POSTCARD #187: Bangkok: Easily said in hindsight, but there’s a sense of helplessness, as I take leave of the birds nesting in the ceiling fan; now it depends entirely on their strength and vigor – anything could happen to these small creatures … and it’ll all take place without me being here because I’m leaving. Bag is packed on my way to the airport, flight to Delhi and swept away in the wave of circumstances. It was that kind of unexpected situation that obviously decided everything finally when we had the birds on the balcony the last time, in Switzerland.
Things came to a head. Events occurred, a change, suddenly this U-turn showed up and we had to follow it around. I was lying on the sofa in the front room, one day, head propped up on a large cushion, staring at my feet down there and the vague space beyond, when suddenly I became aware of something moving in the room, a shadow reflected in the shiny floor surface. A bird with folded wings striding boldly across the floor… quite far into the room – HEY get out of here! Strange to have a wild bird suddenly fly across the room, bird-wing-flap disturbing the air, the acoustics – a very odd thing. It shot out through the open door, into the outside world, straight over the balcony rail and immediately gone in a direct line further and further away in the vast sky until it vanished as a tiny dot.
I stood on the balcony and watched it for a moment then dismantled the perch I’d built and removed the artist’s easel; scraped off all the bird mess and washed down the whole floor. It’s that farmyard thing; dung and downy feathers blowing around inside the apartment because we have to have the balcony doors open in the hot weather, and even if I vacuum up all the feathers, one or two still seem to be fluttering through the rooms of the apartment. My wife Jiab continues to be nice about it but doesn’t actually answer the question when I ask how she feels about the birds. So it’s that awkward silence…
When the birds came back in the evening, there was tremendous confusion: where’s our perch gone? Flapping of wings, feathers flying and hovering in the air where the easel used to be. Then one of them figured it was a good idea to perch on the door stop bracket at the top of the door – never noticed it before – it sticks out about 5 cm with a rubber stopper on the end. An ideal perch. Also the top of the door, which had to be open in the warm evening. So much flapping of wings to see who had the right to be where, the doorstop perch seemed to be top in the hierarchy. That night I put out the easel again (for the last time) and things quietened down, back the way they were.
The following day, after the birds left, I cleaned up again and took the easel inside, locked the door and we were off for a week’s holiday. Mixed feelings, we left them to look after themselves, letting go of attachments. It’s always like this, uneasy feeling, leaving the place where you were. Gratitude for everything received here, loving kindness, anjali, blessings, time to move on…
Our skills and abilities all come from the kindness of others; we had to be taught how to eat, how to walk, how to talk, and how to read and write. Even the language we speak is not our own invention but the product of many generations. Without it we could not communicate with others nor share their ideas. We could not read this book, learn Dharma, nor even think clearly. [Excerpt from: “Eight Steps to Happiness” by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso]