Sparrows, when you were six

IMG_E6339

Credit: M. Jakubowski

I saw them up ahead of us beside the road, eight or nine moving in the strip of grass between the sidewalk and the curb, sure they would flee as soon as I stopped at the light at the corner, but they had city-bird courage, a sturdy flock; browns, grays, ivories, tans made over in the morning light diffused by the fog. Stubby beaks neat and trim, black eyes round as obsidian pearl, heads clicking at angles at every sound and potential danger, as I watched them with love so near the car in the grass alive with green lividity from the week-long rain. They nibbled at the flowering blades, snipping the seeds so neatly, as I waited for the light to change, my human form hidden behind the curved metal and glass shapes they were used to seeing flash by like fleeing buildings.

Sparrows out for their morning hunt. For seeds and soggy moths. Battered beetles and breadcrumbs. I turned the car to take my son the last few blocks to school, and did not point out the birds. We’d been there for a few seconds and he was listening to the song on the radio looking out his own window at the fog in silence, a six-year-old person with a father who stares at sparrows. The cost of an education changes families. Mothers and father disappear into duty. Who will they vote for? Is another mistake unavoidable? Who will care for their parents and their parents before them? What is it to tell someone about the beauty that lies in the grass between the road and the sidewalk, someone trying to prove between stoplights, weekends, birthdays, and funerals that the world is made vast by small brave beings alive in the grass here with us, alive in eternal feathery abundance. The song on the radio went on for years. The boy left the car and there was no school. You turn and see your father. He’s doing something you don’t understand and when you see this you understand a few words of something he said before that made no sense at the time. You swallow some kind of hatred you’re afraid of.

A specific disintegration

IMG_6437

Credit: M. Jakubowski

This focus on Else, I am thinking while walking, everything everywhere, cities and towns the world over, what we’ve achieved at the office or the church or the classroom is beautiful of course and nothing to sneeze at. But in the end of the self, whether God’s involved a little or a lot, it’s to something else entirely apart from our memories and accomplishments that we first return.

The flora we call weeds thick and green against the steel poles holding up a fence around a pad of oily concrete. Sparrows abounding in the gutters in cracked building corners, every thorny bush between home an office. Beware resistance to this palace of small places we are headed towards, the bodily noises of the weeds and small birds seem to say. So on days when I am aware in my way feeling what prayerful people call at peace, days without sleep over several nights, the office and the family plans and the past fade into their moment, etched with modest gratitude. Not places of nothingness. The urge isn’t to throw it once and for all away into some other place beyond with the angry force of regret. There’s no regret. Regret is for egoists.

But these things here and now beneath my feet and at eye level that will be here and were here long ago are the next stage we will step onto. This fact will never age, even as sparrows evolve and blades of grass hybridize. It’s enough to make the walk from the bus to the front door something a different kind of person might call miraculous, before they disintegrate into sleep, or the hope of another year that in many cases will not come.