings, here on the seventh floor where crows don’t usually go; just materialised out of the deathly world of nowhere. And I’m kinda, speechless; hypnotized by it’s presence.
It slants it’s head in the direction of the baby birds and makes a hop in their direction. And there’s a sort of slow-motion thing going in my mind; that’s a crow, yes …. ok, that’s it, then. Can’t get there quick enough to stop the inevitable, it’s nature. The birds are going to get eaten, swallowed up, can’t be helped. Fatalistic. Crow takes a few hops closer to the nest, and I’m transfixed – it’s all happened already, crow makes a few lunges and flies away with a beakfull of baby pigeons…
I suddenly ‘wake up’ and fall out of my chairs knocking over a few things in the scramble to get to the balcony door; hurt my knee in the collisions with the furniture: ‘No-oh!’ then a primal roar: ‘OAAAAAHHH!’ and by the time I get up off the floor and fling open the sliding glass door, arms flying around in desperation, the crow has gone. And the little birds are where they were, all happy and safe, barely aware of the interruption.
A relief, to say the least, but the shock of it remained for a while after. And, even though my relationship with the birds became more bonded since the visit of the crow and I felt like we’d been through stuff together, I started to notice I was getting off on things like: am I getting too attached to these cute little birds, I mean they’re just food for the predators? And was developing a kind of morbid view of the whole thing.
I tried to explain it to Jiab when she got back from Peru but it didn’t seem to have any impact. Instead, she said something about all creatures in the world, good or bad, being just as they are. That led me to read, again, the talk by Ajahn Amaro on ‘Forgiveness’ [link to: Forest Sangha publications, ‘Seeing the Way’ vol. two – 2011]
‘The act of wishing well to even those who do us harm is a recognition of our common humanity, our common nature as living beings. It is a recognition that carrying around resentment only creates greater division, greater disharmony, and greater discord and sows the seeds of greater suffering in the future.
“Those who are friendly, indifferent or hostile; may all beings receive the blessings of my life, may they soon attain the threefold bliss and realize the Deathless.”
[“Reflections on Sharing Blessings”, page 26 of the Chanting Book]